Melbourne residents escape the record heat on the beach, 11 March 2013. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

By Peter Hannam, Carbon economy editor
11 March 2013

(Sydney Morning Herald) -- Melbourne's heatwave has set more records as city dwellers endure temperatures more usually felt much further inland.

The mercury touched 30 degrees late morning and peaked at 37.1 just after 4pm, exceeding the forecast high of 36. Melbourne has only posted eight consecutive days of 30 degrees or more on four occasions - in 1890, 1898, 1951 and 1961 - in records that go back to 1856. Each of the previous stints fell in January or February.

“It's a bit like Melbourne on the Murray,” said Rob Sharpe, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, noting that the city's temperatures have been closer than usual to the heat of towns along the river and in the Mallee.

“The sea breezes have generally failed or been late most days.”

The sweltering conditions are likely to last until at least Wednesday morning when a cool change is expected to reach the city. The weather bureau this afternoon lifted its forecast maximum for Melbourne on Tuesday to 37 degrees, while trimming Wednesday's to 29 degrees - potentially snapping the cycle of 30-plus days.

If those forecasts are realised, Melbourne will have had 9 days of 32 degrees or warmer by tomorrow. The previous longest such run was seven days, back in February 1961.

The heat follows what has already been an exceptionally hot and dry summer over most of southern Australia.

Victoria had its driest summer since 1984/85, and there is little sign of rain in the cool change due to arrive of Wednesday. Nationally, it was the hottest summer since consistent records began in 1910.

Melbourne's temperature reached 32.7 degrees a week ago and maximums have been that warm or hotter each day since, Mr Sharpe said.

The irregular heat is shared to the south as well. Launceston on Sunday posted its sixth consecutive day of 30 degrees or warmer, already beating the previous longest run of such temperatures set in January 2006, Mr Sharpe said.

The city is likely to hit eight or nine such days in a row even as cooler conditions have kept temperatures much lower in southern parts of Tasmania, such as Hobart.

“It's stunning,” Mr Sharpe said. “That heat is just not going anywhere.” [more]

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