Australia braces for dangerous bushfire season

After Australia experienced the driest winter since 2002, the nation is now bracing for dangerous bushfires, meteorological officials warned on Friday.

The dry winter in 2002 culminated in a damaging bushfire season capped off by bushfires in the Victorian Alps that continued for 59 days and burned 5 per cent of the state, reports Xinhua news agency.

Andrew Watkins, the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BoM) manager of climate prediction, said the key difference was that the dry conditions in 2002 were caused by an El Nino weather event while the warm and dry conditions in 2017 were part of a warming trend.

“There have been other years where we have had drier conditions without an El Nino but what we’ve been seeing more recently is a trend toward drier starts to winter, or rather the late autumn/early winter conditions, and certainly that’s been the long-term trend,” Watkins told the media on Friday.

He said that one of the results of the warming trend was an earlier start to bushfire season with parts of New South Wales (NSW) to be under threat from the start of spring.

The BoM’s official summer bushfire outlook is due to be released in early September with NSW and Queensland expected to show “near record values for winter in terms of fire potential”.

The fire threat in Victoria will be graded as “above average”.

Watkins said the winter of 2017 was Australia’s warmest since 2009.

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