Paraburdoo hits highest recorded temperature during extreme heatwave in Western Australia’s Pilbara

The small West Australian town of Paraburdoo hit its highest recorded temperature of 48.1 degrees Celsius on Sunday, passing a record previously set in 1998.

It comes amid an extreme heatwave in parts of the Pilbara region, with some areas forecast to get close to 50C.

The heatwave is expected to continue until Tuesday and residents throughout the Shire of Ashburton, north Gascoyne and Midwest have been urged to take necessary precautions. 

With a forecast for 48C today, Paraburdoo, which sits 1,500 kilometres north of Perth and has a population of 1,300, broke its record twice in one weekend after hitting 47.9C on Saturday.

Shire of Ashburton president Audra Smith said it was troubling the town’s heat record could be broken multiple times within a couple of days. 

“It is a concern because with what’s happening with global warming,” she said. 

“We are concerned about this heatwave but we are constantly monitoring the weather and keeping people up to date with our webpage.”

A heatwave map with red colours indicating high temperatures over northern WA

A BOM forecast map shows high temperatures on Friday through to Sunday.(Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

Cr Smith said residents of Paraburdoo were familiar with extreme heat but urged people to be mindful. 

“I’ve spoken to a few businesses the last couple days,” she said. 

“What they do, especially the businesses with outdoor workers, they talk to them about the dangers of being out in the heatwave. 

“They monitor all their staff and if they are outdoors they give them cool breaks, so they’ll have cars running with air-conditioning so the staff can cool.” 

Cr Smith said other strategies included rotating staff and doing physical work earlier in the day when the weather was cooler. 

While 50C had not yet been officially recorded, a Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) spokesperson said it was possible it could occur in areas that did not have measuring stations.

Locals familiar with heat

Francis Khong has lived in Paraburdoo for 24 years and said he was used to dealing with the heat.

“When you know that it’s going to be hot you stay indoors,” he said. 

“For me it feels the same but maybe I’ve been here too long. 

“People go to the pool or they just stay home. You don’t go out unless you are working.”

Mr Khong said it was likely to be hotter in areas where officially BOM measurements were not taken. 

“I believe the mine is 10 degrees hotter in the open pit,” he said. 

“Whatever it is now, it’s 10 degrees hotter in the open pit.”

In 2022, the Pilbara town of Onslow equalled the highest ever official temperature record of 50.7C, which was also recorded in Oodnadatta, South Australia, in January, 1960. 

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