Menu Close

Forecast podcast: Australia battles heatwave while bracing for possible cyclone

Weather map of the heat dome in Australia showing extreme temperatures in Western and Centralia Australia.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Matthew Hipolito discuss the cyclone threat and heatwave in Australia, plus more on potential Israeli military action against Hezbollah, Russia’s presidential election, the launch of an over-the-counter birth control pill in the U.S. and questions over Russia and Belarus’ participation in the Olympics.

Subscribe to the show: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and many more.

These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Matthew Hipolito, Agnese Boffano, Alex Moore, Sophie Perryer and Jessica Fino. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas, with additional writing by Sophie Perryer. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note:

Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is March 14.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a heatwave and cyclone threat in Australia, potential Israeli military action against Hezbollah, Russia’s presidential election, the launch of over-the-counter birth control in the U.S. and questions over Russia and Belarus’ participation in the Olympics. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Australia cyclone threat and heatwave

Information compiled by Matthew Hipolito

JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at Australia’s heatwave and the cyclone threat they’re facing. For more on that I’ve got fellow Factal editor Matthew Hipolito.

JIMMY: Hello, Matthew.

MATTHEW: Always a good day when I get to speak to you Jimmy.

JIMMY: Glad we finally got you on the podcast. Hoping you can give us a brief about the tough weather Australia seems to be dealing with. What can you tell us about it?

MATTHEW: Yeah, what we’re seeing right now is the unfortunate convergence of two separate weather phenomena. The heat in the south is caused by a multitude of factors, but the largest of them is a stationary high-pressure zone over Tasmania that’s not only kept hot air from moving away from that area, it’s also prevented cooler, wetter air from the northwest from moving in. The result of that is some really, severely extreme temperatures – I’m talking thermometers in some areas reading 40 celsius, 100 fahrenheit, around there. And with that extreme heat comes all the effects that we expect: South Australia’s ambulance service recorded at least 48 responses to heat-related illnesses, outdoor events like parades and music festivals were canceled in Melbourne and Adelaide, and fire marshals issued extreme fire danger warnings. To that end, we’ve seen two very large fires in Victoria, Australia, including one that saw dozens of homes destroyed near Pomonal, and another that saw the evacuation of a huge swath near Ballarat. It’s very worth noting that the temperature in both of those cities when those fires started was around 40 degrees celsius, 100 degrees fahrenheit, and in both of those cities that temperature has been reached again multiple times since then. And while we’re on the topic, it’s also worth noting that, while we didn’t see any supply-related power outages or rolling blackouts, which can be catastrophic in heat like that, a storm in Victoria during the wildfire did interrupt power to more than 100,000 homes at the peak of the heat wave by damaging transmission equipment. As for the cyclones, authorities are tracking three tropical lows: 08U, near the Cocos Keeling islands and Western Australia; 09U, near Darwin in the Northern Territory’s Top End; and 10U, near Weipa in Queensland. The main one right now is 8U: Christmas Island and the Cocos Keeling Islands are getting battered by heavy rains and waves. As for the other two, so far, I’ve not seen any significant damage, but forecasts for those regions do warn of very heavy rains and thunderstorms in the coming days. And separate from both of these, and yet very distinctly related, is extreme rainfall over southeast Western Australia. The same pressure system that brought those sweltering temperatures to New South Wales is preventing moisture from those cyclone-generating storms in the north that is getting carried on the jet stream from moving east away from the region, which means that there’s a huge band of moisture that’s basically stuck right over the Goldfields area, which means it’s been absolutely dumping rain there. They’ve gotten a year’s worth of rain in just four days – in fact, more rain in four days than in any month on record. The main rail line to and from Perth is closed, and the main road only reopened Tuesday and there was a frantic search that ended just yesterday for seven people who left for a remote community by car and never arrived, and you can see from the search photos the roads are just submerged. Thankfully they’re all okay.

JIMMY: And what’s the latest? Are there any signs the heatwave is gonna loosen its grip or the cyclones will stay away?

MATTHEW: It’s a mixed bag on that front in both regards. I’ll start with the heat. While the current extremes are expected to die down in the coming days, by some projections, temperatures are expected to remain elevated to at least some extent for multiple days due to extremely high water temperatures off the coast. 

As for the cyclones, current projections from the Bureau of Meteorology say that of the three tropical lows they are tracking, one of them, 08U, is believed likely to develop into a cyclone. It is currently moving towards the Pilbara region of the Western Australia coast, which is near Karratha and Port Hedland and is projected after that to move along the coast in some direction after that, more likely south than north. The other two are not believed likely to develop into cyclones at this stage. One of them, 09U, is projected to head into the Gulf of Carpentaria and is moving east over the Top End area of Northern Australia, which includes the city of Darwin, right now. The other one, 10U, is just northeast of Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula and is expected to keep headed east away from the Queensland coast. As far as that flooding, the heavy rains are forecast to abate around – well, now, as we’re recording.

JIMMY: You know, what kind of reactions to these weather issues have you seen? And how has the government responded? 

MATTHEW: The good news is that as far as disruptive events go, slow-developing weather is about as mundane as you can get. It’s a lot of “be prepared” messaging and hunkering down and preparation. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not disruptive. In the south of the country with all the heat, like I said, fire marshals have issued extreme weather warnings and such. Ambulance services and fire crews were put on high alert, private events were canceled, health groups beefed up their efforts to check on people and help them with heat, government media channels have the full-court press on warning people to stay hydrated and to recognize the signs of heat illness, et cetera. And going forward, as the heat finally dies down, it’s looking to be a lot of the same. Thankfully, the fire danger in the coming days, which is how far out these ratings go, is only set at High levels, which – you know, high fire danger is high fire danger, but when the scale goes from “no rating” to “moderate” to “high” to “extreme” to “catastrophic,” that’s fairly tame as far as that goes. At this stage, it’s pretty much the same story with the storms – cautiously watching out. Most of the damage was done to a playground on Christmas Island and some roofs here and there, but I haven’t seen any reports of injuries or anything. Obviously, as that storm – those storms, rather – move closer to the mainland, we’ll have to keep an eye on that. 

