January officially Australia’s hottest month on record

Spectators cool themselves down with a water mist fan during the Australian Open tennis championships Credit: Andy Brownbill/AP

January was the hottest month on record in Australia with blistering temperatures bringing widespread drought across the country, meteorologists say.

The sweltering start to 2019 follows last year being Australia's third hottest on record. Only 2005 and 2013 were warming than 2018, which ended with the hottest December on record.

For the first time, the mean temperature across the nation exceeded 30c.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology confirmed that Tasmania, an island and state off the coast of the country's mainland, had its driest January on record. Fire crews have battled to contain wild fires that are ravaging farmland in the state.

Australia has sweltered through its hottest month on record in January Credit: Kin Cheung/AP

How hot did it get in Australia?

  • Aussies sweated through the country's hottest night on record, with 36.6c recorded in Wanaaring, New South Wales.

  • The South Australian town of Port Augusta recorded 49.5c – the highest maximum anywhere in Australia last month.

  • On January 24, the South Australian capital, Adelaide, recorded the hottest day ever for a major Australian city – a searing 46.6c.

The extreme weather has had a knock-on effect for communities across the country. Drought has parched swathes of farmland in the south, last year it was reported that farmers were having to bring in water to help livestock survive amid the worst drought in 400 years.

Heat-stressed bats dropped dead from trees by the thousands in Victoria state and roads melted in New South Wales during heatwaves last month.

New South Wales officials say drought-breaking rains are needed to improve the water quality in a stretch of a major river system where hundreds of thousands of fish died in two mass deaths during January linked to excessive heat.

Conversely, in the north of the country shelves have gone empty as flood waters drenched parts of Queensland. A disaster declaration was issued for the area around Townsville as local rivers reached a 118-year high. Emergency services reported rescuing 28 people from floodwaters in the past week.

Scott Addison, an accountant based in the town, said: "Flooding has cut off all the roads and railway out of Townsville. Supermarkets are quickly running out of stuff," adding that the rain had been exceptionally heavy.

The town's mayor, Jenny Hill, said authorities have been forced to release water from the town's dam to protect homes. She credited the rainfall "one-in-a-100-year event," and said that officials had a duty to prevent the "majority," of the settlement flooding.

Supermarkets are low on stock after floodwaters cut off Townsville from the outside world. Credit: Scott Addison

As Australia has been sweltering, parts of the United States have been living through record-low temperatures.

In the UK, journeys have been disrupted after snowfall left airports and roads paralysed. The frozen conditions have seen temperatures drop and snow freezes roads, rails and airports.