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On track for El Nino

Climate change causing drought and fire
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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.

An Indian summer

Our Indian summer continues to roll on with Melbourne equalling a May record for consecutive days of mild temperatures.

Temperatures in southeast Australia have hovered between three and six degrees above average since a slow-moving high pressure system in the Tasman Sea began on May 11.

In Melbourne, the temperature reached 20 degrees Celsius for the 10th day in a row on Tuesday, matching the 1972 record for consecutive days above 20C in May.

The record could still be broken outright on Wednesday.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Scott Williams said it was increasingly possible Melbourne’s mild temperatures may linger on for another two days.

“Because this (cold) front is so weak, there is a chance we could break it,” Mr Williams told AAP.

“There’s at least a 50:50 chance that we’ll break it outright tomorrow and again the next day so we extend it to 12 days.”

But it’s not only Melbourne experiencing a spell of warmer weather.

Adelaide has also basked in its 10th consecutive day above 20 degrees, but it is unlikely the record of 15 days will be threatened.

If the trend continues, Australia will be on track for its warmest May since 1958.

On the plus side

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.


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