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Written January 7, 2018,   Revised January 26, 2018


My Experience of January 6/7, 2018 in Sydney

Let me first set the scene.

I live in an inner suburb of Sydney, Australia, about 4 kilometres from the Sydney harbour bridge and about 8 kilometres from the coast. It's summer here and one would expect many hot days in the December-February period, including several very hot days. That's normal for summer here.

But November and December 2017 were, on average, only 'pleasantly warm' and sometimes rather cool in the evenings, with only two or three days in the first half of December that I would call hot or very hot. Then, a few days before Christmas and continuing until January 1, there were some days that were so cool that I noticed some old people on the streets dressed almost in winter clothes. In fact, on Christmas Eve I went to bed wearing my woollen beanie, which I had previously stored away, thinking that I would not need it until the cold weather returned. Wearing a woollen beanie on Christmas Eve in Sydney is unprecedented in my memory of growing up here!

Most days in November and December 2017 in Sydney were overcast and the majority of days in those two months had zero sunspots or, if they had sunspots, they usually had only one or two small ones. North America has been experiencing record cold and record snowfalls for the past month or more.

After January 1 the weather in Sydney continued to be only 'warm' or 'mild'. Then, on about Wednesday January 3 the media started predicting 'catastrophic' heat in eastern Australia for the coming weekend of January 6 and 7, with temperatures predicted to reach or exceed 40C (104F). The word 'catastrophic' was repeatedly used, along with public service announcements of what to do, and not do, in such an extreme situation.

On Friday 5 January I went for my usual long walk, this time in the middle of the day. I clearly remember that even in the middle of the day, if a street had a shady side and a sunny side, I deliberately chose to walk on the sunny side because it was 'pleasantly warm' in the sun, far from 'excruciatingly hot'. I have a thermometer on the outside window sill of my back window at home. Admittedly, that window sill is shaded by trees. Nevertheless, on January 5 the highest reading all day on my thermometer was about 27C (81F) .

Saturday the 6th came and I was expecting the arrival of a very hot day. But to my pleasant surprise, it was only slightly hotter than the previous day. I still went for a long walk in the middle of the day, something I would not do in heatwave conditions. The media seemed to forget about their prediction of 'catastrophic' heat in Sydney for this day but they still predicted 'catastrophic' heat for the next day.

Sunday the 7th arrived. Early in the morning I noticed that the skies were clear but the temperature, in the low twenties, was not yet so high as to indicate that a record-breaking hot day was imminent. So, once again, I went out between 9 am and about 11.30 am for a combined long walk and shopping expedition. By the time I was walking home at about 11.30 am, it was a hot day but nothing that is out of the ordinary for summer in Sydney. If it had been a genuine heatwave or extremely hot, I would have caught the bus back home instead of walking about 1.5 kilometers in the midday sun with a backpack full of groceries on my back.

Back home, I put the fan on myself. Then, in either the midday or the 1 pm news broadcast on the radio, I was informed that the temperature in Sydney was 41C (106F) on the coast and 45C (113F)  in western Sydney. I immediately checked the thermometer on my window sill and it registered 31C (88F), not 41C. That's a big difference. Possibly 41C was recorded on the tarmac at Sydney's airport, which is of course a great heat collector, and hardly representative of the average temperature on the coast in Sydney, even in the direct sunshine.

Then the ABC radio news of 6 pm (or about that time), informed me that Richmond, in far western Sydney had recorded 47C (117F) today. No doubt Richmond was hotter than here in inner Sydney but I have no way of verifying the truth of this 47C reading. If it reached 31C in the shade of my window sill then possibly it did reach or exceed 40C (104F) in the direct sunshine in Richmond. But who's checking the accuracy of this 47C reported reading?

By 7.45 pm, when the sun had still not completely gone down, my thermometer was reading 25C (77F). A cool breeze was blowing, sometimes quite strongly, and the sky was overcast, indicating that a storm might be coming, as predicted.

Later in the evening, the ABC radio broadcast today's BBC international news, which the ABC frequently does. Included was the story that Richmond's 47C had broken a temperature record. In other words, Richmond's supposed record 47C had become a worldwide news item. How convenient.

In the previous two summers here in Sydney I had noticed several examples of such hyped temperature forecasts that did not seem to actually come true. A normal hot day was always predicted to be "extremely hot" or even, "catastrophically hot" but was rarely ever as hot as predicted. And every bushfire in Australia was featured prominently in news reports as if they were major natural disasters, even though bushfires have always been characteristic of Australian summers.

My conclusion: We are being lied to. And taken for fools.