As parts of Australia suffer scorching September heat and dangerous fire conditions, the weather bureau has declared a double disaster, raising the risk of more of them.
The Bureau of Meteorology has officially declared both an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean in eastern Australia and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in the west of the country.
El Niño events cause drier conditions and above-average temperatures across large parts of the country, particularly in eastern Australia.
A positive IOD often results in lower than average rainfall in parts of Australia.
If the two patterns coincide, it can increase the drying effects.
“Both climate drivers have a significant impact on the Australian climate, favoring warmer and drier conditions, particularly in spring but also into early summer,” Karl Braganza, head of the Office of Climate Services, said on Tuesday.
“These conditions are associated with an increased risk of fire and extreme heat.
“Now it’s really up to individuals and communities to prepare for a summer full of heat and fire hazards.”
The statement coincides with severe weather warnings for parts of southeast Australia, including very hot spring conditions, increased fire danger and strong winds fueled by an approaching cold front.
Large parts of NSW and eastern Victoria will endure maximum temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above the September average.
A heatwave warning is in effect for the New South Wales south coast and a catastrophic fire warning is also in effect for the far south coast.
Damaging winds driven by a cold front add to the danger.
The front has triggered severe weather warnings for parts of South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and southern New South Wales, with the possibility of showers, storms, small hail and snow in some parts.
And while this will bring welcome relief from the heat in Victoria and NSW, the front will push the extreme heat further north into Queensland, with the impact there most pronounced on Thursday.
Fire danger will also increase across the state, particularly in the south, with extreme fire danger expected in the Channel Country on Thursday and Friday.
Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said Australians were “rightly concerned” about what El Niño would mean for the country.
She called on the federal government to speed up the review of Australia’s environmental law.
“Right now, coal and gas companies can get away with construction projects that pollute our air, our waterways and the atmosphere,” she said.
“Strong national environmental law will protect our health, stimulate the economy and protect our precious natural places.”