CANBERRA, Australia — Bats are dropping from trees, kangaroos are collapsing in the Outback, and gardens are turning brown. While North America freezes under record polar temperatures, the southern hemisphere is experiencing the opposite extreme as heat records are being set in Australia after the hottest year ever.
Weather forecasters in Australia said some parts of the sparsely populated Pilbara region along the rugged northwest coast were approaching 122 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday. The record high of 123.3 degrees was set in 1960 in Oodnadatta, South Australia.
Outback resident Gian Tate, 60, spends much of the day soaking in a small wading pool at her home near Emu Creek in the Pilbara region, a remote area off the electric grid. The thermometer outside her home registered 122 degrees on Wednesday, she said. Tate and her husband rely on two electric fans to cope with the oven-like heat and rarely turn on the small air conditioner in their bedroom because of the high cost of fuel needed to run their generator.
‘‘We’ve just got to live with it; there’s nothing you can do,” she said.
Brazil is also sizzling, with the heat index reaching 120 degrees. Zookeepers in Rio gave animals ice to beat the heat.
The late arrival of the monsoon in northern Australia, which has a cooling effect, is contributing to the searing heat, said Karly Braganza, the manager of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology. Global warming also plays a role, he said.
This year’s heat wave, which started around Christmas and has moved counterclockwise in Australia’s north, is not as extensive or prolonged as last year’s. But it will probably continue and move toward South Australia, Braganza predicted.
‘‘Certainly looking at the forecast over the next week, it’s looking like that heat is going to continue,” he said.
Since Dec. 27, records have been set at 34 locations across Australia, some by large margins, where temperature data have been collected at least 40 years mostly in Queensland and New South Wales states. In the mining town of Narrabi in New South Wales, the new record of 118 degrees exceeded the previous record by 6.5 degrees.
The temperatures come on the heels of Australia’s hottest year on record, beating the previous record year of 2005, with mean temperatures 2.2 degrees above the 1961-90 average.
The heat wave in Australia has taken a toll on wildlife, too.
In Winton, famous for being one of the hottest spots in Queensland and also the place where Australia’s unofficial anthem ‘‘Waltzing Matilda” was penned, a large number of parrots, kangaroos, and emus have recently been found dead in the parched landscape, said Tom Upton, chief executive of Winton Shire Council.
‘‘That’s as much to do with the extended dry as it is with the heat wave,” he said.
At least 50,000 bats had been killed by the heat in the state’s southeast, said Louise Saunders, president of Queensland animal welfare group Bat Conservation and Rescue.