Refreshing Cooldown for Australian Open but Fires Rage in Victoria

By Dan DePodwin, Meteorologist
January 19, 2014; 3:29 AM ET
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After players and spectators roasted in oppressive heat this week at the Australian Open, welcome relief arrived Friday night as a cold front slid northward.

However, gusty winds accompanying the front promoted the spread of brushfires across the state of Victoria.

Sweltering Heat Breaks at Australian Open

For only the second time in recorded history, the temperature climbed above 40 C (104 F) on four straight days this week in Melbourne. In fact, thermometers across the region topped out near 43 C (109 F) each day.

The scorching temperatures wreaked havoc for fans and players at the Australian Open. Hundreds of spectators were treated for heat exhaustion, and play was suspended due to the extreme temperatures.

Thankfully, a significant, refreshing change in the weather occurred Friday evening local time. A cold front sweeping northward brought cool, moist, marine air into the region.

With the cold front to the north of Melbourne, a much more comfortable weather pattern will unfold into next week. High pressure located west of the area will promote a cooling southerly breeze for at least the next several days.

Temperatures through the first part of next week will be very close to normal with daytime highs in the mid-20s C. Nighttime temperatures will generally be 12-15 C.

In addition to the cooler weather, there will be an increase in cloud cover. A few showers can be around on Saturday, but a prolonged period of heavy rain is not expected.

Brushfire Danger High Slackening

While conditions for tennis will be much more ideal, brushfires will still be an issue across the state of Victoria.

The long stretch of dry, hot weather made conditions ripe for fires this week. Numerous fires were burning Friday when the cold front swept through, increasing winds and helping fires spread.

The Associated Press reported that fire authorities said 68 fires were burning across Victoria as of Friday evening. One person had been killed.

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Heat Wave at Australian Open to Break Saturday

Fire conditions across Victoria Friday rivaled the "Black Saturday" brushfires of Feb. 7, 2009. That series of brushfires was preceded by a prolonged period of little rainfall and record heat. Strong winds from the north abruptly shifted south with the passage of a cold front, causing the fires to spread rapidly.

Fortunately, fire fighting efforts will be aided this weekend with cooler conditions as well as increased moisture. While it can still be breezy, high winds gusts are not expected.

Trees are on fire as wildfires swept through the township of Seaton, Australia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2013. Wildfires raging across southern Australia have killed one man and destroyed several homes. Police say the body of a man was found Friday in a burned-out car near the small town of Seaton, about 200 km (120 miles) east of Melbourne in Victoria state. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)

Farther north across the continent, another day of high fire danger is expected in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Temperatures between 33 and 38 C are expected from Canberra to Sydney on Saturday before the cold front brings a change in the weather.

The weather for the second half of the weekend and next week should be more typical of mid-January with high temperatures in the middle to upper 20s C.

Unfortunately, the region remains in the heart of fire season with no prolonged periods of wet weather on the way. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Victoria's Deputy Fire Controller Alan Goodwin stated, "We have no relief in sight. There's no significant rain forecast."

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