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"Misery index" projection for Australia on Jan. 19, 2019. Credit: Earth.Nullschool.net

While the U.S. awaits the consequences of a breakdown in the polar vortex, Australia has been sizzling through an unrelenting series of heatwaves that have shattered all-time records.

Why it matters: Heat waves are one of the clearest manifestations of global warming, and extended episodes can be particularly deadly and costly. In Australia, they also heighten the risk of wildfires.

Details: The heat waves began in December and have continued throughout January. On Dec. 27, the average daily national maximum temperature in Australia was the hottest on record for December, and the second-highest for any month, the Bureau of Meteorology found.

The BOM found the heat noteworthy for its long duration and broad extent, saying in a special report on Jan. 17 that every state and territory in the country has been affected at some point.

By the numbers:

  • 35.9°C, or 96.6°F: The overnight low temperature on Jan. 17 in Noona, New South Wales, which was the country's hottest nighttime low on record.
  • 40°C, or 104°F: The temperature reached or exceeded in Canberra for 4 consecutive days, something that had not occurred since records began there in 1939.
  • 49.3°C, or 120.74°F: High temperature in Marble Bar, Australia, which was the highest temperature for anywhere in Australia in 2018.
  • 44.1°C, or 111.3°F: Average monthly temperature in Marble Bar during December, a new national record for the month.
  • 40.19 °C, or 104.3°F: Average daily maximum temperature for Australia on Dec. 27, which was the hottest December day on record for Australia.

The big picture: While the proximate causes for Australia's heat waves in late 2018 and early 2019 include a weak El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the BOM and the country's main climate agency, CSIRO, have concluded that Australia's climate is changing as a result of human-caused global warming.

For example, in a climate report summarizing 2018's conditions, these agencies found:

  • Australia's climate has warmed just over 1°C, or 1.8°F since 1910, "leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events."
  • Oceans around Australia have warmed by nearly the same amount since 1910, "contributing to longer and more frequent marine heat waves."
  • In addition, the length and severity of the fire season has increased "across large parts of Australia," the report found.

Go deeper: Special Report: A 30-year alarm on the reality of climate change

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.