SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 25: Frank Groot and Josephine Groot, from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, play on their inflatable couch at Bondi Beach on December 25, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Bondi Beach is a popular tourist destination on Christmas Day.
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  • South Africa has been struggling in a heatwave – but not alone.
  • Temperature records have been smashed as a Christmas heat wave has the southeastern corner of Australia in a stranglehold.
  • The hottest place in the country, Marble Bar in the Pilbara of Western Australia hit an all-time heat record of 49 degrees Celsius on Thursday.
  • December and Christmas are only the beginning of the summer season in Australia. It starts getting noticeably toastier around January and February.


It is not just South Africa that has been suffering under a heatwave.

After firestorms in Victoria killed 173 people in 2009, Australian fire authorities decided it would be best to add a new category to the ubiquitous fire ratings signs that pop up every few miles on rural highways.

When a heat wave sweeps out of the central deserts to smother the heavily populated coastal regions - like what the region has seen this Christmas - officials at the Rural Fire Service bump the measurement up to the new, final notch.

"Catastrophic."

That's what the weather is in Australia this week. It's not hot, really hot, or even extremely hot. It's catastrophic.

Australian temperature records have been smashed as a Christmas heat wave has the southeastern corner of the country in a stranglehold.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, this is a December like no other.

Down in the state of South Australia, temperatures in some country towns have nudged nearly 47 degrees Celsius.

Adelaide city, the capital of South Australia, was breezing through a comparatively 41.6 degrees Celsius at lunchtime on Friday, while down in Port Augusta, things got a little uncomfortable at nearly 46 degrees Celsius, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.

The state ambulance service is urging people to drink lots of water and check on the elderly, sick, and very young to make sure they're cool and comfortable.

They'll be doing a lot of that in sunny Oodnadatta over the next few days, with the Bureau of Meteorology is expecting temperatures to plateau at an unforgiving 46 degrees Celsius on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before pulling back a degree or two on Monday.

Hayley Nunn, from the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta, described the weather as "bloody horrible," according to the ABC.

Around the country there are outright fire bans and blanket health warnings as people flock to the beach.

According to Reuters, the heat wave emanating out of the central northwest has now spread into the heavily populated southeastern cities - Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide - where December monthly average temperatures are up to 16 degrees Celsius higher than usual.

"We're going to see December records tumbling," Diana Eadie, a meteorologist at the BOM told Reuters on Friday.

"We're definitely not out of it yet, in fact I would say it's going to be peaking over more populated areas this weekend."

Australia's vast continent is sizzling through extreme heatwave conditions this week, with temperature records falling and emergency services on high alert for bushfires.
PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

There are a few telltale signs when a certain temperature is achieved here in Sydney. For example, if the windows are left open to catch a whiff of breeze, there is often a sudden and unpleasant mass migration of flies and mosquitoes wanting to cool off.  

Sandals and pavements could melt.

Beer warms with a distributing and preternatural speed. The Christmas tree dies, and maybe the fridge, too.

And if you reckon all of that sounds sub-par, when talking about heatwaves in this region, there's always someone, somewhere who is worse off. In this case, it's those who live in Marble Bar in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The mercury climbed to 49.3 degrees Celsius, an all-time high.

And like much of South Africa, December is just the kick-off of summer for Australia. January is when the kid gloves come off. And then, of course, things get serious in February.

But a better snapshot of what Christmas looks like in the southern hemisphere comes courtesy of a 2017 tally from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which suggested that, on average, every household - roughly 24 million of them - spends more than $90 ($AU130) per year on fresh fish and seafood, and almost $30 per year on Christmas decorations.

About $150 is spent on ice cream, and $600 on beer.

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