NRL grand final set to be hottest in history as ‘heat engine’ swamps Sydney

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A vast swath of hot air broiling over north Western Australia has started to move south, bringing a 35-degree scorcher on Sunday that could make for the hottest NRL grand final conditions in history.

“Heat engines” – as they have been dubbed by some weather observers – are formed when the sun scorches the deserts of WA’s dry interior during still and cloudless conditions, encouraging a hot blob of air to amass above the arid landscape.

A “heat engine” will drive scorching spring temperatures on Sunday.Credit: Brook Mitchell

The heat engine has already snapped record temperatures in the nation’s west, including in Geraldton, which shattered its September heat record by 3 degrees on Tuesday when the mercury cracked 39 degrees.

Perth also hit a new September high of 34.3 degrees on Wednesday while temperatures inland surpassed 40.

A trough is now propelling the heat engine across the country towards Sydney.

“The trough that’s associated with that heat is gradually working its way east, so by the time it gets to us, it will coincide with the major sporting events that we have going on,” Helen Reid, a meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said.

Hot air rising above north western Australia – dubbed a “heat engine” – is moving towards NSW.Credit: Weatherzone

If the heat reaches the forecast high of 35 degrees, driven by hot and gusty north-westerlies blowing into the Sydney basin, Sunday would mark the hottest NRL grand final day since observations began at Sydney Olympic Park.

The NRLW grand final will kick off just before 4pm – right as the temperatures peak, according to the bureau.

By the time the NRL decider kicks off at 7.30pm, the Panthers and the Broncos will be playing in temperatures in the high 20s.

The Panthers celebrate victory in last year’s grand final.Credit: Getty

The 2014 clash between the Bulldogs and the Rabbitohs was the last grand final day that came with mid-30s heat, with daytime temperatures spiking at 34.7. Since then, conditions have been milder – this will be the first grand final day since 2015 to breach 30 degrees.

The Panthers will be playing under significantly hotter circumstances than when they won on last year’s grand final day, which reached a high of just 19 degrees.

Temperatures will plunge 10 degrees between Sunday and Monday, to a high of 24 degrees for the public holiday, before the heat ramps up again mid-week.

“We’ve got a little bit of relief on the Monday, but the Tuesday will be another warm day ahead of significant cold fronts coming up from the south,” Reid said.

Ahead of searing temperatures of Sunday, the Rural Fire Service expects extreme fire danger for Sydney, the Hunter, the Illawarra, the Far South Coast and the north-western NSW.

The bureau forecast a hot and dry spring and last week announced the onset of El Nino and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole – two weather systems that exacerbate heat and reduce rainfall across much of the country.

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