It’s been a warm summer in Melbourne. It’s been warm all over. There have been a few days of what they call ‘extreme heat’, though probably no more than usual. Sydney had their hottest day ever – 46C; and the weather bureau were forced to add another colour to their charts – purple, for temperatures in excess of 50C. The amp went up to 11.
In general the cooler days have been fewer, and warm to hot days the norm, from coast to coast. It’s a bloody big country Oz, which is what makes some of these records seem so remarkable. From north to south, east to west, a territory thousands and thousands of square kilometres, heat records were set: the hottest day on record across the whole of Australia on January 7 of 40.3C average maximum, and January the hottest month on record; 70% of the country experienced extreme heat conditions; there were 7 days in a row in which the average maximum temperature across the country was in excess of 39C. In all 123 weather records were broken, amid a strange summer full of cyclones and floods as well as the usual bushfires.
We’ve certainly known about the heat in Melbourne. We had 14 days over 30C in February, and most around the mid-thirties. Now it’s March, officially Autumn, yet we’re staring another record in the face. If everything goes according to forecast we’re facing 10 days running – and possibly more – of days with a maximum of over 30C. Now 30C is pretty easy to handle, but the reality is again that pretty well all of these days are forecast to be 33C plus. Again, perfectly tolerable, but it does begin to wear on you.
In truth I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. It used to be I revelled in the hot weather, as if it were some kind of Olympic sport we were highly competitive in. I’ve moderated that attitude in recent years. I can do without the days in excess of 40C. The hot nights I can definitely live without. And I’ve become very fond of air conditioning. Still, much of the weather we’ve had in this stretch has been beautiful. If you were on holiday, close to a beach, or with a cool drink close to hand, it’s hard to imagine more perfect weather. There have been days I’ve walked out into the sunshine and consciously felt privileged to be alive.
What I realise though, is that I like the variety that Melbourne normally provides. I lived in Brisbane once and got bored with the general sameness of the weather there (when it’s not storming and flooding). I like the fact that in Melbourne traditionally it can be 43C one day and 18C the next. I even like the fluctuations within the day, precisely what Melbourne is famous for. I guess I’ve become conditioned to it, and look upon it as a charming climatic eccentricity.
I also find I think differently in different weather. I love the social possibilities of hot summer days, but equally enjoy the more introverted aspect of our winter months. Truth be told I feel so much more creative when it’s cool outside, or when it’s overcast or stormy or rainy. It focusses my mind, and shifts it into a different gear.
Regardless, there’s nothing I can do about the weather except cop it as it comes. Given this seasons extremities it’s hard not to believe that global warming is true, and that we have a heavy hand in that. I think most people now believe that. That’s not the problem. The problem is actually getting governments to agree to do anything about it. I’m not going to get into it, but I think that horse has pretty well bolted. Let’s act, sure, but needed to act sooner.
On a more prosaic, practical, and personal note, this unseasonal heatwave we’re in the middle of spells trouble for H. I’m due to go in for a small surgical procedure tomorrow morning. I’m meant to wear a stocking on my leg for the 30 days after. I’ll do it, but can’t promise I’ll enjoy it when the temperature is forecast to be 37C. It’s a tough life.