After two consecutive La Nina events, which brought mild and wet winters to eastern Australia, the Australian summer is back!
Temperatures above 40°C were seen across as much as 80% of the Australian continent over the last few days, in the most wide-spread heatwave seen in Australia since 2001.
In Canberra temperatures on Saturday topped 40°C, making it the capital’s hottest day since 2009. These warm temperatures are predicted to continue throughout the week, with the Bureau forecasting temperatures in the mid to high 30s for the rest of the week (with the exception of Thursday, which will be a relatively cool 29°C).
These hot conditions are being caused by a very warm air mass, which is currently sitting over southern Australia, having been brought down from central Australia by a high pressure system.
The past two years of cooler and wetter conditions have meant that large fuel loads have developed across much of Australia, increasing the risk of bushfires now that the ground cover has dried out.
A “catastrophic” fire danger is in place for today for the Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges. Catastrophic fire conditions essentially represent the worst possible conditions for bush fires. In these conditions, evacuation is the only option, since it is not considered safe to stay and defend property.
Today’s fire danger across NSW is being described as the “worst ever conditions”.
This is largely due to a combination of very warm temperatures and strong Northwesterly winds moving through the state this morning. In these conditions, fires will start and spread very easily, presenting a great risk to life and property.
But please don’t begin to panic! These catastrophic fire conditions are largely only valid for properties which adjoin bushland. Properties that lie within suburban areas are generally safe.
For more information on the fire danger for your area, and to learn more about how to prepare your property, see the NSW Rural Fire Service website.