COOMA, Australia (AP) — Record temperatures across southern Australia cooled Wednesday, reducing the danger from scores of raging wildfires but likely bringing only a brief reprieve from the summer's extreme heat and fire risk.
Australia had its hottest day on record on Monday with a nationwide average of 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 degrees Fahrenheit), narrowly breaking a 1972 record of 40.17C (104.31F).
Tuesday was the third hottest day at 40.11C (104.20F). Four of Australia's hottest 10 days on record have been in 2013.
"There's little doubt that this is a very, very extreme heat wave event," Bureau of Meteorology manager of climate monitoring and prediction David Jones said.
"If you look at its extent, its duration, its intensity, it is arguably the most significant in Australia's history," he added.
With Wednesday's cool-down in southern Australia, the national capital, Canberra, dropped from a high of 36C (97F) on Tuesday to 28C (82F) and Sydney dropped from 43C (109F) to 23C (73F).
Jones expected that Wednesday would also rank among Australia's hottest days when the national temperatures are calculated. That's because the extreme heat has shifted from the heavier populated south to northern and central Australia.
The bureau forecast above average temperatures for the remainder of summer, compounding the fire danger created by a lack of rain across central and southern Australia over the past six months.
"It is going to be very challenging," Jones said of the wildfire danger.
No deaths have been reported, although around 100 people haven't been accounted for since last week when a fire destroyed around 90 homes in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart. On Wednesday, police spokeswoman Lisa Stingel said it's likely most of those people simply haven't checked in with officials.
"There are no reports of missing persons in circumstances that cause us to have grave fears for their safety at this time," Tasmania Police Acting Commissioner Scott Tilyard said in a statement.
Thousands of cattle and sheep as well as wildlife are suspected to have been killed.