The Great Debate - The Hottest Town in Australia

It may seem odd for a town to covet the 'Hottest Town' title but the prize may well be increased tourism opportunities, increased government funding or just a swelling of local pride.

Australia has had a few claimants over the years and all of these towns may well be the true title holder in one sense or another.

How do you measure the 'Hottest'? Is it the highest temperature ever recorded on a single day or is it the highest mean temperature for the year? Could it be the longest heatwave on record?

All the Australian towns mentioned here can claim to hold a record under one of these conditions but we wanted to find out which town is truly the hottest.

How Hot is Hot?
So how do you know when it's really hot? We have had the opportunity to live and work 100km from 'Emu Creek Station' (Nyang), 200km from Marble Bar (W.A.), in Cloncurry(QLD) and on the edge of the Namib Desert in Namibia, Africa. Over time we've seen a few uncommon heat related incidents that indicate the temperature is getting really high -
  • It is officially above 45°C.
  • Normally shy birds swoop into the swimming pool for a drink while you are still swimming.
  • The trees and vegetation take on a kind of 'droop' and everything seems to be just hanging on.
  • The air conditioner in your car is going flat-out but not really making a difference.
  • Your footwear melts into the bitumen as you walk across the road.
  • Birds fall out of trees - literally.
  • The tyres on your vehicle 'separate' and break down as you are diving at highway speeds.
  • Normally boisterous young dogs will simply lay in the shade and won't move - even for food.
  • Kangaroos and other Australian native animals are dying of heat exhaustion.
  • Your petrol powered car vaporises it's own fuel between the fuel tank and engine and refuses to run.
  • A Dingo will approach a water hole while you are still there.

Indicators that you have been living in a hot place too long -

  • You do not physically own any form of jumper, pullover or wind-cheater.
  • Your hot water system is turned off at the mains for the majority of the year.
  • You feel cold if you visit a southern town and the temperature is 32° C.
  • Your house air conditioner runs 24/7.
  • You refuse to work or be in the sun after noon.
Map of the Hot Spots
Marble Bar - Western Australia

In general, Marble Bar and the Pilbara and Upper Gascoyne regions get mind-blisteringly hot. The temperate reaches 42°C by 9am and then climbs to 45, 46, 47 degrees and beyond for weeks on end.

Marble Bar is listed by the Guinness Book of Records for recording 161 consecutive days to 20 April 1924 - a temperature that never dropped below 100°F (37.8°C).

The town has never recorded a sub zero temperature and the rock around the town absorbs and holds the heat like an oven.

Marble Bar, indeed, holds the record for the longest running heatwave in Australia.

Cloncurry - Queensland

Cloncurry is another scorcher of a town but unlike Marble Bar in the west, it suffers from high humidity as well as the rampaging heat.

Dense cloud builds up in the 'Wet Season' and the promise of rain is a daily event.

Unlike the Pilbara region the winter months in North West Queensland settle down to much cooler temperatures - even verging at times on cold.

Cloncurry's claim to temperature fame is of having the highest ever recorded temperature of 53.1°C (127.5°F) on 16 January 1889.

The National Climate Institute has since refuted the claim by announcing the temperatures were recorded in a beer crate and were out by four or five degrees, making the probable temperature on the day around 47 to 48°C.

Whatever the case, Cloncurry does indeed, get extremely hot.

Forget the Claims - What are the Facts?

'According to the Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia' (whom presumably sourced the Australian Bureau of Meteorology) the 10 hottest places by maximum mean temperature in Australia are -

  1. Wyndham, W.A. - 35.6°C.
  2. Marble Bar, W.A. - 35.3°C.
  3. Warmun(Turkey Creek), W.A. - 35.0°C.
  4. Kununurra, W.A. - 35.0°C.
  5. Timber Creek, N.T. - 34.9°C.
  6. Elliot, N.T. - 34.5°C.
  7. Derby, W.A. - 34.4°C.
  8. Looma, W.A. - 34.4°C.
  9. Borraloola, N.T. - 34.4°C.
  10. Kalumburu, W.A. - 34.3°C.

These are average daily temperatures for the whole year. If you don't like the heat there is not a town listed here that you will live in comfortably. But does this make Wyndham the hottest town in Australia? Maybe not.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) lists the highest official highest temperature recorded, state by state, as -

  1. Oodnadatta, South Australia - 50.7°C, 2 January 1960
  2. Mardie, Western Australia - 50.5°C, 19 February 1998
  3. Menindee, New South Wales - 49.7°C, 10 January 1939
  4. Birdsville, Queensland - 49.5°C, 24 December 1972
  5. Hopetoun, Victoria - 48.8°C, 7 February 2009
  6. Finke, Northern Territory - 48.3°C, 1 & 2 January 1960
  7. Scamander, Tasmania - 42.2°C, 30 January 2009

We have no idea why the Australian Capital Territory and it's highest ever temperature failed to get a mention.

So Who Takes the Title?

It is undeniable that Marble Bar holds the record for the longest running recorded heatwave. The place gets unbearably hot and consistently breaks annual records for temperature.

Cloncurry must be disregarded based on the suspicious evidence offered to support it's claim and the fact it has been refuted by the 'The National Climate Institute'. The place still gets uncomfortably hot though.

Wyndham maintains a hold with an average daily temperature of 36 degrees, which is consistent if nothing else.

However, the title must got to the town who was first across the line. Let's face it, the fastest athlete of all time is the man who actually ran the fastest time. The tallest mountain is Everest because it reaches highest into the sky.

So the title of the 'Hottest Town in Australia' goes to the place that actually got the hottest - Oodnadatta, with an official recorded temperature of 50.7°C on the second of January 1960.

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