Australian heatwaves are nothing new

Guest essay by Viv Forbes



No doubt we will hear how the current heatwaves in Australia are “unprecedented” and evidence of dangerous man-made global warming.

They are neither “global” nor “unprecedented”.

In the great heatwave of 1896, with nearly 200 deaths, the temperature at Bourke did not fall below 45.6 degC for six weeks, and the maximum was 53.3 degC. Bushfires raged throughout NSW and 66 people perished in the heat.

In 1897, Perth had an 18 day heatwave with a record of 43.3 degC. Other heatwaves were reported at Winton, 1891, Melbourne 1892, Boulia 1901, Sydney 1903, Perth 1906 and so on.

Why don’t we hear of these severe heatwaves from the past? Simple – the government Bureau of Meteorology conveniently ignores all temperature records before 1910.

However, that does not excuse our media for neglecting the written records such as these preserved in newspapers of the past.

Could it be that both the BOM and some of the media are still trying to preserve the ailing global warming scare?


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Without doubt this AGW scaremongering is sheer poppycock.
I remember many a stinking hot summer as a child in western Sydney and around 1954 where thetemperature was over 112 degrees Fahrenheit at Penrith in NSW for many days on end over the Christmas holidays at my uncles farm.

Peter Wilson

A heatwave in Aussie? Well blow me down, Sport, who would have thought? /sarc


Just checked Coober Pedy.
A balmy 35 C a bit after 3 PM. Might up to 41 C in a day or two. No story. I should retire there!


Wonder why more than half of Australia is a desert? Global warming made Alberta really cold. Who says magic is a fairy tale?

craig eyles

This is the “anti-global warming” Govt we have in power in Australia. Yes, global warming is shite, but in my 44 years haven’t been in 4 days of 40+ degree temps & I’m in Gippsland. Friday felt like time I went to Sacramento 1999.


Spot on Peter. The sooking and moaning by the MSM about a few days of hot weather has been disgraceful. Just as in other places, we now have the media sport of them all ghoulishly lined up, barracking for soem sort of heat disaster or firestorm, to justify the hype they have engaged in. We ahd the ridiculous headlines of “worst heatwave since Black Saturday”, a time of terrible bushfires here. And just when was it ? 2009!
And of course not far behind the ambulance, is our usual suspects of Flannery, Steffen, Karoly and Lewinsky with their usual ‘end is nigh’ pronouncements.


Well said. Can you follow up with an article about how normal and desirable bush fires are within Australia as well? How they’re absolutely crucial to germination, reproduction and development of so many species, and how fire is a part of the flora’s ‘foreplay’ within Australia. And thus crucial to the health and sustainment of the environment, biota and soil. And mention also how many of the trees are full of combustible natural oils as well, and how rather nice but otherwise unwise people build their house in such a forest, and desire/require power lines to run through them. And how the wires clash together when the wind blows as a front passes, and how this leads to intense showers of sparks that inevitably creates massive blazes in windy hot conditions. I don’t think the BBC, Al Jazeera or CNN quite get the picture. Unfortunately the ABC have also lost their marbles in recent years.


Viv, have you sent this on to our MSM…perhaps “our ABC”?
Short memories seem to me to be a result of information overload and little critical thinking. No effort=no memorable conclusions.
All the best,

John F. Hultquist

Whenever I hear or read about “the hottest” temperature I am reminded of the Johnny Carson routines during which he would say something like “It was really hot in L.A. today.”
The audience would respond “How hot was it?” Carson would answer with several statements of “It was so hot today I saw a robin dipping his worm in Nestea.” -slight pause- “It was so hot today that Burger King was singing, “if you want it your way, cook it yourself.”
Try it: It was hot in OZ this week.
How hot was it?
It was so hot the Roos had bags of ice cubes in their britches.

Lil Fella from OZ

I kept records in the 60’s and 70’s. Two days were 120F, 50C. It was not unusual to get 10 days (in a row) over 110F. It was more unusual to have mild summers. You could always expect some high temps in the summer. This is nothing new but like I have said before they are attempting to create a new climate with 35C as a scorcher. One reason for this is for workers to knock off at the new high of 35C. Some industries cease to operate if the temp gets near 40C, even though some of these are air conditioned. Now a lot of these people live in rarified air.

