Australians warned to prepare for severe bushfire conditions

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-27 11:08:46|Editor: Yang Yi
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CANBERRA, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Australia's South Australia state was hit with its first severe bushfire danger warning of the season on Friday more than a month before the start of summer.

The Country Fire Service (CFS) issued the warning for seven districts of the state, saying that forecast thunderstorms and strong winds would create perfect conditions for grass fires to break out.

"Once grass fires get strong winds behind them, they can travel very fast and be quite hot," Leigh Miller, CFS Duty Commander, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday.

"So we need to alert people to this to make them aware they need to think about putting off any risky activities to a cooler day."

Matt Collopy, supervising meteorologist for the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) in South Australia, said high-risk fire conditions in the state would last until at least Friday night.

"Wind is the major concern with the system. The northerly winds ahead of the front are really strong," Collopy said.

The CFS warning came on the same day that the BoM said Australia was set for a hot and dry summer.

In its climate outlook for November, December and January, published on Friday, the bureau predicted that north and south-east Australia would experience above-average temperatures.

The BoM report came one month after the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center (CRC) seasonal outlook found that 2017 was Australia's warmest winter on record and its ninth-driest.

It said that as a result of the dry winter, most of Australia was at severe risk of bushfires this summer.

Andrew Watkins, long-range forecast manager at the BoM, said a weak La Nina oscillation in the Pacific Ocean had contributed to the expected warm conditions.

"We are not expecting the widespread cloudiness that we normally get with (a strong La Nina event), which would block the sun and effectively keep things fairly cool," Watkins said. "But we are getting the heat from the rather warm western Pacific Ocean."

The official bushfire outlook will be revised by authorities in early November but Watkins said it was unlikely to be downgraded

"Given things look likely to stay warmer through the south-east and given some parts ... are still relatively dry, the fire risk hasn't reduced all that much in many areas," he said.

"The only real area where it has reduced is in south-east Queensland, but to some degree that naturally reduces at this time of year anyway."

The BoM's El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) report, released on Tuesday, declared that the organization was in La Nina watch with models suggesting there is a 50 percent chance the phenomenon will form.

La Nina is commonly associated with high rainfall but an opposing system from the Indian Ocean could diminish its effect.

"At the moment we have a wetter influence coming out of the Pacific Ocean with that possible La Nina, but also a drying influence coming out of the Indian Ocean. They are having a bit of a battle over Australia," Watkins said.

"The odds are tending towards no real strong push towards wetter or drier."