This spring is set to be dangerously dry and warm, and forecasters are urging homeowners to prepare for bushfires now.
The Bureau of Meteorology has published its Long-term spring forecast Last Thursday, warnings were issued that Australia could face below-average rainfall and warmer-than-usual temperatures.
Weatherzone meteorologist Corine Brown said two distinct weather events, a positive Indian Ocean dipole in western Australia and a broadly negative South Oscillation Index in the east, will make for drier weather.
“Spring precipitation prospects are definitely below median and we expect temperatures to be above median for most of the country,” she said.
“Combined with the vegetation growth of the last La Niña, there is an increased risk of bushfires in large areas.”
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned this spring will be hot and dry, increasing the risk of bushfires
Much of Queensland, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Victoria and South Australia are at higher risk of bushfires this spring
Several heat records have already been broken this year in Australia and around the world.
This winter has been the warmest in Australian history, while sea surface temperatures around the world regularly broke monthly records from April to July.
The intense heat is likely to quickly dry out the lush vegetation around Australia left over from last year’s record-breaking rain.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s spring precipitation forecast looks significantly drier this year, with the only areas expected to experience average precipitation being the extremely arid regions of Western Australia’s outback.
The map of above-average temperatures is also bleak as heat is set to increase except for a few northern regions in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
Experts fear the greenery will provide the perfect fuel for wildfires this spring and summer.
Rob Webb, CEO of the Australasian Fire And Emergency Services Authorities Council, said large areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, and regions in Victoria and South Australia are all at risk.
This winter has been the warmest in Australian history, while sea surface temperatures around the world regularly broke monthly records from April to July (stock image).
The hot and dry weather in Australia is being driven by two weather events – a positive Indian Ocean dipole affecting western Australia and a broadly negative Southern Oscillation Index affecting the east
“The climatic influences that lead to an increased risk of bushfires this season are widespread,” he said.
“Almost the whole country can expect drier and warmer than normal conditions this spring, so it’s important for Australians to be vigilant about the local risk of bushfires in the coming months, regardless of their location.”
“Fire is an integral part of the Australian landscape in spring.”
“Wherever you live, work or travel, now is the time to plan and prepare.” Understand your risk, know where to get your information and talk to your family about what you will do.
The long-term spring forecast indicated the possibility that an El Niño, the dry counterpart of La Niña, could form this year.
However, the Bureau of Meteorology has not yet officially declared this, although its climate factor is under an El Niño warning.
Ms Brown explained a key factor prevented the call from being made.
The Southern Oscillation Index, which measures atmospheric pressure over the tropical Indo-Pacific region, was not consistently negative — as was the case with an El Niño.
‘[Current conditions] “Could be contributing to drier and warmer weather this spring, but it would be more pronounced if the South Oscillation Index were consistently negative,” she said.
“Australia’s weather is more dependent on the atmospheric component than anywhere else in the world.”
“It appears to be heading towards an El Niño [if it becomes more consistent] This would result in two simultaneous events amplifying drought and heat.
“Unfortunately, the forecasts are unclear at the moment, so we have to wait and see how the next few weeks will develop.”
The lush vegetation of last year’s record-breaking rainy season is being parched by the heat and could fuel bushfires
Australia’s south-west and east are expected to weather the worst spring droughts this year.
The northern rainy season, which normally begins in October, is also expected to be delayed this year.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s chief hydrologist, Dr. Masoud Edraki, warned that warmer sea temperatures could also lead to extreme weather events in the coming months.
“We know that a warmer climate increases the risk of extreme weather conditions like heat waves and drought,” he said.
“We are already seeing longer fire seasons and an increase in the number of dangerous fire weather days in most parts of Australia.”
“We do not yet know how global warming, and in particular increased ocean warming, will affect our typical climate drivers.” “We will continue to monitor this closely and how it is likely to affect Australia’s climate forecast.”
“Our climate forecast model is consistent with international climate projections showing that Australia tends to be dry and warm in the coming season, particularly in the south-west and much of south-east Australia.”