SideShowBob says: January 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm – For actual Australian temperature trends over time see the BOM website.
Not correct SideShowBob, those will be misleading trends where the BoM has adjusted the past to be cooler.
And craig eyles from Gippsland January 20, 2014 at 8:48 pm can you please post your nearest town ?


I remember clearly Christmas 1970 living in the Pilbra. As we sat down for the midday meal dad showed everyone his new thermometer he was given for Christmas, which read 125 F, in the shade, which is 51.6 degrees C. It was hot but we weren’t surprised by it. We’d been told this was fairly typical on hot days. After that we went outside and played. It was like that on most days in summer and we never even talked about it, let alone let it stop us enjoying the day. In fact we were quite proud of it, and us kids considered ourselves ‘tough’. This was the common attitude to the heat back then. I suppose its much the same as the Russian’s attitude to deep cold.
Only now are we we getting urban dwellers who have never experienced a genuine hot temperature, and don’t prepare for it, mentally, who are not tough, and who complain endlessly that their world is coming to an end, on low-humidity days with temps as low as 42 C!
I can’t even take them seriously.


“Not correct SideShowBob, those will be misleading trends where the BoM has adjusted the past to be cooler.”
Have you got a source and evidence for this? Even our conservative government who are scaling back action on mitigating warming make no such claim. The BOM is a well respected institution within Australia.
If you actually have some good evidence to back this claim up, then great, we have something to discuss, but if you are making this claim based on an extrapolation of your ideological view of these issues, then that is pretty weak if you ask me.

Whatever it is…it’s a conspiracy I say!! Jokes…it’s just bloody hot.

Cool Lank

Yet at the same time in northern Australia it was cold (in comparison).
…Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Todd Smith said yesterday was on par with the coolest January day in Darwin’s recorded weather history.
“It reached 25.7C. The last time we had a temperature that low was on January 1989 since records began 72 years ago,” Mr Smith said.”It’s very rare.”

Keith Minto

You can play with that link SSB.
Try excluding the spurious minimum temps, choose hot February and you get

Ian George

If you have the time there is plenty of evidence to show BOM’s ‘adjustments’. You need to check BOM’s raw data with the new ACORN data.
For instance, Bourke in Jan 1939 had all +30C adjusted down and the two temps below 30C adjusted up. Go figure.
Mildura’s top temp of 50.8C was adjusted down to around 48.0C.

john robertson

We have history?
About all that is left for the consensus crew is book burning, destruction of all libraries.
A fine finish to the job they have done on public education.
These same people/cliches never stop their gnawing at the foundations of civilization, while it looks like their great cause is collapsing into farce, check your wallet and read your bills.
One has less, the others demand more.
You have not received any greater benefits but the bill collectors masters need more wealth.
The cost of the parasitic class grows ever more oppressive.
Parasites cannot be “negotiated with”, they do not drop off voluntarily before they are sated, their nature does not change.
Climate hysteria is but one arm of the beast. A ploy to keep us distracted from focusing our attention on those who are robbing us blind.
Our governments.
Who knew Kleptocracy was a real word?
Sad how desperate the shills of our media are to sing the old song, “Hot Hot Hot”.
If its cold its weather but if its hot its not, no now its climate.

Stephen B

Last week was my birthday and I was reminded by my mother that when I was born 55 years ago I came 3 weks premature, brought on by the extreme heat wave that week in Warragul (Gippsland) Victoria – 4 days above 40 degrees. Nothing new.

