Ah, so that’s the limit to gas consumption and global warming

Here’s how we end our dependency on fossil fuels: once it gets hot enough, we won’t be able to pump gas anymore!

The country’s all-time record of 123.26 degrees Fahrenheit was set in 1960 at the Oodnadatta Airport in Southern Australia, but it’s already so hot that people can’t even pump gas. Nikki Staskiewicz and Angela Blomeley were stranded in Oodnadatta — which bills itself as “the driest town [in] the driest state of the driest country” in the world — when they tried to fill up their tank, only to find the fuel vaporizing in the triple-digit heat.

I think gasoline vaporizes at around 60°C…so that’s plausible if their car had been baking in the sun for a while. Watch out for sparks!

It looks like it’s getting a bit warm down under. They had to add new colors to the temperature spectrum.



  1. Ogvorbis says

    I lived in Death Valley for three years (when I was much younger). One summer, we hit 139F in the shade for ten straight days (not an official temperature, that was the Park Ranger down at the Visitor Center reading the thermometres (and the temp in the sun was up around 150F, and 6 inches above the ground, in the sun, was up around 180F)). I don’t remember my parents having any problem putting gas in the van. We did have a fire extinguisher blow up (van unoccupied at the time) which shredded the front passenger seat and screwed up the heat on that side.

    But it was a dry heat!

  2. sundoga says

    It’s been a fairly warm summer down here so far (I live in Perth). Several near 40c days and at least one over it – and we’re on the coast, with the ocean’s ameliorating effect on our temperature. Inland it gets truly hellish.

  3. crowepps says

    This may be a preview of what next summer will be like in the northern hemisphere — and I shudder at the thought.

  4. starskeptic says

    Sky Harbor in Phoenix got shut down once due to 122F temps – the plane tires were sticking to the tarmac, which was also melting in spots; no related news stories surfaced at that time about an inability to fuel vehicles.

  5. steve oberski says

    I heard an interview on CBC radio yesterday with the head of the Australian weather service and the new colour was discussed, he said that so far it’s the weather models that are generating the +50C temperatures, the actual temperatures have not exceeded the high 40s.

    Root cause of this one was the delay in the monsoon rains which normally arrive by Dec 25 and cool down the interior, they have not arrived and there is no sign that they will in the immediate future.

    When asked if this heat wave was indicative of a trend he said you can’t generalize from one incident but he had been in the climate field for over 30 years and had access to over 60 years of data and the number, duration and max. temperature of heat waves was on the increase.

  6. Ogvorbis says

    Sky Harbor in Phoenix got shut down once due to 122F temps – the plane tires were sticking to the tarmac, which was also melting in spots; no related news stories surfaced at that time about an inability to fuel vehicles.

    I think that aviation jet fuel (kerosene) has a much higher vaporization and flash point than gasoline.

  7. starskeptic says

    “I think that aviation jet fuel (kerosene) has a much higher vaporization and flash point than gasoline.”

    I wasn’t referring to jet fuel – hence the use of the word ‘vehicles’

  8. starskeptic says

    No prob – I just thought that with temperatures in the same range as this fuel vaporizing story, in a city the size of Phoenix – that someone, somewhere would have noticed an inability to gas up their car or truck…

  9. neutrinosarecool says

    Fun fact: given the climate takes 50-100 years to equilibrate to current levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, temperature-wise, global heat records are sure to increase steadily over the next century, even if all fossil fuel use was halted tomorrow.

    A brain just big enough to tie our own rope, but not big enough to foresee the consequences in the long run? That’s evolution for you.

  10. Sastra says

    Nope, you’ve all been fooled. I’ve looked carefully at the map and that purple color in the center actually matches the shade which designates -25. So what you’ve got is a country getting hotter and hotter as you get closer to the center and then — wham! Subzero to where your spit freezes before it hits the ground.

    The people right on the edge of that temperature line are no doubt having lots of fun right now.

  11. Lofty says

    From a local person who works out in the desert in that region:

    Unfortunately all temperature readings are only valid where a BOM calibrated weather monitor is…
    We have a Dry and Wet bulb set up in a proper Stevenson screen and registered a nice 53c yesterday….
    The Camp Generators SCADA data also validated the intake temperature at 58c so pretty close to reality….
    We’re located a little down the plateau from Coober Pedy, but damn its hotter here than up there…

    Anyone intelligent (other than tourists) doesn’t run a gas powered vehicle in these areas, they run diesel 4WDs which carry less risk. Refuelling gas on hot days has caused explosions before today.
    Tourists escape the cold northern winter so they can expire in the centre of a very unforgiving furnace. Air conditioners will have to evolve along with the changing climate.

  12. natashatasha says

    Are you allowed to give your temperature reading to five significant figures when the original only had three?
    Also, does the 100 in F really count as a significant figure? Even if it doesn’t, two numbers after the decimal is a bit … enthusiastic.

  13. cactusren says

    starskeptic: Phoenix switches to a different blend of gasoline every summer, with a lower RVP (Reid Vapor Pressure), so it doesn’t evaporate as easily. (It’s also more expensive, which is why it’s only seaonal.) I would think that in a hot area of Australia they would do the same thing, but it’s possible that particular gas station didn’t–that would explain the problems described in the OP.

