Wet weather in Sydney yesterday. Source: News Limited.
Wet weather in Sydney yesterday. Source: News Limited.

 

By Claire

I don’t know what the weather is like at your place at the moment, but where I am, it’s raining. It feels like it has been raining for days (well, maybe two). My plants are looking pretty happy outside, but I’m wondering when the rain will end. Is this what we can expect over the coming months?

The last few years in Australia, we have been influenced by La Nina, which brings relatively cool and rainy conditions to the east coast of Australia. We have seen large flood events, particularly in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. We actually had so much rain in 2011, that we recorded a drop in sea level, due to all the rain that fell on the Australian mainland!

So, can we expect the same this year? Or will we be in for the hot, dry summers that Australia is known for?

soiAccording to the seasonal forecast, released by the Bureau of Meteorology, we’re in for “ENSO neutral” conditions this summer. What that means is that there is not likely to be either El Nino or La Nina conditions this summer. What we will see are “average” conditions, where the Pacific Ocean and westerly winds aren’t really doing anything particular – on a large scale anyway.

So, ENSO is not going to be a factor in this year’s summer. What does that mean? It means that we shouldn’t expect the extreme heat and dry conditions that you’d associate with an El Nino, but you also shouldn’t expect the cool and wet conditions we’ve seen over the last couple of years. We’re likely to see something that falls in the middle.

What interests me though, is that this year, we’re going to get a glimpse of what “average” conditions look like. Since ENSO isn’t exerting an influence, we’re going to see what the background climate looks like.

Decadal average temperature. Source: IPCC AR5
Decadal average temperature. Source: IPCC AR5

We know that the last ten years have been the hottest on record, despite there being a number of strong La Ninas, which should have lowered global temperatures. Since CO2 doesn’t seem to be dropping at all, we can expect that temperatures will continue to rise.

So what does an average summer look like? Well, this summer will be a chance to find out.

Unfortunately, all the rain we have had over the last few years has seen a lot of  vegetation growth. Once summer arrives, and things begin to dry out, this growth becomes fuel for bush fires.

A house is engulfed in flames from bushfires in Yellow Rock, Blue Mountains, near Sydney, October 17, 2013. AAP: Jason Webster
A house is engulfed in flames from bushfires in Yellow Rock, Blue Mountains, near Sydney, October 17, 2013. AAP: Jason Webster

Already, we have seen huge fires in Sydney, with people losing homes and property. We know that the bush fire risk for this season is high, and the Rural Fire Service is already warning people to prepare for fires.

Once summer begins in ernest, it’s going to get hot and dry and dangerous. I personally am enjoying the rain and cool conditions, while they last.