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'Catastrophic ' heat ahead for Australia

"Dome of heat" has resulted in the worst fire threat on record

CANBERRA, Australia, | January 9, 2013

Australia, already beset by disastrous bush fires, can expect another week of catastrophic heat, the country's Bureau of Meteorology says.

"No relief can be expected from severe heatwave conditions for at least another week," bureau spokeswoman Danita Matush said.

A record-breaking "dome of heat" has resulted in the worst fire threat on record and has forces Australian meteorologists to add two new colors to their heat maps to denote the high temperatures, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

On Monday, the average maximum temperature across the country was 105 degrees F, surpassing the old record of 104 degrees set in 1976.

"Previously, the only time we ever had a sequence above 39 degrees centigrade was four days in 1973," Karl Braganza of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said. "Today [Monday] will make it seven days."

The bureau said temperatures later this week could reach 122 degrees F, leading them to add two new shades of purple to the top of their temperature scale maps.

Four months of record maximum temperatures, a stationary high-pressure system over the continent, clear skies and the failure of the northern monsoon have led to the extraordinary weather, Braganza said.

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