Australia is sweltering through record-breaking heat

Farmer Wayne Dunford was already feeling worn down. He’d battled through 18 months of some of the worst drought he’d seen in his half a century on the land.

Then the heat struck.

Dunford has been feeding livestock by hand on his New South Wales property for 12 months due to the lack of ground growth and is now worried about whether he’ll be able to plant crops at all after extreme heat and wind completely dried out his fields.

“You turn around and you can’t see across the paddock for the dirt blowing across it, that wears people pretty thin. And then there’s the heat on top of that,” he told CNN.

As the United States suffers from a record freeze, with temperatures plummeting below minus 32 degrees Celsius (minus 27 Fahrenheit), Australia is sweltering through an extreme heatwave.

Week after week, temperatures have continued to rise with all of the country’s eight states and territories affected. Across the country, roads have melted, infrastructure has failed and both animals and fish have died en masse.

The southern city of Adelaide experienced its hottest day on record on January 24, reaching 46.6 C (116 F). On Friday, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology announced it had been the country’s hottest January on record, describing the weather as “unprecedented.”

In temperatures above 40 C (104 F) the human body begins to experience heat exhaustion. Once the temperature exceeds 41 C (105 F), the body starts to shut down. Health warnings have been issued throughout Australia advising people to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, minimize physical activity and keep hydrated.

But while the current heat continues to cause problems for ordinary Australians, scientists are warning it could only be the beginning of the country’s problems with extreme weather if no action is taken to prevent climate change.

Michael Grose, senior research scientist from CSIRO’s Climate Science Center, told CNN, in one example, that by 2100 Adelaide could face up to 22 days per year over 40 C (104 F) in a worst-case scenario.

“Even under a very low emission scenario we’re expecting to see an increase in those record hot days,” he said.

The sunburnt country

In a video which went viral across Australia in January, two farmers make an emotional appeal for help standing beside the massive Darling River in New South Wales.

They’re holding two large dead fish, killed when temperatures soared at the beginning of the month — just one of three mass fish kills which have left thousands of them decomposing on the surface of the water.

“This fish is 100 years old, it’s never coming back, this is bloody disgraceful,” local farmer Rob McBride says in the video.

Another local, Graeme McCrabb, described to CNN the “horrific” sight which greeted him when he strolled down to the river one day. “The fish were still dying, lots of small ones bouncing along the surface of the water,” he said.

Authorities blamed the prolonged drought and weather conditions, which caused fish to suffocate for lack of oxygen in the water — although some locals say it’s down to government mismanagement of the river system.

But fish aren’t the only victims of Australia’s extreme weather. In the Northern Territory, the bodies of dozens of wild horses were