By environment reporter Sarah Clarke
ABC News Online, 10 July 2010
Last year was the second warmest on record, and this year could be the planet's hottest, according to a forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology, which says uncharacteristically warm conditions are being felt across the northern hemisphere.
The northern hemisphere is experiencing record high temperatures.
China has now issued a fresh heatwave alert after a week of soaring temperatures.
Parts of Northern Africa, the United States and the Middle East are also experiencing scorching heat, with some regions recording above 50 degrees celsius.
David Jones, a senior climatologist at the weather bureau's National Climate Centre, says the weather is uncharacteristic.
"Certainly the first six months of this year have been the hottest on record and it now looks like 2010 will be the hottest year on record," he said.
"We actually got into the low 50s for parts of the Middle East and Pakistan a couple of weeks back, so some extreme numbers, but more generally numbers approaching 40, 41. Beijing the other day just fell short of 41. We're seeing 40s right up and down the US eastern seaboard.
"Many of these are, if they're not record-breaking, they're getting very, very close to records."
He says such long runs of very high temperatures are uncharacteristic, but it is not entirely suprising, as the planet has experienced the hottest start to a year on record.
Dr Jones says every year is different from the year before, but Australia is getting hotter.
"We have seen an increase in heatwaves in Australia in the last 30 to 50 years," he said
"The odds are, as we go forwards, we certainly will get more of them."
He says while some parts of Australia are experiencing cool conditions, northern Australia is having a warmer winter, and parts of the country are experiencing more unseasonal rainfalls.
"We've seen some record rainfall through parts of the Northern Territory, Queensland and WA," he said.
"What has actually slipped under the radar is the tropics have actually been really warm.
"So while it's been cold in the central parts, we've been seeing record high night time temperatures across the tropics.
"It's a pretty complex story out there; lots of extremes in the weather."