Australia — Our region must prepare to weather an extended bushfire season as a perfect storm of events takes hold.
The high fire danger period is on the verge of extending well into the New Year as low rainfall, soaring temperatures, drying vegetation, debris from Tropical Cyclone Marcia and the strengthening El Nino take their toll.
The Rural Fire Service Queensland and the Bureau of Meteorology say conflicting weather patterns in the Pacific and Indian oceans could have a major impact across our region.
There are fears the three-month bushfire season will balloon beyond November 30, possibly to the end of January.
“There is a reasonable chance that the fire season may extend because of the quite strong El Nino conditions which brings a lack of rain and higher temperatures,” RFSQ Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter Varley said.
He warned Rockhampton and Livingstone residents to brace for the worst.
“There is still an opportunity to reduce the risk in your area,” Asst Comm Varley said.
“The issue we have is that we haven’t had any reasonable rain. And the rain we have had has disrupted our mitigation burning and as a result we’ve got a large amount of vegetation.
“The vegetation is now becoming extremely dry and there’s not a lot of ground moisture to go along with it.”
Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Agata Imielska said an ocean-based “tug-of-war” was making it difficult to predict moisture levels for the coming months.
“There isn’t a strong influence favouring either dry or wetter conditions because in reality there is an interesting tug-of-war happening between the very warm surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean and the influence from the Pacific Ocean where the current El Nino is located,” Ms Imielska said.
“Because the temperatures in the Indian Ocean are quite warm they provide us with a source of moisture while the El Nino results in drier and warmer conditions – so warmer daytime temperatures.
“So you’ve got an equal chance of getting wetter or getting drier.”