Australians have been warned to check on vulnerable friends and family this weekend as parts of the country swelter through temperatures as high as 50C.
Residents of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are already experiencing scorching temperatures.
The heatwave is being caused by a low pressure system that is moving from SA, through NSW and north Victoria and hitting the east coast, including Sydney.
It is also forecast to move north up the east coast to Brisbane and southeast Queensland.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jonathan How said the heatwave will ‘impact millions of people and create dangerous fire weather conditions for multiple states’.
Fire weather warnings have been now been issued for NSW, Victoria, SA and WA.
In addition to causing bushfires, Mr How warned the heatwave itself will be ‘a huge silent killer’ as it causes hyperthermia, dehydration and skin cancer.
‘The hot days and warm nights will make it difficult to recover, especially for vulnerable people,’ Mr How said.
‘People are hospitalised and it’s really dangerous so it’s important to take note of the heat and be careful.
‘Heatwaves are normal for this time of year but the temperatures and duration of this event will be exceptional.’
Heatwaves have killed more people than cyclones, flooding and bushfires combined in Australia in the last 100 years, making it the country’s biggest killer.
Sydney will reach a maximum of 39C on Saturday, making it the hottest capital city in the country – with a ‘very high’ fire danger warning in place.
Beachgoers are advised to use sun protection as the UV index will be ‘extreme’ at 11, which will be very damaging for skin.
The 39-degree maximum will continue on Sunday as a low pressure system brings the muggy weather across from South Australia through NSW to the east coast.
Temperatures will be even hotter when the heatwave escalates on the NSW coast on Sunday, with Newcastle forecast for 43C and Grafton set for 42C.
Sydney’s temperature will drop to 24C on Monday before jumping back up to 29C on Tuesday and remaining the mid 20s for the rest of the week.
‘On Saturday, temperatures will climb to 47C through inland South Australia and above 40C along the Murray but Southern Victoria will be spared the worst of it,’ Mr How said.
‘A gusty cool change will extend east through the day, hitting the high 30s through Sydney and western Brisbane on Sunday.’
Adelaide is not far behind Sydney with a maximum of 37C on Saturday – but rain developing in the late afternoon may provide some reprieve.
SA towns such as Coober Pedy, Port Augusta, Roxby Downs, Moomba and Renmark will all reach maximums of 47C on Saturday.
Inland NSW towns Broken Hill, Ivanhoe and Wicannia will see temperatures in the low to mid 40s on Saturday before the weather moves to the coast on Sunday.
Mildura in regional Victoria is expected to reach 45C while Horsham and Bendigo in the state’s north will reach the high 30s.
Melbourne will largely escape the heat with a pleasant maximum of 25 degrees on Saturday, while Hobart will be just 22C.
On the West Coast, Perth has a maximum of 25C and cloudy weather, which is expected to persist later into the week.
Canberra will have a maximum temperature of 34 degrees on Saturday – a figure that matches Darwin in the Northern Territory, which will also reach 34 degrees.
‘On Saturday, severe to extreme fire dangers will continue in South Australia and extend into Northern Victoria and in parts of NSW,’ Mr How said.
‘And on Sunday, very high to severe fire dangers are forecast for eastern NSW and southeast Queensland.
‘People should also be aware of severe heatwave conditions over inland parts, reaching the coast over the weekend and intensifying to extreme levels for northeast NSW and southeast Queensland into next week.’
Brisbane and southeast Queensland will be the last to feel the heatwave, which will not be as strong by the time it reaches the Sunshine State.
The Queensland capital is forecast for a maxim of 29C on Saturday, which reach 32C on Sunday and peak at 34C on Wednesday.
Like Sydney and Adelaide, there is also an ‘extreme’ UV index of 12 and ‘high’ danger of fire in Brisbane.
Toowoomba and Gympie have maximums of 35C forecast for Sunday while St George further inland will reach a maximum of 41C.
‘The vigorous southerly wind change won’t make it all the way up the coast. There is the risk of thunderstorms with dry lightning on the change, which could ignite new fires,’ Mr How said.
‘Sweltering conditions will persist through northeast NSW and southeast Queensland into next week, with little relief until Thursday.’