50°C in Sydney region 1939 – perspective on recent heat

Last Sunday 7 Jan 2018 Our ABC reports the BoM – Sydney hits its highest temperature recorded since 1939 with Penrith reaching 47.3C. The BoM had just belatedly found that RICHMOND RAAF 067033 hit 47.8 on 14 Jan 1939. But there is much more to the history of hottest days in Sydney. There was another site recording at Richmond in 1939; John Tebbutt’s historic Observatory which recorded 122°F or 50°C on 11 Jan 1939 as reported in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette Fri 13 Jan 1939 Page 3 Sweltering Week Sets New Hawkesbury District Record.
In Jan 1896 there are a multitude of reports of a stunning and deadly NSW heatwave summarized by Lance Pidgeon at JoNova and picked up by the UK Daily Mail – How a 24-DAY heatwave on Australia’s east coast in January 1896 saw temperatures climb to 49 degrees and killed 437 people. The Windsor and Richmond Gazette for Sat 18 Jan 1896 Page 6 Hawkesbury Heat – On Monday 13 Jan 1896 John Tebbutt’s Observatory recorded 118.8°F or 48.2°C – also well clear of the 47.3 at Penrith last Sunday. There is a report in The Daily Telegraph Sydney,
for Tue 14 Jan 1896 Page 5 123 IN THE SHADE AT CAMDEN. But we have no information re the thermometer exposure. I wonder what readers can find. The upshot seems to be that the 47.3 at Penrith last Sunday was only a run of the mill very hot day for the Sydney region. And even less notable when you take into account the ever growing urban heat island and the fact that Penrith records one second intervals in a modern electric AWS which must produce hotter spikes than a slower acting mercury in glass thermometer.

6 thoughts on “50°C in Sydney region 1939 – perspective on recent heat”

  1. Warick it was not BOM that found the Richmond RAAF (closed) reading on 14 th Jan. 1939 A commentator at JoNova’s website found it. BOM has actually eliminated the data from their daily max. temperature record which now starts 1st Dec 1939. However, looking at the record it has a highest max temp for this now closed site of 47.8C forJanuary at the bottom. If one puts the cursor over this it will show 14th Jan although there is no data for any day of Jan 1939. I tend to think BOM wanted to eliminate the high readings for 1939 and forgot the separate entry in the highest lowest record.
    The closed site I think was opened in 1928 and was likely operated by the RAAF particularly through the war until it was closed. There is now a new site ( I think within 100m) giving daily readings with electrical instruments capable of capturing spikes.

  2. I should have added that the BOM online data does not recognise Richmond RAAF as a town or site but one can find it in the list if inputting North Richmond NSW

  3. Hi Warwick.
    Has a good look at the photos on Jo’s Site of this and it seems there is a sloping steel roof on a building just too close and just to the south. This would reflect the sun onto the screens. Perhaps directly onto the Glaisher thermometer. There is also a close tree to blow the morning winter sun.
    No matter this beats it and is way back before industrialisation and the even before the Dalton minimum. “The Thermometer at Government House, Parramatta,on Wednesday, was in the air and shade 119° (48.3 Degrees C.)”
    trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/625917

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