After three years of historic rain and flooding, the latest in a triple-whammy of La Ninas is on its “last legs", meteorologists say. But some experts fear soggy conditions will be replaced with blazing summers and bushfires later in the year.
“Indications across the Pacific Union show that La Nina is loosening its grip and its strength over the equatorial Pacific region,” Weatherzone’s Felix Levesque told Yahoo News Australia.
He said models show we’re moving into a “transition phase” with conditions returning to neutral in the coming months, from about March onwards. It’s then that we might see the return of an El Nino by May, bringing hot and dry conditions.
“Most models are trending towards that El Nino stage, which sees cooler waters off eastern Australia,” Mr Levesque said. “Those cooler waters reduce the amount of moisture in the atmosphere and lead to reduced rainfall and dry conditions over the parts of eastern Australia that have been flooded for so long.”
Risk of drought, heatwaves and bushfires
While weather predictions can be “hazy” this far out, there are concerns the weather pattern will bring a summer of drought, heatwaves and bushfires.
“When the next El Nino comes, we’re going to have much, much worse conditions in terms of heatwaves,” Dr Wenju Cai, a climate scientist at CSIRO, told The Guardian, pointing to a build-up of heat in the equatorial Pacific.
In the meantime, three years worth of La Ninas has sparked a major bushfire risk with the heavy rainfall causing plants to bloom.
Climate counsellor, and former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins, reflected on 1975s triple La Nina, when grass grew two metres tall and “burnt for months”.
“There were 4.8 million hectares in NSW alone and 119 million hectares nationally, because the Red Centre of Australia went green and brown and burnt,” he told the ABC. “That's what we're heading for.”
“We're having grass fires in New South Wales already but also massive regrowth in the forested areas hit by the Black Summer fires. Very heavy fuel loads will happen because of that down on the south coast and if we head into an El Nino pattern, and it gets hot and dry, anything could happen.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.