JIMMY: Well, considering all you’ve mentioned today, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

MATTHEW: Well, the heat will continue to be an issue for as long as it’s around. And, like I said, high fire danger is high fire danger, so in the south of the country, keep an eye on the various official channels for heat and fire warnings.

Also be on the lookout for health impacts from continued heat. Temperatures aren’t forecasted to return to the 40s at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that the 30s aren’t dangerous, especially if people are in a high-risk population group. And even though heat-demand power outages are probably not in the cards, pretty much every other cause of power outages still is, and potential outages in these temperatures are still very dangerous. As far as the storms, danger and disruption will only increase in the coming days, especially in Karratha and Pilbara, where low 8U is expected to make landfall and to a lesser extent in Darwin and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Things could be similar to how they are on Christmas Island, with damaged roofs and destroyed skate parks, or they could be much, much worse; heavy flooding, missing people, destroyed buildings, disruptions to essential services. There too you’ll want to keep an eye on forecasts and emergency services there, too, especially for updated forecasts on whether or not those lows will turn into storms and where they are projected to go.

JIMMY: Well, Matthew, we’ll pause there for today, but thank you so much for getting us up to speed. Appreciate it. 

MATTHEW: Thank you so much, Jimmy, and go Hawks! 

JIMMY: Take care.

Israel reportedly sets deadline for diplomatic talks with Lebanon

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Israel could launch military action against Hezbollah if a truce is not reached by Friday.

According to reporting by Hezbollah-linked media outlets, Israel has threatened to go to war with the Lebanese group, which is backed by Iran. That is, if an agreement can’t be reached to stop cross-border strikes.

The Senior U.S. Envoy Amos Hochstein arrived in Lebanon earlier in March and met with government officials in an effort to mediate talks between Lebanon and Israel.

The border between the two countries has seen almost-daily artillery and drone strikes since Hamas’ incursion into Israel on October 7 last year.

More than 200 Hezbollah operatives and 40 Lebanese civilians have been killed, while some 60,000 Israeli civilians have been displaced.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to invade Lebanon since the start of the war in Gaza.

But officially crossing the UN-policed Blue Line would risk bringing Hezbollah into the war in a greater way. 

The Iran-backed group has a much bigger military capacity than Hamas and their involvement would likely signal the start of a much larger regional conflict.

Meanwhile, there’s not much progress being made in ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Even if a ceasefire were to be reached, it wouldn’t necessarily impact the Israel-Lebanon border fighting.

Russian election

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: President Vladimir Putin is expected to win Russia’s presidential election when voting ends on Sunday.

This is Russia’s first poll since 2018 and the first since the full invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Putin is running for an unprecedented fifth term in office after his term count was reset thanks to legal changes in 2020.

He’s practically guaranteed to win after eliminating any credible opposition and presiding over a crackdown in what few political freedoms Russians once had.

He’s expected to remain in power through 2036, having served for almost four decades.

Turnout numbers will give an indication as to how engaged Russians are with the stacked-deck political system.

The war in Ukraine is not expected to impact voting outcomes, as polling suggests most Russians are fairly passive about the conflict.

Still, Ukraine could disrupt voting by staging drone strikes deep into Russia.

First over-the-counter birth control pill for sale in the U.S.

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: U.S. consumers will be able to buy the contraceptive pill over the counter for the first time starting Monday.

The birth control medication Opill will be on sale at major retailers and pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS.

The FDA approved the sale of Opill without a prescription in July last year.

The move is designed to improve access to contraception without the need to first see a healthcare professional.

Opill is a progesterone-only pill, also known as a minipill, meaning it must be taken at the same time every day to be effective.

The U.S. lags behind globally when it comes to birth control access – contraceptive pills are available over the counter in most countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Opill’s approval goes some way toward closing that gap, but it’s still expensive.

It costs around $20 for a month’s supply, which experts say is prohibitive for those on lower incomes.

However, there’s no lower age limit for purchasing Opill, which experts hope will improve access to contraception for teenagers and younger women.

IOC to discuss Russians and Belarusians participating in Paris 2024 ceremony

Information compiled by Jessica Fino

JIMMY: The International Olympic Committee will meet next Tuesday. They’ll decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can take part in the opening ceremony at the 2024 games.

This year’s games are happening in Paris and the opening ceremony will take place on July 26.

Athletes with a passport from Russia or Belarus are currently allowed to take part in the games as neutral participants, but can’t compete under their countries’ flags.

Athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine are banned from participating in the games as a whole.

Some experts are concerned Russia might boycott the Olympics and prevent its athletes from taking part over the Olympic committee’s stance.

In the Paralympics, Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from the opening ceremony.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Alex Moore, Sophie Perryer and Jessica Fino. Our interview featured editor Matthew Hipolito and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas, with additional writing by Sophie Perryer. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2024 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: A heat dome has brought in a run of extreme heat of “unprecedented” length to Australia’s southeast, with scorching temperatures in multiple towns in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. (Map: Australian Bureau of Meteorology)

Factal gives companies the facts they need in real time to protect people, avoid disruptions and drive automation when the unexpected happens.

Try Factal for free or talk with our sales team ( for a demo.