South Australia & Victoria, January 2009

Health - south-eastern Australia heatwave

Quick Statistics

406 Fatalities

From 27 January until 8 February a heatwave affected parts of south-eastern Australia. The heatwave came in two major episodes, 28-31 January and 6-8 February.

In much of central, southern and western Victoria, maximum temperatures widely reached their highest levels since at least 1939. In Melbourne the temperature was above 43 °C for three consecutive days from 28 to 30 January, reaching a peak of 45.1 °C, the second highest on record behind 45.6 °C in 1939.

In southern South Australia maximum temperatures widely reached their highest levels since at least 1939. Adelaide peaked at 45.7 °C on 28 January and South Australia's highest temperature was 48.2 °C at Kyancutta.

There were widespread power outages across both states. In Victoria, up to 500,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity. There were also major disruptions to train services with more than 1300 trains cancelled as rails buckled and air-conditioning failed.

A Department of Human Services report from the Victorian Government found that the heatwave contributed to 374 deaths.

A Department of Health report from the South Australian Government found that the 13-day heatwave contributed to 32 deaths above the expected number for this period.

Information Sources

The Age, ‘Death toll soared during Victoria’s heatwave’, 6 April 2009, website viewed 2 September 2011
The Age, ‘Heat leaves $100m black hole,' 1 February 2009, website viewed 2 September 2011
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 'The exceptional heatwave of January-February 2009 in South-Eastern Australia,' (Year book Australia feature article), 3 June 2010, website viewed 2 September 2011
Bureau of Meteorology, 'Significant weather – January 2009,' website viewed 2 September 2011
Bureau of Meteorology, 'Special climate statement 17: The exceptional January-February 2009 heatwave in south-eastern Australia,' 9 February 2009, website viewed 2 September 2011
Department of Human Services, 'January 2009 Heatwave in Victoria: an assessment of health impacts, Melbourne, 2009,' website viewed 2 September 2011
Nitschke M and Tucker G, ‘The unfolding story of heat waves in metropolitan Adelaide,’ Department of Health South Australia, p 21, website viewed 23 January 2015