Particularly high temperatures, accompanied by a hot wind, were recorded on the east coast of Australia on Tuesday, fueling fears of wildfires as devastating as those in the summer of 2019/20.
Temperatures reached up to 34C in parts of New South Wales, more than 10 degrees above the average for an Australian spring.
Children from 21 schools in a coastal region 500 kilometers south of Sydney were sent home.
“A high fire threat is expected in the area this afternoon due to strong winds,” the NSW Rural Fire Service said in a statement on Tuesday.
Last week, wildfire-related smoke that firefighters lit as a preventive measure ahead of what is expected to be an intense fire season poured into the iconic harbor of Sydney, Australia’s most populous city.
The spring heatwave sweeping eastern Australia follows the warmest winter since weather records began in 1910.
Experts expect Australia’s fire season to be the most intense since the “black summer” of 2019-2020, when huge, out-of-control fires raged across this part of the vast island continent.
Since then, conditions have been unusually wet, helping trees grow faster and increasing the amount of potential fuel to fuel fires.