AUSTRALIA – The drought sweeping through large parts of Australia is likely to intensify over the next three months and is also causing the unseasonal winter bushfires, according to news reports.
Farmers have reportedly described it as the worst drought they have ever seen. Weather reports suggest that an unusually warm winter followed by what is expected to be a warmer-than-average spring can intensify the existing drought conditions across parts of eastern Australia, according to media.
Below-average rainfall is expected for large parts of Australia until November, the early part of the southern hemisphere summer.
A huge tract of Australia’s grazing and crop land is burning due to record-low rainfall in some regions and successive seasons of above-average temperatures.
News reports suggest that all of New South Wales, which is Australia’s most populous state that accounts for 1/4th of Australia’s agricultural output by value, is in drought. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced emergency-relief funding for farmers.
No damage to life and property has been reported so far. Reports suggest that fire fighters in New South Wales were battling 81 grass and bushfires, 38 of which remained uncontained. Almost 650 firefighters were working on the blazes, helped by more than 40 aircraft.
Last month, Australia recorded its fifth-driest July. It was also the driest January-to-July period in New South Wales since 1965 and marked seven consecutive months of below-average rainfall, according to the media.
A Washington Post report says that although a particular drought cannot be blamed on man-made climate change, in Australia, the droughts are coming faster and harsher. The current government coalition — partly reliant on rural voters — seems unenthusiastic about joining the global effort to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. “Australia is on track to miss even the modest commitments made under the Paris accord, ” it says.