Extreme Australian temperatures alter face of country's heat map

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology added two more colours to the scale of its heat map to take account of unprecedented temperatures — higher than 50 C — forecast for next week.

Temperatures to soar past 50 C

The Australia Bureau of Meteorology added two colours to the top of the scale on their heat map, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. (Australia Bureau of Meteorology)

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology added two more colours to the scale on its heat map to take account of unprecedented  temperatures forecast for next week — a rise that is being blamed on global warming.

A bright shade of purple and pink have been chosen to represent the temperatures, which early Tuesday were predicted to climb to between 52 and 54 C in central Australia in the upcoming week. Meteorologists, however, subsequently lowered the forecast maximum to approximately 50 C.

David Jones, the head of the bureau's climate monitoring, said that the additions to the scale demonstrate the real potential of record-breaking weather

"The scale has just been increased today, and I would anticipate it is because the forecast, coming from the bureau's model, is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees," Jones told local newspapers.

Global warming 

The bureau has cited global warming as a cause of the recent temperature increases over the last four months.

A study done by the bureau said that the average Australian temperature is expected to rise by one to five degrees C by 2070.

Monday, was the hottest day on record for the entire country in which the temperature peaked at an average of 40.33 C.

According to the bureau, the current heat record is held by Oodnadatta, South Australia, which recorded a tremendous 50.7 C, on Jan. 2, 1960.

Wildfires, common during the summer months, have broken out across the country due to the combination of high temperatures and dry, windy conditions.

'Catastrophic threat level'

According to officials, conditions during this heat wave have reached a "catastrophic threat level" — which is the most severe rating.

"You don’t get conditions worse than this," said Shane Fitzsimmons, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner.

"We are at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option."

In New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, fires engulfed more than 30,000 hectares.

All state forests and national parks were closed as a precaution and the bureau issued a statement banning all fires for a 24 hour period beginning Wednesday morning.

With files from The Associated Press