BLAZE: Fire could be a hazard in the Darling Downs this summer.
BLAZE: Fire could be a hazard in the Darling Downs this summer. Claudia Baxter

Heat waves and bushfires as season heats up

AFTER a wet start to the season, the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a "drier and warmer" summer season for the Darling Downs.

The warmer weather spells a low chance of recovery for the drought affected west, with the November to January climate outlook pointing to little rainfall west of the Great Dividing Range.

It is predicted that the Darling Downs will receive 100mm-200mm of rainfall over the next three months, down from the median average rainfall of 300mm over the same period.

What is causing this weather pattern? Modelling done by BOM shows that tropical warming of the Pacific Ocean will intensify the El Nino patterns - leading to decreased cloud cover and warmer temperatures.

It is also predicted that the storm season in the Darling Downs will not be as severe as last year.

Cyclone Debbie lashed Queensland in early 2017, leaving widespread damage and flooding.

Warwick and the Lockyer Valley received excess rain from the cyclone's landfall, as Toowoomba SES volunteers were kept on standby.

This year's BOM forecast predicts fewer cyclones developing in the east, however, Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Greg Browning stresses that communities should prepare for another freak occurrence similar to Cyclone Debbie.

"On average Australia sees 11 cyclones in its region in every season with four coastal crossings and we've never had a season on record without at least one cyclone crossing the coast," Mr Browning said.

"So, while this season's outlook suggests the potential for a slightly lower than average number of cyclones, the chances of a community being affected by a tropical cyclone remain high.

"Even cyclones that don't reach the coast can still have a significant impact through heavy rainfall and storm surges."

The lack of rain and warmer weather leaves the Southwest and Darling Downs open to the threat of severe bush fires and heat waves.

With a burst of heat forecast for several states the Bureau of Meteorology has activated an upgraded Heatwave Service.

The Bureau's acting general manager Jeff Perkins, said a heatwave is defined as three or more days of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for a given location.

"Severe and extreme heat events have claimed more lives than any other natural hazard in Australia since European settlement," Mr Perkins said.

"This service provides a more advanced indicator than temperature alone in anticipating the impact of heat stress.

"We assess the build-up of heat over a period of time, taking into account the long-term climate of a location and recent variability in minimum and maximum temperatures to measure the build-up of 'excess' heat over a three-day period."

The heat wave service and predictive maps can be accessed at bom.gov.au/australia/heatwave.

Bushfire mitigation plans: Acting Regional Manager, Rural Operations Tony Stroud from the QFES talks about actions rural property owners should take to help protect their homes in the lead up to what could be a severe bush fire season later in the year.
Bushfire mitigation plans: Acting Regional Manager, Rural Operations Tony Stroud from the QFES talks about actions rural property owners should take to help protect their homes in the lead up to what could be a severe bush fire season later in the year.

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