El Nino Returns to Affect 2023 Fire Season

This simple CSIRO map shows the movement of hot air and currents during El Nino and La Nina events. El Nino tends to drought in Australia, while a La Nina event is much wetter.

WHILE not yet officially declared, El Nino is on the horizon, says the Bureau of Meteorology.

The Rural Fire Service Mid Coast community preparedness team says El Nino can have dramatic effects during a fire season.

“While an El Nino is likely, the weather bureau has not yet confirmed the event,” the RFS told News Of The Area.

“Regardless of El Nino, the prediction is for lower-than-average rainfall and higher-than-average temperatures, which will see fuels drying more quickly and an elevation of the Fire Behaviour Index (FBI) on any given day,” said an RFS spokesperson.

Simply put, El Nino – a cyclical weather pattern in an area between Australia and South America – creates a periodic reversal of winds affecting sea temperatures, heavily influencing rainfall on either side of the South Pacific Ocean.

During El Nino, eastern Australia moves towards drought conditions, while La Nina, its opposite, brings heavy rains.

The official MidCoast district ‘bush fire danger period runs 1 September 2023 to 31 March 2024, (notwithstanding extensions) meaning, among other things, that fire permits are required during this period.

The RFS has categorised the coming season as “usual”, unlikely to match the 2019-20 fire season, which came on the back of a prolonged El Nino-related drought.

The recent La Nina rains have encouraged vegetation growth, which will likely translate into excess fuel for future fire seasons.

RFS is advising residents in bushfire-prone areas to complete a ‘bushfire survival plan’, familiarising the entire family, including ‘disjointed’ scenarios where family members are not all in the same location.

Residents should monitor conditions and seek information from the usual sources, especially should a fire start.

These sources include the NSW RFS website, Hazards Near Me app, The District Office, ABC radio, Bush Fire Information Line,

Residents should follow advice from these sources or firefighters and police on the ground.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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