Published: 16:16, January 20, 2024 | Updated: 16:20, January 20, 2024
Western Australia in 'extreme' heat wave, raising bushfire risk
By Reuters

A rocky outcrop holds an Aboriginal shelter of significance in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where human habitation stretches back over 60,000 years, Gudai-darri, 1,120 kilometers northeast of Perth, Australia, Oct 19, 2023. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

SYDNEY – Parts of Western Australia were gripped on Saturday by an "extreme" heat-wave, raising the risk of bushfires in the vast state, the nation's weather forecaster said.

The Bureau of Meteorology had an "extreme heat-wave warning" in place on Saturday for the remote Pilbara and Gascoyne areas of Australia's largest state, warning temperatures there could hit high forties degrees Celsius over the weekend.

READ MORE: Australia grapples with weather extremes

Very hot and dry conditions combined with fresh southerly winds and a fresh to strong west to southwesterly sea breeze will lead to elevated fire dangers on Saturday.

Bureau of Meteorology, Australia

In the Pilbara mining town of Paraburdoo, about 1,500 km north of the state capital Perth, a maximum temperature of 47 degrees Celsius was forecast on Saturday, more than six degrees above the average January maximum, according to forecaster data. It was 42.7 C there at 11:00 am (0300 GMT).

Australia's highest temperature on record of 50.7 C was logged at the Pilbara's Onslow Airport on Jan 13, 2022.

Saturday's hot weather lifts the risk of bushfires in an already high-risk fire season amid an El Nino weather pattern, which is typically associated with extreme events such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

"Very hot and dry conditions combined with fresh southerly winds and a fresh to strong west to southwesterly sea breeze will lead to elevated fire dangers on Saturday," the weather forecaster said on its website, regarding part of the Pilbara.

The warning comes after hundreds of firefighters earlier this month battled an out-of-control bushfire near Perth amid soaring temperatures, prompting evacuations.

ALSO READ: Residents in Western Australia urged to flee as wildfire rages

Australia's last two fire seasons have been subdued compared with the 2019-2020 "Black Summer" of bushfires that destroyed an area the size of Turkey, killed 33 people, 3 billion animals and trillions of invertebrates.