The Bureau of Meteorology has declared an El Nino climate pattern, sparking worries about heatwaves as summer approaches.
It comes as an unusual spring heat causes sizzling high temperatures and extreme fire danger across Australia’s southeast, with a severe heatwave warning issued from Monday to Wednesday in NSW.
Temperatures have soared 14 degrees higher than usual in large parts of the country, reaching the mid 30s for the first half of the week.
El Nino largely affects Eastern Australia and brings dry weather as well as warmer than usual temperatures for the southern two-thirds of the country.
It also brings an increased risk of extreme heat across large parts of the country and increased bushfire danger in southeastern Australia.
Bureau climate services manager Karl Braganza is “confident” that the weather pattern will last until the end of summer, saying “that will mean we are likely to see a continuation of the warm and dry conditions over the summer months”.
Though the bureau predicts this year‘s bushfire season will not be as catastrophic as Black Summer in 2019-20, there are still major concerns.
“We‘re already seeing extreme conditions in some parts of the continent, particularly in the duration of heat, so we’ve had an extended period of warm and dry weather to start spring,” Dr Braganza said.
“It is drying out more rapidly than has occurred in recent years, and we are seeing that elevated risk now occurring in eastern NSW in particular and Sydney equalling its record so far today for temperatures for September.”
The findings mean that Australians are at an increased risk of more heat events like the once currently facing NSW and Victorian locals, according to Climate Science Senior Lecturer at Melbourne University Dr Andrew King.
“The unusually hot weather we‘re seeing across southeast Australia at the moment is a warning of the kind of extremes we’re likely to see more of over the next few months,” he said
“Coming on the back of consecutive La Niña events, this spring will likely be very different and we need to be prepared for more heat, drought and fire weather conditions.”
Australia has been on an El Nino alert since June, with the conditions experienced on the east coast finally ticking every box for the bureau to declare it official.
Residents are already bracing for shocking heat and fires, with total fire bans declared for Greater Sydney and the NSW south coast amid extreme fire danger ratings.
Dozens of fires are burning across the state, with the most severe on the NSW south coast as increasing hot and dry winds stoke the risk of more serious blazes.
“I think El Nino means we’ve elevated the risk of fire danger and extreme heat in particular in terms of the hazards we face … we aren’t leading into this summer on the back of extended drought which somewhat reduces the risk, but we have seen eastern NSW dry out quite particularly,” Dr Braganza said.
“I think there’s 61 fires burning in the landscape in NSW at the moment and I think that just underscores if we continue to dry out the landscape over the next three months, then we’ll be adjusting our message accordingly in terms of the risk.”
More to come