Australia may set a record for its hottest day this week, as temperatures soar past 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in most of the nation's major cities, with inland areas of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia possibly eclipsing 122 degrees (50 Celsius).
The heat wave, which is unusually severe for so early in the summer, is affecting the entirety of the continent, gradually progressing eastward from Perth to Adelaide and on toward Melbourne and Sydney by Friday.
The heat is sure to aggravate the already record-shattering bush fires, which have emitted massive amounts of greenhouse gases and choked Sydney residents beneath a blanket of smoke. Health authorities in New South Wales are warning them to stay indoors during the day's heat.
"When we average temperatures over the country, we're seeing some extremely high values coming up in the forecast," Blair Trewin, a senior climatologist with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), said in a video posted to the agency's website.
As the heat peaks in southeastern Australia, it will make the job tougher for thousands of firefighters deployed to mega-fires such as the Gospers Mountain blaze raging across nearly 1 million acres to the northwest of Sydney.
Smoke from this fire and others has periodically shrouded the country's largest city in noxious smoke, posing serious health risks, particularly for the young and for those with asthma or other chronic conditions, as well as for the elderly.
This blaze is so large and is burning across such a variety of terrain that Rural Fire Service firefighter Brian Williams told the Sydney Morning Herald that it's impossible to contain.