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'Extreme' heat sweeps across Australia at start of summer

By Clyde Hughes
'Extreme' heat sweeps across Australia at start of summer
Sunrise is seen over Altona pier in Melbourne, Victoria, Thursday. Extreme heat is forecast to sweep across four states over the next few days. Photo by David Crosling/EPA-EFE

Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Australia should enter the new year in the middle of a heatwave, as record temperatures are dotting the country that's at the start of its summer season.

Temperatures in Sydney reached 105 degrees Friday, beginning at 83 degrees at the Sydney airport at 9 a.m. and continued to climb from there. Forecasters projected "severe to even extreme" heatwave conditions across quite a wide area of south Australia.

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"This is all because of a high-pressure system coming off the Tasman Sea that is slow moving and has set up a pattern over several days," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Nick Neynens said.

"It's a very stable situation with not a lot changing, meaning everywhere is pretty much going to be hot and we don't see a strong change coming yet."

Australia's heatwave has prompted health warnings, air quality alerts and fire bans around the country. Many locations are facing predictions of three-digit heat through the weekend that could rise as high as 120 degrees.

New South Wales Health issued a warning about poor air quality this week, with ozone levels expected to rise with the hot weather. Ozone exposure can cause irritation of the lungs, and those with asthma are urged to take extra precautions or stay inside.

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The summer season in Australia generally runs from December to March.

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