Australia warned Tuesday of a likely El Nino weather pattern this year, delivering warmer, drier days to a country vulnerable to fierce bushfires.
The chance of El Nino forming over the Pacific Ocean this year has climbed to 70 percent, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said, reaching its bar for declaring an “El Nino alert”.
El Nino, a climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide as well as drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere, last occurred in 2018-19.
Atmospheric changes would need to strengthen and sustain themselves over a longer period before the BoM declares an El Nino event, said senior climatologist Catherine Ganter.
El Nino leads to a higher chance of drier weather in eastern Australia, warmer weather in the southern two-thirds of the country, and an “increased bushfire danger in south-eastern Australia”, the bureau said in a statement.
“We know from the historical record that bushfire events are more likely during periods of El Nino whereas floods and cyclones are less likely but can still happen,” said Tom Mortlock, senior analyst at insurance giant Aon.
“The concern now is that — with the long absence of El Nino and back-to-back La Ninas — the landscape is preconditioned for bushfire with significant fuel growth occurring,” he said in a statement.
The “Black Summer” bushfires raged across Australia’s eastern seaboard from late 2019 to early 2020, razing swaths of forest, killing millions of animals, and blanketing cities in noxious smoke. (AFP)