Mark Luhman

It funny how people will use the adjusted government records to argue that it warmer to day than it was in the past. Yet we are in a seventeen year pause, and if you look any where in the record you are hard pressed to find a similar time where the temperature paused for any extended period of time, it always seem to be going up or down.. Funny have any of you wonder maybe this pause is due to the fact the our fine climate find in there measurement a cooling world and damn no matter how much the adjust the present that can only add some much warming that all they can do it hold it steady after all to many eyes are watching the present and there is only so much you can do with the present temperature record. But damn we certainly can adjust the past since most people who lived through are dead, after all who to say we are wrong. Maybe it just my suspicious nature but damn I really question someone whom rewrites the past and I just cannot bring myself to trust them at any level after you find they are will and able to present data that been adjusted and not tell you how and why they adjusted it and good forbid let you see the original data.
Lastly I have vague memories that science was you though up a guess and then you got your data together and presented it to support you guess and you presented all of the data the good and the bad, what supported what you guess and what did not, and then you ask other to check it, not just the data but you process and also they need to duplicate that process and it their number supported you guess good if not well maybe I need another guess. Yet in the climate crowd that not the science they use. Again maybe it only my suspicious nature. All I really know is I have use the guess method for years and it served me well in fixing electronics and computers, you look at the data you have you guess what may be the problem you act on it if the device works after you find the suspect component or software, good. If that did not fix the problem you need a new guess. Yet for climate science that not the way it works, damn to think I been doing it wrong all these years.


“Why don’t we hear of these severe heatwaves from the past? Simple – the government Bureau of Meteorology conveniently ignores all temperature records before 1910.”
Likely due to Stevenson screens not being completely everywhere (though there were only a few exceptions) until then. That said, all official stations were in the shade, so I doubt they would have been unreliable measurements.


January 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm | SideShowBob says:
Side show indeed … these are the BoM’s crafted temperature anomolies after their ‘homogenisation’.


This is an odd post – lots on temps in the past, but no numbers on the actual heat last week. It was very hot (here is my complaint at the time). Max temperatures in Melbourne for the first 5 days of the Australian Open were 31.1, 42.8,41.7, 43.9 and 43.9°C. Or, if you prefer, 88, 109, 107, 111, 111°F.
Now we’ve seen hotter days. And even a longer heat wave, in 1908, where maxima were close to or above 40 for six days. But they are rare. From 1855 to 2013, Melbourne averaged 1.3 days per summer in total exceeding 40°C. For the last thirty years, the average has been 1.7. So four consecutive days well over 40 is bound to attract comment.


SideShowBob says:
January 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Yes, one tiny portion of the world is warm right now. Not as warm as the past, but warmer then their cherry-picked time period. And what is it called when one tiny portion does one thing over one very specific small amount of time, but all the others don’t do the same?
…oh yeah, “weather” – not “climate”
Now something like these are climate

I cannot find the archives but I went to Adelaide for training courses back in March of ’86. In the first week, Adelaide was in the back end of 10 days straight above 40 degrees Celcius. I returned a week later and we were now at 30 days above 36 degrees C. Not only were the days hot but the night time temps were also hot. I was glad to escape and head back to Sydney.


Nick Stokes says:
January 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm
Yep that’s what happens when people cherrypick data. Usually it’s the skeptics that get accused though.


Steve B says:
January 20, 2014 at 11:41 pm
Yes, Perth has the weather Sydney thinks it has. lol


@nick stokes
A decent heat wave will attract comment for sure, just as the hand-wringing over it and it’s association with global warming (and by implication AGW) is going to attract disdain from skeptics and those who remember heat waves in the past.
And when you say “rare” it’s important to put some context to that. It is not rare in decadal time spans or even less. Growing up in Perth each summer brought heat waves of varying severity. Colin Theile wrote a book called “February Dragon” in 1966 about a severe heat wave that brought a catastrophic brushfire. I think skeptics have a point when they caution against what Judith Curry termed “Weather Amnesia”. Extreme and “rare” weather events by definition don’t happen that often, but they do happen. The objection is when they reflexively linked to man made climate change as if they wouldn’t have happened anyway.

Brian H

Clearly unfit for human habitation. >:(

Mick In The Hills

Preparing for possibility of bushfire, raking up around the homestead, I noticed that after 4 days of >40C the dry leaf litter build-up from our nearby stringy-barks (eucalyptus trees) was more than had accumulated in the previous 4 months.
It’s as if these trees are going: “hey, it’s time to burn – let’s get some kindling on the ground around us”.
Anyone know the natural reaction of stringy-barks to hot weather?


