Coping with extreme heat

It’s a hot start to the New Year. Although today’s forecast maximum was 34°, the temperature reached 36.7° by mid-afternoon and a fire weather warning was issued several hours ago. Over the next few days the temperature is projected to increase further. We have experienced a spike of heat waves and record-breaking temperatures in Australia over the last five years so this is hardly surprising. The January 2014 heat wave was one of the most significant multi-day heatwaves, breaking a number of records for extended periods of heat.

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Our backyard at 3PM today

Although adapting to extreme weather is vital, some adaptation measures take time and money. Over several years we gradually added external canvas blinds on all windows. We also planted half a dozen deciduous shade trees around our house but these will take years to provide adequate shade. We do not yet have an air conditioner and make do with ceiling fans. Double glazed windows would be a nice luxury. For people who rent, taking long-term adaptation measures is much more difficult. Outdoor workers also face unique challenges.

We started preparing our garden yesterday by giving all the young trees, ground covers and vegetable beds a deep watering and by shading vulnerable areas.  Today we closed all windows by late morning to keep out hot air and will re-open them at sunset. We also planned cold meals to keep ourselves and the house as cool as possible.

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Today’s ‘mostly home-grown’ lunch

Keeping an eye on vulnerable members of our community is imperative when temperatures spike for three or more consecutive days and there is no adequate drop in night-time temperature to cool the outdoor and indoor environments. In Australia during the 20th century, heatwaves caused more deaths than any other natural hazard and the very young and very old are especially vulnerable. SA Health has produced an Extreme Heat Guide to provide information on heat related conditions, what to do if a person has symptoms and practical tips on preparing for and coping during extreme heat.

If you live in a fire prone region like the Adelaide hills, being well-informed and adequately prepared could save your life. It is especially important that you do not wait for an official order to evacuate. The South Australian Fire Danger ratings are ‘High’, ‘Very High’, ‘Severe’, ‘Extreme’ and ‘Catastrophic’. The Adelaide Hills – Fire Danger Information recommends leaving early and staying away from bushfire prone areas as your best option for survival if the day’s rating is severe to catastrophic. If the rating is very high only stay if you and your home are well prepared and you can actively defend it.

In its 2011 report ‘A Climate of suffering – the real cost of living with inaction on climate change’, the Climate Institute discusses mental health and community well-being in the wake of extreme weather. The video below gives a snapshot of some of the issues faced by individuals and communities affected by extreme weather events during the Victorian summer of 2009.

The forecast for tomorrow is 42° with an overnight minimum of 22° and we are expecting 38° on Saturday with an overnight minimum of 27°. Tomorrow morning we plan to be at the beach by 8am and we’ll spend the afternoon indoors with a good book and plenty of cold drinking water. If, like us, you are experiencing extreme heat this week I hope you find a cool spot to relax and stay chilled.


UPDATED: morning – 2nd January 2015 – 36.2°C

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Catastrophic fire conditions declared near Adelaide

‘Catastrophic fire conditions in the Adelaide Hills have residents on high alert with strong winds and temperatures forecast to hit 42 degrees Celsius today’.


UPDATED: late afternoon – 2nd January 2015 – 44.1°C

Firefighters battle blazes in SA as state faces catastrophic fire risk

The Country Fire Service (CFS) says two fires in South Australia are burning out of control and could threaten people’s lives and homes.


UPDATED: mid-morning – 3rd January 2015 – 36.7°C

‘Incredibly dangerous’ bushfire burns north-east of Adelaide

Thirty Minutes ago a Major Emergency was declared in South Australia and will remain in place for 14 days. The South Australian Country Fire Service chief Greg Nettleton says there is no way they can stop this fire under the current conditions and with the current fuel situation.  They are not in fire-fighting mode but are instead working to protect life. 

Standing at the front of our house, I took this photo of the smoke plumes coming from the Adelaide Hills this morning.

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 LAST UPDATE: afternoon – 4th January 2015 – 28.9°C

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 Source: ABC News.

 Dozens of homes feared lost in SA as fires continue to rage

More than 800 firefighters from three states are battling a huge fire front which swept through the Adelaide Hills yesterday and remains out of control.   Twelve homes have been lost, the Country Fire Service said, a number expected to rise as a massive fire burns uncontrolled on all fronts in the Adelaide Hills.

Fears more than 30 homes lost in SA bushfires: CFS

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6 Responses to Coping with extreme heat

  1. How did your garden and you and Stephen cope today? I think we managed to save everything 🙂

  2. Well done with all your tents in the backyard! We did not lose any plants but one young guava tree did get some burnt leaves. I forgot to shade it. Using second hand curtain netting around young trees to shade them from extreme heat is a good idea. If the air temperature is very high tree leaves will burn regardless of how well the tree has been watered.

  3. My god! I’ve never experienced temperatures that high. Keep cool and safe. I hope the heat wave breaks soon.

  4. Pingback: The aftermath of the Sampson Flat bushfires | Sustainable in Holdfast Bay

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