Severe and extreme heatwaves claim more lives than any other natural hazard in Australia. For example, during the 2009 Victorian bushfires, 173 people perished as a direct result of the fires but 374 people lost their lives in the heatwave that occurred before the bushfires.
Advance notice of a heatwave helps everyone prepare for the conditions. The Bureau of Meteorology heatwave assessment service provides the advance notice of unusually hot conditions in areas of Australia. This gives communities, emergency services organisations and government bodies time to take actions to prepare for the conditions.
A heatwave is three or more days of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for a location. The heatwave service is a set of maps showing colour-coded areas of heat severity for the previous two three-day periods, and the next five three-day periods. Each map shows areas where heatwave conditions are and how they are contracting. They also show if the intensity is severe or extreme.
The heatwave service operates from the start of November to the end of March to cover the Australian summer.