On a side note. Forrest is in the wrong location on the map. It was a stop on the Indian Pacific rail line and NW of Eucla.

Currently sweating it out on coastal Queensland. The temperatures are lower than inland regions, but the humidity is way high.
Having said that, I’d rather spend my money on a better air conditioner than a windmill – even if we are responsible for hot weather.


You may not like all his posts but Steve Goddard has excellent links to past newspaper reports on “extreme weather events”. A good antidote to the current crop.


Nick Stokes says:
January 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm
So Melbourne was hot you say, but for those that have lived there for 40 to 60 years, they know that you often get 4 consecutive days in excess of 104 degrees F but then the cool change sweeps in and drops the temperature to 80 degrees in 15 minutes. And grab yourself a copy of the real Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology report “The Climate and Weather of Australia (Hunt Taylor and Quale) Melbourne 1913 and at Page 11 check the extreme temperature for the Capital Cities – Melbourne December 111 degrees (Ft) January 111 degrees (Ft) February 109 degrees (F) and don’t try the bull that these were not derived from LIG calibrated and tested thermometers in properly constructed and maintained Stevenson Screens, as there is plenty of evidence and photographs that show that.
Remember also the BOM’s own written History book “The Weather Watchers” where they document the pressure in the early years from politicians that wanted extremes played down as that might deter people from settling and farming in Australia.
Were you part of the great dying of thermometers, that saw removal of cool rural sites and relocation to warmer sites at airports (needed for aviation purposes but with rural sites removed tends to raise the average modern temperatures) and then of course the destruction of many of the high temperature records of the past – adjusted down by two or three degrees F that artificially make modern records look warmer? Remarkably like the homogenous adjustments? to raw data that Steve Goddard is reporting in his recent re-examination of US temperature CONUS records.
We have had two very mild summers past and one of them got tagged the Angry Summer by the Climatic clowns that the last government installed and this government sacked, and this Summer has been predominantly quite cold apart from those recent days, (compliments of increased Antarctica ice that UNSW ship of fools found and all helped by South Annular Mode polar winds.
Do you agree with taking extreme Desert temperatures and smearing these all over Australia by faulty averaging made possible by tampering with sites and adjusting/manipulating historical data, and then covering that with hand waving diversions.
Get out and talk to average Australians that have lived worked and seen droughts, floods and real extremes of temperatures. Australians are keenly interested in weather, and they don’t like what you and the present BOM, ABC and CSIRO are trying to cook up – the guff about no more rain by the CSIRO – and then we had floods, so much for the control clowns, yes they are laughing at you, but I don’t, this is the real travesty in science -tampering with historical records – Bl**dy vandals !!


A bit of subject but i don’t believe it. Chris turney of the ship of fools has won a prize her in oz for his research on understanding past and present climate change and on improving climate change models.He will collect his prize in canberra this may.Turney said i am absolutely delighted to receive such a prestigious award.I hope he dose not get lost on the way to the prize giving,on the other hand that could be fun,i no this is hard to believe but it is true.


Keeping mind when people say “hottest on record”, the record starts in 1910. Europeans started coming here regularly from 1788. The Aboriginals have been here a lot longer than that. Also, if you look behind the BOM statements, its full of statistical hand waving. Also a lot of comparisons to the 1960-1990 average. 1960-1990?? I live here and am scratching my head…

Nick Stokes

KenB says: January 21, 2014 at 12:32 am
“So Melbourne was hot you say, but for those that have lived there for 40 to 60 years, they know that you often get 4 consecutive days in excess of 104 degrees F”

Well, I’m one of those, and I know that you don’t. I’d invite you to name a previous occasion. I believe 1908 was the only one.
Here is the WMO commenting on our heatwave of 2009:
“Melbourne’s three consecutive days above 40°C was the first time this had occurred since 1959”
That is three days, not four.


