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1/03/2008

Wild weather wreaks havoc

Australian Continent
Image:
Rough conditions at Burleigh Heads beach on the Gold Coast on December 30, 2007. The Gold Coast City Council says beaches could be closed until after New Year's Eve as high winds and ocean swells continue to intensify along the south-east Queensland coast. The weather bureau says the intense low pressure system in the Coral Sea is moving closer to the coast, with winds gusting to 90 kilometres an hour in some places. (AAP Image: Dave Hunt)

As the nation ushers in the new year, the weather is wreaking havoc across the country. The Western Australian arson squad is investigating how a convoy of vehicles was allowed to drive straight into the path of a bushfire this week. Three people died in the fire, which began during a heatwave on Friday. Similar conditions are now scorching Australia's south-east and have put authorities on edge. Further north, deep low pressure systems are producing cyclonic conditions. This confluence of weather extremes is not unheard of, but it's enough to have experts reaching for the RECORD books. And it's all part of a larger unpredictable pattern for the globe. It's as if on the last day of the year, the weather is staging its own fireworks, with the cyclonic system, two further lows, a high pressure system and a front moving through all at once. "It is fairly UNUSUAL we'd have three systems going at the same time." "To characterise it, I see a pattern of a lot more energy in the system." Residents of Adelaide sweltered in the low 40s on New Year's Eve after sweating through the city's HOTTEST DECEMBER NIGHT IN 110 YEARS, with the mercury never dipping below 29.9 degrees. Further east, Victorians are also feeling the heat. "We're expecting the northerly winds to become re-established later in the week, so we can expect high temperatures once again in the south-east later in the week." Elsewhere, there's been a crisis of a different nature. Severe storms have triggered floods and blacked out 45,000 homes across south-east Queensland yesterday. There've been waves of up to nine metres reported. Most beaches have been closed and a cyclone could develop over the Gulf of Carpentaria within days. "Humidity, rainfall, high temperatures leading to that general humidity, stormy type of weather that we've seen has certainly been the feature of the late spring, early summer period." The events of the past 48 hours illustrate a more general point: Australia's moved from a strong drought to La Nina's humidity, but at the same time, it's been getting hotter. Australia's southern regions have sizzled this year, and it would have been the nation's hottest year on record if it weren't for an UNUSUALLY cool spell in the north. Temperatures globally rose 0.41 degrees in 2007 to a level FAR WARMER THAN PREVIOUS LA NINA YEARS.

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VIDEO: EXTREME WEATHER PLAGUES AUSTRALIA
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