AustraliaMore than climate change driving Queensland fires, explain climatologists
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Fires in the Amazon rainforest continue despite a ban on burning. Over 50% of Brazil's fires in 2019 took place in the rainforest.
The record drought has combined with a record warm winter to fuel this year's grim fire outlook, according to climatologists and bushfire experts.
"The forests are in a state where even a small ignition source can cause major problems," warned Richard Thornton from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.
Powerful winds set to hamper efforts to control Tenterfield, Drake, Bees Nest and Legume bushfires
Conditions are expected to challenge hundreds of firefighters today who continue to battle out-of-control fires across New South Wales, including four burning at emergency level in the state's north. A bushfire destroyed at least two houses and businesses in Tenterfield, while another three out-of-control blazes burned across thousands of hectares in north-eastern NSW. require(["inlineoutstreamAd", "c.
"And that will only get worse as we move into summer and things dry out even further."
Andrew Watkins from the Bureau of Meteorology says the southern half of Australia has experienced the driest January to July on record.
"When we take into account temperatures as well, which have been highest on record for winter in some of those bushfire areas, we've had high evaporation," he said.
"We have very dry soils and dry fuel as well."
, the dry conditions have been driven by cooler than average waters in the Indian ocean, which meteorologists refer to as a positive Indian Ocean Dipole, or IOD.
Pacific ocean temperatures are not driving, with no El Nino or La Nina expected to develop in the coming months.
Gold Coast hinterland bushfire out of control, fires expected to increase this afternoon across Queensland
Crews are battling 57 fires across Queensland including one that is out of control on the Gold Coast hinterland, with the QFES declaring the "unprecedented" blazes are just the start of a very severe fire season.
There is another, less well-known climate driver behind the strong westerly winds fanning the flames.
"We have a period of negative SAM (Southern Annular Mode) affecting us now, as it has on and off for a while," Dr Watkins said.
When the SAM is negative, strong westerly winds like the ones experienced at the weekend reach further north than normal.
What's driving the fire season ahead?
The warm, dry conditions that have led to the early fires are predicted to continue for the rest of the year.
"Unfortunately, the odds are high of having above normal daytime temperatures right through at least until January," Dr Watkins said.
"And likewise with rainfall, there are increased odds of drier than normal conditions for much of eastern Australia right through until January as well."
Hellish scenes as bushfires tear through Queensland towns destroying at least a dozen homes and leaving a suburb glowing red hot - and the worst is yet to come
Apocalyptic video showed the chaos as a red glow descended on Peregian Beach and Marcus Beach on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and flames licked at buildings. Residents were ordered to evacuate immediately after the properties were destroyed by the raging fires on Monday night.
On top of this, the recent sudden stratospheric warming over Antarctica is predicted to keep SAM negative for the rest of the year, reinforcing the warm, dry conditions in New South Wales and southern Queensland.
Climate change trends
"Climate change is playing its role here, but it's not the cause of these fires," Dr Thornton said.
"We're seeing a degree on average higher temperatures than the long-term average."
Climate change expert Andrew King from Melbourne university agrees.
"It's quite clear that the type of hot weather associated with bushfires is becoming more frequent and more intense and it's also more likely to occur earlier on in the warm season," he said.
But the climatologist said the story is more complicated when it comes to rainfall.
"There's not really a very clear trend," Dr King said.
"Overall, we don't really see a clear trend towards more dry conditions or more wet conditions [in southern Queensland].
"We have really highly variable rainfall in eastern Australia, linked with things like El Nino and La Nina, and also individual weather systems."
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The mum of one of the boys accused of starting a devastating fire on the Sunshine Coast has defended her son against online abusers. © A Current Affair Police said a number of fires were deliberately lit by juveniles. It comes as community anger is rising over revelations from police that eight of the 10 deliberately-lit fires were started by juveniles. "In some cases it's just young kids lighting a fire for fun, that fire has gotten away, and obviously impacted in some ways very badly," Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said. But in other cases, she said, the fires had been "purposefully" lit.
But he says further south, drought is linked to climate change trends.
"In the south west of Australia, and in parts of Victoria, there is a decreasing trend in rainfall. Which obviously worsens bushfire conditions, overall, on average."
And when it comes to increased westerly winds like the ones that fanned this week's fires, he said climate science predicts less strong winds.
"The general climate trend is towards more positive SAM conditions, which means that we see those weather systems moving further south away from Australia and associated with that, we wouldn't see the same frequency of westerly winds that we've seen recently in New South Wales and Queensland."
Fire danger on the rise
The Bureau of Meteorology's state of the climate report from last year showed the overall fire danger index had increased over the past 40 years over much of southern Australia.
Dr Thornton expects this trend to continue.
"What climate change will do is it will increase the frequency, or the return rate if you like, of really bad fire weather days," he said.
"So the days like where you had Ash Wednesday or black Saturday, the return period for those sorts of days, will come back and will become shorter.
"So we really need to start thinking about how do we prepare properties better for that?
"How do we make sure that communities stay safe?"
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