Environment

Sydney weather: City simmers in hottest trio of March days since 1902

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These included 38.9 degrees at Moruya Airport and 38.1 degrees at Merimbula, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Richmond, on Sydney's north-western edge had its hottest day this late in the season.

According to Blair Trewin, the Bureau's senior climatologist, the forest fire danger index "was the highest on record for March for most areas of the NSW South Coast from Nowra southwards, as well as far east Gippsland and parts of the Monaro" such as Bombala.

'Perfect' set-up

Sunday's peaks had a lot to do with the timing of the system, creating a "perfect" set up, Mr Dutschke said.

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"The hottest part of the air mass was peaking at the right time of the day," he said.

The heatwave was most remarkable for its broad reach rather than its intensity.

On Saturday, for instance, every eastern capital – Adelaide, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Canberra – topped 30 degrees. That was the first time in March in 53 years, and the latest in the season since records started including Canberra 80 years ago, Mr Dutschke said.

Fires burn near Tathra on Sunday as record maximum temperatures were set in towns across the NSW South Coast.

Photo: David Porter

For Sydney, the tail of summer won't stop wagging yet, with another day of 30 degrees forecast for next Sunday.

That burst of warmth will probably be briefer and much less intense than the current one, Mr Dutschke said.

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In the meantime, parts of eastern NSW may be in for some much needed showers and rain.

On current bureau forecasts, Sydney will get showers each day this week, with several days possibly receiving as much as 10 millimetres.

Temperatures will be close to the daytime average for March but overnight temperatures will remain mild.

Areas north of Sydney, such as Newcastle and the Hunter may get as much as 100 millimetres, possibly bringing much-needed rain to parched areas.

Victoria, though, may get little rain relief in the near term, adding to that state's extremely dry conditions.

Early this year, Melbourne clocked 41 consecutive days with less than 1mm of rain, the longest such spell since the run-up to the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, Weatherzone said.

While trios of days above 30 degrees are rare events in March in Sydney, there have been two such spells in April – in 1969 and 1986. Should Sydney top 30 degrees on Monday, it will be the fourth latest into autumn, Mr Dutschke said.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Peter Hannam is Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. He covers broad environmental issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy for Fairfax Media.

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