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January 29, 2009

Australian Heat Wave To Last Six Days, Signaling Global Warming

Residents of Southeast Australia experienced record high temperatures during an intense heat wave on Thursday, which could have giant implications for oncoming global warming, researchers said.

Temperatures soared to a maximum of nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the worst heat wave in a century.

The heat even caused Australian Open officials to utilize the rare heat rule and close the entire center court roof during a match between Serena Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the record heat is yet another sign of global climate change scientists have forecasted.

"Eleven of the hottest years in history have been in the last 12, and we also note, particularly in the southern part of Australia, we're seeing less rainfall," Wong told reporters.

"All of this is consistent with climate change, and all of this is consistent with what scientists told us would happen."

The heat wave began on Wednesday, but the Bureau of Meteorology expects the region will see six days of record temperatures, making this the worst heat wave in a century.

Australia is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change due to its hot, dry climate and is already gripped by drought. Fire bans have been declared in southern Australia to prevent major bushfires but small fires are already burning, according to Reuters.

Australia's larger cities were among the most burdened regions, Melbourne, for instance recorded its hottest day in 70 years at 111 on Thursday. Robert Doyle, the city's mayor called for an increase in water due to a 40 percent drop in soil moisture.

"The signs are there that our precious trees are struggling in this brutal weather," Doyle told Reuters.

"Our parks staff have indicated a number of trees are defoliating and canopies are thinning. Once defoliation takes place it is very hard to save the tree," he said.

Train rail lines buckled under intense heat, resulting in canceled trains for passengers. The Department of Transport reported Thursday that maintenance workers have repaired the Noarlunga rail line, and trains are running back on schedule.

"Fortunately we've managed to have that line opened up in time for the first services this morning," Ross Stargatt from the Department told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

"TransAdelaide will have crews monitoring the rail most of the day just to make sure that anything that happens is reported as quickly as possible," he said.

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