Australia experiences hottest day on record

Thick smoke from raging bushfires and intense heat trigger health warnings

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Australia experienced its hottest day on record on Tuesday with the bureau of meteorology registering an average maximum of 40.9C nationwide.

The temperatures beat the previous record of 40.3C in January 2013, the bureau said Wednesday.

The new record is expected to be short-lived as a heatwave spreads across the country, worsening conditions for bushfires already raging along the country's east coast.

People should take those conditions seriously and do what they can to keep out of the heat as much as possible

The mark could be exceeded again on Wednesday and possibly on Thursday and Friday, according to BOM data.

The hot weather is stretching across the continent and fuelling fires that have been ravaging Australia's east for weeks, since late in the southern spring.

Fire authorities in the state of New South Wales (NSW) said on Wednesday there were 100 fires, half of them not contained.

Fires have killed six people, destroyed more than 680 homes and burned nearly 3 million acres of bushland.

Australia is being hit with two separate climate-driving events off its west and southern coasts - a positive Indian Ocean Dipole and negative Southern Annulare Mode - that are reducing rainfall and increasing temperatures.

"They have combined together to create this situation of a particularly nasty heat wave event," said BOM meteorologist Sarah Scully.

The extreme conditions have been exacerbated by a warming climate, which is triggering large-scale protests in a country that is committed to exploiting its vast coal reserves.

The combination of thick smoke settling over populated areas and intense heat has triggered numerous health warnings, especially for the young and the old, and those with respiratory conditions.

"People should take those conditions seriously and do what they can to keep out of the heat as much as possible," said Richard Broome, the director of environmental health in New South Wales state.