“KenB says:
January 21, 2014 at 12:32 am”
Exactly. Although not reported on ABC or SBS, on Channel 10 for instance the chap who does the weather recently stated that record highs (Which they were not) were recorded at airports no less. I wonder how many airports there were in Australia when records began (1910)? Pure rubbish!


Hey KenB,
Seems to me a younger generation has arrived who have not been out of the cities much. I’ve lived in numerous remote locations and travelled widely in Australia. We did the full-spectrum Leyland Bros Northern Safari thing as a kid, and I expect you know what that means. 😉
But this generation has not been away from an air-conditioned office or a leafy suburb with a minimum of ceiling fans, fridges and copious electricity, much. Or else a TV studio, and its attack offices and complexes. Unless it’s an arduous journey to their air-conditioned cars, a wait at the bus stop for an air-conditioned bus or train, to get to their air-conditioned abodes, or and air-conditioned restaurant, or their air-conditioned local pub, or sporting complex. Even the squids have air-conditioned class rooms and car rides, or lecture theatres.
So its not hard for them to easily fall for the AGW myth if they get mildly warm for a few minutes per day. And the same applies to the new ABC gallivanting after their daily phantom catastrophes. Or for the good folk a BOM to lose objectivity, given their complete lack of field experience, or remote area experience.
And good luck to them if they’re lucky enough to have such niceties.
However, none of the above they have any right to play with past data, or pretend it is not what it really is, or that Australia’s not a whole lot hotter, in reality, due to natural variability, than anything they’ve ever experienced, or can imagine, or will likely ever feel.
We’re faced with a generation we’ve slowly merged with, who really don’t know that they don’t know about what is normal variability. In fact, they seem to find the normal range of historic variability so incomprehensibly large, that they can’t even accept its real, so are adjusting it down to their reality. lol
And I wouldn’t mind that much if they didn’t also want me to pay for their ignorance too. That’s the real injustice here. 😀


errata – that should have said “attached offices and complexes” doh!


in Australia we have a global warming media. they have to be because news paper sales are down the gurgular , BBC TV and news down the gurular the CSIRO and uni scientists nobody believes them any more so they fudge all past temp records to sell more papers and get more GOV,T grants

Here is a picture of how hot it was!

Something we see over and over from alarmists is contempt for the past. While they are constantly making comparative statements where things are “worse”, “hotter”, “more extreme” etc, one is never to ask “worse etc than what?”
The stunt is to make comparative statements while disallowing points of comparison. The past is treated as a faded sepia photo or an “ancedote”, no matter how well documented.
By the way, fans of climatic extremes could do worse than look at Oz in the 1890s. And all achieved without CC and those new-fangled polar vortices!

Nick Stokes, that picture is very nice, and of course it proves global warming.
[That was sarcasm. Is the alarmist cult so desperate for supporting ‘evidence’ now that they use pictures like that?]


“Nick Stokes says:
January 21, 2014 at 1:23 am”
The point of your post is? Shall I post a picture of Elephants in Africa taking a mud bath to cool off during summer as proof of AGW?

I was gobsmacked to see, in this comment thread, that someone here at WUWT would question the fact that the state agencies are adjusting the temperature records of the past to help out the CAGW cause. There was a demand for evidence and a charge that claiming the warmists are fudging the data was a charge driven by ideology. I just can not believe that one could read here at WUWT and not become aware of the many “value added” adjustments that these agencies make that just happens, purely by coincidence no doubt, to cool the past and warm the present to further the religious belief in the magic molecule CO2.
In my view, the most horrific thing to come of the CO2 religion is not the tons and tons of wasted money or even the discrediting of science itself; but the corruption of long term data that prevents us from gaining an understanding of climate — that is, when honest men and women return to the scientific method and use real data in their science. After all, without the long term exacting recorded observations of the positions of the planets by Tycho Brahe the men of the day would never have discovered back then that the planets go round the sun in a elliptical fashion.
Honest data is precious indeed.

Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

Mr Forbes! Permission to repost? With links back to the original, as always.

Strange that a regular common wave gets so much attention while 11 deaths due to a common cold wave in India goes unnoticed.