The strengthening force of the El Nino over the Pacific will cause an even more long-term decline in the cool season’s rainfall, therefore increasing the risk of bushfires across different parts of Australia. This is what the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for 2015-2016 reports.
Busier bushfires are expected mostly around the south-east region of South Australia extending all the way to Rockhampton in Queensland. The same is anticipated in the south-west corner of Western Australia as well.
Strengthening El Nino and warmer Indian Ocean are key culprits
The current El Nino over the Pacific is seen as one of the strongest ever recorded, and it continues to strengthen. Add to that the warmer sea temperatures over the Indian Ocean, and the fire risk increases to above average levels.
There has been below-average rainfall over the last ten years over parts of Australia, including Tasmania, Eastern Australia, and the west coast. Because of this, the land is dryer as any surface moisture taken from preceding rains easily evaporate once the temperature begins to rise.
High risk despite green levels
Richard Thornton, Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC CEO, warns the public that just because you find yourself within the green area does not mean that you can relax. “Whether you are in a green area or a red area, there is still a high risk,” he says.
Thornton also warns that the risks are even higher near forested areas because of the rainfall deficit. “Forested areas are still suffering a long-term deficit in rainfall,” Thornton says.
The bushfire report shows red and green patches all over the Australian map, with green regions flagged as having normal or average bushfire risk, while those within red areas seen as having above normal fire risk.
Of course, Thornton also says that although the El Nino is a major factor, fire risks are always around regardless of the season. He reminds people about the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, pointing out that people should know that bad fire weather can happen anytime, whether there is El Nino or not.
Special thanks to Jason Pang for the main image.