Australia is likely to get El Nino weather conditions from August, increasing the risk of drought and fire – but reducing the risk of tropical cyclones.
Australia remains firmly on track for El Nino weather conditions from mid-winter, potentially extending drought conditions in some parts and increasing the risk of bushfires.
It’s not all bad news though – it could mean fewer tropical cyclones next summer and provide a boost for some dry-weather crops.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued its latest El Nino update on Tuesday, saying there is at least a 70 per cent chance of the weather phenomenon developing in 2014, and most likely by August.
The forecast is broadly in line with those issued recently by the United Nations weather bureau and NASA.
“Typically an El Nino brings reduced rainfall across southern Australia but also inland eastern Australia, including the Murray-Darling basin,” Andrew Watkins, head of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Climate Prediction Services told AAP.
“So that does affect our food bowl.
“We also tend to get warmer temperatures in southern Australia, particularly during winter, spring and summer.
“Then you get the flow-on effects from warmer and drier weather coming into summer – so it tends to increase the risk of a bad bushfire season, particularly in southeastern Australia.”
That’s bad news for parts of the country still recovering from last year’s bushfires and areas of Queensland, NSW, South Australia and Victoria still in drought.
On a more positive note, Dr Watkins said El Nino may reduce the number of tropical cyclones next summer and could provide a boost for growers of crops like sugar cane and mangoes.
The very warm autumn across parts of Australia’s east continued on Tuesday – with Melbourne experiencing its equal-longest run of May days above 20 degrees.
The previous record was set in 1972.
Sydney broke the record for its longest run of May days above 20 degrees.
Dr Watkins said the warmer temperatures are not definitively linked to the looming El Nino.
The Australian ski season may be affected by El Nino with less natural snow falling at popular resorts.
However, Dr Watkins said clearer skies during winter could mean better temperatures for man-made snow.