Get ready for the hottest summer EVER: Sydney to be HIT by heatwaves and bushfires with a sweltering start to December
- Australia will experience a hotter and drier start to December than average
- NSW will be plagued by fast spreading and out-of-control bushfires
- The whole country is at higher risk of potentially deadly blazes
- Heatwaves are expected to be more frequent throughout summer
PUBLISHED: 16:13 +11:00, 30 November 2016 | UPDATED: 20:16 +11:00, 30 November 2016
Australia is set to swelter through a hotter-than-average start to December with the whole country at a higher risk of bushfires and heatwaves this summer.
NSW and Victoria are at particular risk from fast moving and potentially deadly blazes, after a wet winter caused record vegetation growth.
A hotter- and drier-than-average December is expected to rapidly dry out that blush of green leaving plenty to burn when fires take hold over the summer.
These warnings come in the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre’s latest update, before the seasons rolls over on Thursday.
The centre’s CEO Dr Richard Thornton says complacency could prove deadly this fire season, and the danger grassfires pose must not be underestimated.
‘People associate bushfires with images they see on TV, of forests burning, but the critical thing about the grassfires we’re likely to see this year is that they can be very intense,’ he told reporters on Wednesday.
‘They move very quickly and they can start very easily from something as innocuous as a farmer doing some work in the field, or a person parking a car with a hot exhaust in some grassy areas.’
Dr Thornton cited the devastating grassfires that hit South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula in 2005, killing nine people, and destroying more than 200 buildings and 30,000 head of livestock.
Most died in their cars as they tried to outrun the fire.
‘On the really bad fire-danger days, with very high winds and very hot conditions, we expect fires to move very rapidly,’ Dr Thornton warned.
HOT WEATHER FORECAST FOR AUSTRALIA THIS SUMMER
– Increased temperatures are expected in the north of the state in December
– Above average temperatures expected to increase danger as prolific grass growth dries out
– Drier and hotter than average December expected
– A high chance of showers and storms at the beginning of the summer month
– Warmer than average temperatures expected
– Increased sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific Ocean may raise the likelihood of increased rainfall over northwest WA during summer
– Cooler temperatures than average are expected
– A hotter and drier-than-average December is expected for South Australia
He said research has shown that while Australians understand this is a country prone to summer fires, they ‘don’t extrapolate that, necessarily, to it being a risk for themselves’.
‘We’ve seen that in interviews with residents, post-fire events, when we asked them about their risk perceptions,’ Dr Thornton said.
‘We’re still finding people don’t have adequate bushfire plans, they haven’t practised those plans, they haven’t written them down. And, importantly, they don’t have fall back positions so that if the first plan doesn’t work, what do they do next?’
Authorities are trying different strategies this year, in a bid to ward off a repeat of the Eyre Peninsula tragedy and the tendency of people to have an inflated sense of their ability to defend their homes from a major fire.
The new message is that the best place to be during a bushfire is somewhere else.
He said Australians in country areas also needed to understand that they may be the first to stumble across a grassfire, and that any warnings that are being broadcast might be out of date.
Dr Andrew Watkins, who heads the Bureau of Meteorology’s Climate Monitoring and Prediction unit, says there’s also an increased risk of heatwaves this summer.
In fact, one that could generate temperatures in excess of 40C is expected to affect southern Queensland and parts of NSW from the first official day of summer on Thursday.
‘The risk of heatwaves is up, particularly for the December period,’ Dr Watkins told reporters.
‘And that’s because our weather systems are a bit further north, and they will be dragging air across the continent into eastern Australia.’