Temperatures hovered around 30°C for most of Tuesday night, after reaching a daytime peak of 38.9°C
March 9, 2016 — Melbourne sweltered through its hottest March night on record on Tuesday, hovering around 30°C after reaching a peak of 38.6°C in the city at 5pm.
The temperature dropped to an overnight minimum of 27.7°C at 8.45am Wednesday, just before the 6am cut-off for overnight temperatures.
It broke a previous record for the warmest overnight minimum of 26.5°C, which was set on March 13, 2013.
However the daytime maximum of 38.9°C fell short of the March record of 41.5°C, set in 1940.
Sydney has also been unseasonably warm, with a record-breaking 31 days in a row above 26°C. Canberra has had a daily maximum temperature of more than 30°C for every day of March so far.
Alain Baillie, forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne, said the uncomfortable night was the result of a low-intensity heatwave, which has hovered over south-eastern Australia for the past week.
That has been interrupted by a cool change in Melbourne, which saw the temperature drop from an expected high of 29.6°C at 6am on Wednesday to 25.5°C at 10am. The forecast maximum is 33°C, but Baillie said it was possible that would not be reached.
The cool change did not reach the north of the state, where a severe heatwave has seen Mildura, 540km north of Melbourne, suffer maximum temperatures of more than 40°C for the past four days.
Mildura has not had a daily maximum temperature below 36.7°C since March began.
The forecast is for Melbourne to return to normal early autumn temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s for the rest of the week, with the exception of Friday, when it is expected to reach 33°C.
The warm March temperatures follow a record-breaking heatwave in south-eastern Australia in December, which saw record high minimum overnight temperatures set in many areas of Victoria, Tasmania, eastern South Australia and southern New South Wales.
Last year was the hottest year on record with global average temperatures 0.75°C higher than the long-term average, smashing the previous record of global temperatures 0.57°C higher than average set in 2015. A forecast issued by the UK Met Office in January suggested that 2016 could break that record again.
Professor Will Steffan, from the Climate Council, said the heatwaves seen in south-eastern Australia “have the fingerprints of climate change all over them”.
“Without serious action on climate change, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra could all experience a doubling or tripling of days over 35°C by 2070,” Steffan said.
“But Australia’s emissions continue to go up in the absence of a credible plan to meet Australia’s commitments in Paris.
“We need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy if we are to protect Australians from worsening heat.”