Worst weather fears coming true
The Rural Fire Service has said the worst fears about Sydney's bushfire day of dread are set to be realised. The organisation said that while it may appear calm but smoky across the city, we are "on track for a dangerous day ahead".
Temperatures are expected to soar in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong to close to 40C. At 8.45am it was 27C in Sydney's CBD - that's 3C above the average November maximum for the city.
Strong winds from a southerly buster are set to barrel through later, perfect for whipping up fires.
But as if to illustrate how topsy-turvy Australia's weather is today, as NSW burns it's likely to snow in Tasmania.
The NSW Rural Fire Services (RFS) said on Tuesday that 54 fires were burning in the state with 25 uncontained.
A catastrophic fire danger warning is in place for Sydney, the Hunter, and the Illawarra/Shoalhaven regions with widespread severe and extreme fire danger elsewhere.
"Today is a very dangerous day," said the RFS, starkly.
Since the bushfires began this season, a total of 850,000ha of NSW bushland has been burnt - that's more than 1 per cent of the state's total land area.
The Bureau of Meteorology's Grace Legge said any bushfires would be "fast moving and difficult to control or suppress".
"These weather conditions are being driven up the east coast on Tuesday with hot, dry and gusty conditions expected ahead of the change," she said.
Sydney is set to top out at 37C today as is Newcastle. Western Sydney could reach 38C while Wollongong will hit 36C.
Sky News Weather Channel meteorologist Tom Saunders said the dangerous situation was being caused by a combination of two weather events.
Hot desert air was being sucked down from the interior towards Queensland and NSW. At the same time, colder polar air was being drawn up from the south. Where the two come together is where the windiest and most fire-prone areas will be.
"The weather conditions are about to turn nasty with a hot, dry and windy day ahead," Mr Saunders said.
Those conditions are almost identical to last week when fires rampaged through the NSW mid north coast. This time, the danger is further south and closer to millions more people.
Later in the day, a cold front will sweep through Sydney and the rest of the NSW coast in the form of a strong southerly buster bringing 50km/h-plus winds.
"While the cool change may ease fire danger, a combination of dry and gusty winds and a shift in wind direction mean people in impacted areas will need to remain vigilant," Mr Saunders said.
The lack of any significant rainfall is leaving tinder-dry vegetation ripe for the smouldering.
The most dangerous parts of Sydney will be forested areas to the west of the conurbation.
Areas already devastated by bushfires, such as around Taree, are still in danger with temperatures of 37C forecast with that windy change arriving later in the evening.
QUEENSLAND UNDER THREAT
"The cool change will extend into Queensland, which will see elevated fire dangers up the east coast," Ms Legge said.
"Unfortunately, conditions remain dry with little to no rain."
Brisbane will reach a high of 33C on Tuesday and Wednesday - and up to 38C in the city's west - before the mercury dips slightly to around 29C.
Yesterday, four homes were lost as 47 fires continue to burn, three of them major, with firefighters battling to get on top of the blazes.
It will be sunny and 35C in Darwin with overnight lows of 26C.
In Western Australia, a run of hot weather continues. In Perth, the highs won't dip below 30C all week. Expect 31C today, 36C tomorrow and 34C on Wednesday.
SNOW IN THE SOUTH
It's much, much cooler in the south. Adelaide will reach a high of just 17C, some 16C cooler than yesterday. And there it will stay for much of the week with lows of around 11C. However, South Australia hasn't been fire free, with a major blaze erupting in Port Lincoln.
Melbourne will hit a maximum of just 17C on Tuesday as the cold front comes through, bringing with it a sprinkle of rain. Mild, below-average temperatures are forecast for the rest of the week in the Victorian capital.
A high of 15C is forecast in Hobart on Tuesday and around 16-18C for the rest of the week with possible showers. Snow showers and hail are expected on higher ground on a windy day.
It's dusty and windy in Canberra with a high of 28C and then 21C on Wednesday before temperatures return to the mid-20s for the rest of the week.