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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Heatwave strikes

Consistently scorching temperatures this week will threaten livestock with heat stress that could cause production losses and even deaths.

LAURA GRIFFIN January 14, 2014 4:00am

Dairy cows are susceptible to heat stress, so farmers are being urged to take measures to manage their heat loads as temperatures soar.


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The Goulburn Valley will have among the hottest maximum temperatures in Victoria, exceeded marginally by towns in the Mallee, according to the Bureau of Meteorology forecast.

Duty forecaster Stuart Coombs said the protracted length of well above-average daily maximum and minimum temperatures in northern Victoria was unusual, with many towns in the bureau’s Northern Country district forecast to have blistering maximum temperatures above 40°C for more than five days.

Last week, Mr Coombs said the heatwave could persist beyond Friday in northern Victoria, with computer modelling suggesting the change to affect southern Victoria by late Thursday or Friday might not relieve the sweltering heat in the state’s north.

The same air mass that caused the heatwave in northern NSW and southern Queensland in late December and early January before travelling to Western Australia where it raised the mercury last week, has now spread back towards Victoria.

Mr Coombs called Victoria’s persisting heatwaves as a ‘‘blocked’’ situation.

‘‘There is a high pressure system that cannot move away because there are other weather systems blocking it,’’ he said.

‘‘No cooling overnight stresses people out, especially the very young and older people.’’

A possible silver lining is not a lot of wind is forecast for Victoria this week, which could limit the fire danger.

The bureau describes a heatwave as three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures that is unusual for that location. Weather conditions during the preceding 30 days are also considered to include the degree of change that may exacerbate or lessen the heat’s impact.

‘‘Regardless of how you define it, the conditions likely to occur in northern Victoria will constitute a heatwave,’’ Mr Coombs said.

The bureau is piloting a heatwave service to forecast the onset of extreme heat events.

The bureau’s Weather Services assistant director Alasdair Hainsworth said the heatwave service measured the build-up of excess heat and provided a more advanced indicator than temperature alone in anticipating the impact of heat stress.

He said the new service complemented the bureau’s existing maximum and minimum seven-day temperature forecasts.

It uses a heatwave intensity index that assesses the build-up of heat over a period of time, taking into account the long-term climate of a location and the maximum and minimum temperatures leading up to a heatwave event.

The new pilot service maps levels of intensity for each heatwave event, indicating areas of severe and extreme heatwave at the upper end of the scale. For more information and to see the heatwave maps, visit www.bom.gov.au/australia/heatwave/

Severe and extreme heatwaves — such as those forecast this week — pose significant risks to human and animal wellbeing and infrastructure resilience.

Animals, including humans, need to stay hydrated and avoid being in the heat to avoid problems.

More stories, pages 8 and 9.

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