Authorities declared the arrival of El Niño, amid dangerous heat waves that are raising the country’s risk of widespread bushfires.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) announced the arrival of El Niño in an outlook after seeing a combination of conditions that include higher-than-average ocean temperatures. “Climate model outlooks suggest this El Niño is likely to continue until at least the end of the southern hemisphere summer 2023–24,” the announcement said.
El Niño is the warmer phase of a natural planetary cycle. It’s associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops every few years off the equatorial Pacific, and that warm water can shift global weather patterns. Officials held off on declaring the global shift as it experienced several years of heavy rain and devastating floods. And now the country can expect especially hot and dry conditions. During El Niño, Australia also sees lower rainfall.
As Australia now transitions into spring, the country has baked under extremely high temperatures. “Tuesday has been another scorcher along the NSW coastline. Sydney matched its September record temp with 34.6C. Many other places also set records for heat in September,” BoM tweeted Wednesday.
The dangerous heat and dry weather are fueling bushfires throughout Australia. A bushfire map shows how the coast is dotted with fires. Officials have said that the NSW southern coast is experiencing difficult fire conditions. Firefighters are battling dozens of fires and dozens of schools have had to close this week.
The heat this month has challenged events and recreation throughout Australia. Runners who participated in the Sydney Marathon last weekend had to sweat it out, and dozens were sent to the hospital.
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