Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

The harsh weather season is here and floods and cyclones are on the way.

The Bureau of Meteorology has just announced its outlook for the harsh weather season, and senior climatologist Greg Browning said, as every year, that we need to be prepared.

The long-term average is that 11 cyclones are formed in Australian waters and that four cross the coast.

But that value has declined in recent decades. Since 2000, the average has fallen to nine cyclones per year. Season, according to Browning.

Last year was also expected to be slightly above average and we ended up seeing eight.

“It’s a bit with a grain of salt in some ways that we’re still using the long-term number because it just seems like the days when we had 15 plus are just behind us at the moment,” according to Mr Browning.

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But don’t let these falling numbers lull you into a false sense of security.

“Even though we don’t get piles in the absolute numerical sense, it just takes one in the neck of the woods to cause a lot of trouble.”

And it does not have to be a full-blown cyclone to do damage, tropical lows are also more likely to form under these climatic conditions.

Flooding of rain is expected

“The entire general climate driver that has been created is basically favorable for above-average rainfall, especially over the eastern two-thirds of the country,” according to Browning.

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In the West, a negative IOD is starting to break up; to the north there is hot water, and to the east a La Niña is threatening to form.

“So all of these factors basically make us feel pretty confident that we’re likely to look average to above average, especially over the northern and eastern parts of the country during the spring and into the summer.”

It comes on top of some already wet hinterland, especially in the east.

“There are parts of the country where the landscape is quite wet, the soil humidity is pretty high, and therefore it will not take too much rain to see floods,” according to Browning.

“Certainly increased river flow is a risk in this harsh weather period.”

a road sign that puts water across the road
Summer rains on already wet hinterlands can lead to floods this season. (

ABC TV News: Ashlynne McGhee

)

It’s definitely storm season

The storm season started with a bang this year and it is very far from over.

According to Mr Browning, the research is rather hit and miss as far as the relationship between severe thunderstorms and climate drivers is concerned.

So it is difficult to say whether there is a greater risk of severe storms than usual this year.

But this is definitely the time of year when we usually see severe storms.

“Especially eastern New South Wales southeast Queensland. It really gets into the heart of this severe thunderstorm,” he said.

“Until probably late spring we will see various episodes of severe thunderstorms.”

Not off the hook for fires

Browning was emphatic over forest fires.

“Australia always gets fires every summer.”

But overall, the rain over the past few seasons and the forecast for more have lowered the risk of major campaign bush fires this year.

“We are certainly not looking at a season like 2019-20, where we had drought and really dry conditions until the summer, and everything was ready to burn.

“We are far from that,” he said.

But grass fires are still a risk.

The rain nourishes grass growth and it does not take many days of hot, dry weather before the vegetation dries out.

maps showing red in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia
The seasonal forest fire prospects for spring 2021 show an increased potential for grass fires in the east.(

Delivered: AFAC

)

After good winter rains, an above-average risk of grass fires is also a problem in parts of the southwest, according to Mr Browning.

Southwestern western Australia usually does not get much summer rain, and without climate drivers pushing wetter than average conditions in the west, this year is probably no exception.

“They have not had any of the soaking rains that we have had in the east.

“So as the summer goes on and they don’t have follow-up rainfall, the areas dry out and they get fires.”

So while it is not expected to get hotter or drier than usual this year, Browning said fires in the southwest were still likely.

Heatwaves still likely

With expected wet conditions, the chance of the most extreme hot days is currently less than some of our last back years.

“But when we go into the summer, especially if La Niña does not do much or falls into a pile, then we could see an increased number.”

“Again, we are not ready to have a really hot extreme year, but of course with the background of global warming we are likely to see some extreme warm days.”

La Niña or La Niña-like conditions can also increase humidity and lead to longer heat waves.

“Even if they are not at the highest intensity level, with the extra humidity, it is a major health risk in itself,” according to Mr Browning.

These conditions can also lead to suffocating hot nights, especially in the tropics.

Whatever the year, Australia is a pretty extreme place.

“So it’s just a matter of people being attentive, prepared and keeping up to date with the information that is out there, whether it’s the agency or the rescue agencies.”

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