  14. wolja says

    Of course the Petrol (Gas for the non English speakers) companies will just refrigerate the petrol and claim it gives better flow rates than non refrigerated.

    It’s dangerous to underestimate the reaches that will be taken in the toil of ripping off money left right & centre.

  15. gjpetch says

    Tuesday in Sydney made me want to emigrate, it was un-fucking-bearable. I’m now starting to develop a more visceral understanding of that post that jadehawk links to above; the idea of a day that’s hot enough to kill you now makes sense to me.

  16. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    A few days ago when that bubble of hot air had drifted our way it topped out at just over 42c. When it came time to shut the shop the aluminium door frame had expanded so much that I cracked the door glass trying to force it closed. I had one paying customer in the whole day, it was pointless for me to be there but I didn’t shut up early because the shop is air-conditioned and my home isn’t.

  17. says

    Going to be a balmy 37C/99F here in Melbourne today. Total fire ban too, for what it’s worth. I think I got married somewhere in that purple blob or not far away from it 10 years ago. We had dinner in the desert, and it rained.


  18. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    A mild day in Adelaide today; we’re only expecting it to get to 33C/91F.

  19. milobear says

    Yes it’s been pretty warm…
    From the BOM media release:
    To date (data up to the 8
    January 2013) the national area-average for each of the first 8 days of 2013 have been in the top 20 hottest days on record, with 8 January the third hottest on record and the first time 7 consecutive days over 39 °C has ever been recorded for Australia.

    And there is still more to follow over the weekend. So the firefighting stuff is already sitting in the yard, and the grab box ready if we need to evacuate.
    And it’s not just heat. Friends of ours sat and watched 1500 hectares burn just across the valley from their property on Tuesday and Wednesday, fanned by wind gusts up to 90km/hr.
    Fun times…

  20. DLC says

    So, what will happen when the gang of motorcyclists jump onto the top of the screamingly hot fuel truck, a-la Mad Max ?

  21. Suido says

    Brisbane checking in. Wednesday was pushing 40, but the rest is business as usual – humid and low 30s. Sleeping has been ok with just a fan all week.

    +1 for the bom website, it’s a valuable resource. Spent most of this year doing surface water modelling and sizing of culverts. All historical rainfall data for Australia is available on that website, with very helpful tables and charts depending on the job required.

  22. says

    I’m back home, so have not much to add beyond Rorschach’s description of what it’s going to be like today – good for sticking my week’s worth of wet clothes washing out on the balcony and having it dry within hours).

    However, I was in Hobart last Friday and can report it was seriously unpleasant to be out of doors — the hottest daily maximum temperature recorded in 120 years of continuous records there, 41.8 °C. Let alone if you were anywhere near the bushfires.

    The Bureau of Meteorology seems to run that forecast prediction model continuously and so they regularly update the pictures (probably every 3 hours based on the default granularity?) based on matching their model to the influx of new data. The large ‘purple patch’ where the temperature was predicted to be between 50 and 52 °C (on 14 January at 06h UTC) was pretty much at the limit of current predictive models — 162 hours from the time that the model was run. As the date has gotten closer, the ‘purple’ has disappeared — but a more accurate prediction that a similar area of the country is only going to be between 44 and 46 °C, while an improvement, is still pretty damn hot.

  23. dorght says

    Gasoline is blended for use in a certain temperature range. The gas delivered to the northern states has a higher vapor pressure then that used in the south. Likewise gas for consumption in winter has a higher vapor pressure then in summer.

    So what happens when you fill a plane with winter blend gasoline, set it in the sun on a 100+ degF day on a asphalt parking lot. From experience I can say you get about a 6ft geyser of gasoline when you take the fuel cap off.

  24. Lofty says


    It’s -(i.e. minus)20°C here.

    I send you my warmest regards. Hope that helps. (Only 33C outside today)

  25. chigau (無味ない) says

    The Cat has left the heating pad.
    It’s mine until she wants it again.

  26. David Marjanović says

    Read what Jadehawk (comment 6) linked to, including the comments.

    Sky Harbor in Phoenix got shut down once due to 122F temps

    In Navajo, Phoenix is called Hoozdo, meaning “is hot” (said of a place).

    Over here, it’s around freezing for the first time in a long while; it’s snowing very lightly, and there’s a bit of snow on the ground in places.

  27. madscientist says

    Just so people know, the 46C temperatures you see there are fairly typical of that region and is bad enough; it’s easy to kill yourself with heat exhaustion there. You can’t even get any shade because all you’ve got is saltbrush and a few spindly shrub-like things that pass for trees. If you’re extremely lucky you’ll find a “pepper tree” which might offer some shade in the 46 degree air.

  28. StevoR, fallible human being says

    Heatwaves here are also associated with severe bushfire (“wildfire” to you Americans) danger – see :


    Meanwhile the front page of that news site :


    has this poll on our recently introduced carbon “tax” / price :

    VOTE Is the carbon tax as bad as you were expecting?

    Yes =13,906 No = 5,780

    Which I think just cries out for pharyngulating and has probably already been rigged the other way by the anti-Gillard Climate Denier mob.

    The carbon price is very little considering the scope of the issue and not entirely sure its the best way to go but it sure beats doing nothing!