The headlines read something like, "Record-shattering summer heat!" It sounds reminiscent of the Texas heat wave of 2011, when we endured our hottest summer on record. In this instance, though, headlines like these are coming out of Australia.
Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons there are opposite to ours. While winter is winding down here, summer is coming to a close there. And what a summer it's been!
According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the average summer temperature in Australia was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. That may not seem like much, but in climatological terms, it's huge!
In Moomba, South Australia, BOM records show the mercury topped out at 121 degrees Fahrenheit, which was the highest temperature ever recorded there. It happened during a severe January heat wave. All-time record highs were set in the cities of Sydney and Hobart, too. To put it in perspective, meteorologists had to add a new color to their weather map at one point because temperatures rose above the standard range of colors they had been using.
While we didn't reach 121 degrees in Houston in 2011, we did tie our all-time record high temperature of 109 ... twice! That August, we also had 30 days of 100-degree heat.
We in Texas and the people in Australia are not the only ones to face such extreme heat in recent years. In 2010, parts of Russia had a similar summer. And in 2003, Europe had a deadly summer heat wave that hadn't been experienced, likely, since AD 1500.
Based on the increasing frequency of these events, we will very likely continue to see record-setting heat waves make the headlines. In Texas, in particular, we'll be watching closely this summer to see if 2013 turns into a repeat performance of 2011.