Summer temperatures set to soar

THE hopes of beachgoers left unsated by the dismal December of last year will rise with the sun today, the first day of summer.

Temperatures are expected to reach up to 33 degrees in parts of the Illawarra, kicking off what is expected to be a warmer, drier summer than in recent years.

A likely heatwave elsewhere in the state has prompted grave warnings about the consequences of too much sun exposure.

In the Illawarra, coastal winds are expected to keep heat-related illness at bay, but temperatures are unlikely to fall below 20 degrees.

Forecasters at the Bureau of Meteorology expect the summer months to be two degrees warmer than last year, when the average temperature was about 23 degrees.

Aaron Coutts-Smith, manager of the bureau's NSW Climate Services Centre, said the warmer forecast was based on sea surface temperatures.

"Last summer was quite cool; we're seeing a return to a more normal summer," he said.

"It will be a wetter summer than normal, but not as wet as the last two."

Today's warm forecast has given rise to renewed warnings to swim between the flags, with hoards of visitors and residents expected at Illawarra beaches.

Authorities have also cautioned against leaving children, the elderly or pets inside cars, where the internal temperature can rise rapidly.

Heatwave - where there is little air to cool the sun's heat at ground level - was blamed for the deaths of 96 people in Sydney in 2011 and is considered a danger in western NSW, western Sydney and the lower Blue Mountains today.

Isolated showers and thunderstorms are forecast for the afternoon.

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