'Tropical influence': Expert warns of wet, sticky and humid 2021 weather

·4-min read

This year Australia saw extreme temperatures and devastating bushfires after years of drought and intensifying heat.

More than 18 million hectares were torched, 34 people lost their lives and billions of animals and reptiles were killed.

As the country continues to reel from the devastation, many residents are once again on bushfire alert.

A pedestrian is seen during a storm in central Sydney. Source: AAP
Australians are likely to see more rain in 2021 than we did in 2020. Source: AAP

However, while some blazes will occur, 2021 should bring some relief as a La Nina season is predicted to drench must of eastern Australia, Felicity Gamble, with the Bureau of Meteorology, told Yahoo News Australia.

The climatologist has broken down what weather Australians can expect in the coming months.

Summer weather: What Australians can expect

Those living in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria will see a pretty typical La Nina season in the new year, which will not only bring heavy rainfall and the possibility of more cyclones, but also long, sticky and humid heatwaves, Ms Gamble said.

“We’re starting to see a little bit more of a tropical influence coming from the north - that and La Nina does appear to be supporting this wet outlook for the next few months,” she said, warning that flash-flooding may occur.

Ms Gamble said the four states will also see a lot more cloud cover than usual so temperatures won’t be as extreme as they have been in 2020 when some areas hit 45 degrees.

“La Nina doesn’t rule out hot weather or heatwaves, they will occur, but they will be prolonged and humid heatwaves,” she said, adding that it could still have “quite an impact on human health”.

Western Australia’s interior and South Australia should expect below average minimum temperatures, with southeast WA and southeast SA seeing minimum temperatures that are closer to average and heavy rainfall.

NSW Rural Fire fighters establish a backburn in Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales. Source: AAP
This year Australia saw extreme temperatures and devastating bushfires after years of drought and intensifying heat. Source: AAP

BOM’s Tropical Cyclone Season Outlook model predicts a 66 per cent chance of an above-average number of tropical cyclones in the Australian region in 2021.

On average, between nine and 11 cyclones form in the area each season, with about four crossing the coastline.

“In fact, there has never been a season without at least one tropical cyclone crossing the coast,” the BOM’s Weather Outlook reads.

“The number of tropical cyclones can vary a lot between years, and this can be caused by several factors.

“One of the main ones is the temperature of waters to the north of Australia, as warm ocean temperatures are the fuel for tropical cyclones.”

The wet weather season will decrease the risk of large-scale and prolonged bushfires, BOM says.

“The climate outlooks show much of Australia has normal fire potential in the months ahead. This contrasts with the very elevated bushfire risk that we experienced in the preceding three summers,” BOM meteorologists said.

A map of the predicted rainfall during La Nina. Source: BOM
The wet weather season will decrease the risk of large-scale and prolonged bushfires. Source: BOM

Weather Australians can expect in autumn

Early autumn weather will bear a striking resemblance to the summer season.

“There are fairly good odds of good rain across Queensland and NSW but it looks like it is easing,” Ms Gibson told Yahoo News Australia.

In autumn La Nina will be at or nearing its peak before starting to dissipate, she added.

Victoria will have weak chances of seeing more than average rainfall.

WA and SA will likely be unaffected by the La Nina.

Much of Australia will see slightly above average temperatures for the season.

A road sign is surrounded by flood water at Tumbulgum, NSW on December 14. Source: AAP
In autumn La Nina will be at or nearing its peak before starting to dissipate. Source: AAP

What about weather for the rest of the year?

Ms Gibson said it was very hard to predict what the weather will do so far in advance.

“We don’t know what will happen with El Nino or La Nina,” she said.

It is not uncommon for La Nina seasons to occur for two years in a row, so Australia could be bracing itself for another wet summer the following year.

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