Australia remains on alert for an El Nino weather event with a high likelihood a sweltering summer is on the way.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has continued its El Nino Alert in August, with conditions not yet right for the organisation to call the event beyond doubt.
“When El Nino Alert criteria have been met in the past, an El Nino event has developed around 70 per cent of the time,” the BOM said.
Despite Australia not yet being at El Nino, there are already warnings about how hot the upcoming summer will be from ANU climatologist Professor Janette Lindesay
“Whether it does or not, it remains highly likely that spring and summer temperatures will be above average across eastern and southeastern Australia, and the scales are weighted towards a drier spring/summer than has been our recent experience,” she said.
The conditions could bring out the extra heat needed for a horror bushfire season.
“These conditions are cause for concern regarding the coming bushfire season in the east, south and southeast (which could start earlier than usual), where recent wetter years have contributed to considerable vegetation growth and a potentially dangerous fuel load in hot dry weather,” Professor Lindesay said.
For an El Nino event to be called, thresholds for temperature and atmospheric conditions need to be met.
Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are currently exceeding the thresholds and are expected to stay at that level until the end of the year.
Meanwhile the atmosphere is not yet at the El Nino level according to the BOM, with wind, cloud and pressure patterns currently sitting in a more neutral position.
“This means the Pacific Ocean and atmosphere have yet to become fully coupled, as occurs during El Nino events,” the BOM’s latest statement read.
Australia continues to “get drier and drier” according to former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner and Councillor with the Climate Council Greg Mullins who argues that “we’re set for a bad year”.
“I’m not a betting man, but if I was a betting man, I’d say we’re going to get big fires this year,” he told the Climate Council’s El Nino media briefing in July.
According to Mr Mullins, the three years of rain from La Nina have meant that there are prime conditions for fires.
“We get a lot of grass growth in areas that don’t normally have coverage of biofuel,” he said.
“The plants are a few centimetres apart, you can’t walk through it, it’s just so incredibly thick.”