A Godzilla of an El Niño Is on Its Way

Indonesia is on fire, and smoke from that fire spreading across Southeast Asia. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Brunei are all covered with an air polluting haze.

These pictures from NASA’s Earth Observatory clearly show the huge amount of smoke covering the region. This is the Indonesian island of Sumatra…

sumatraAnd these are of Borneo…

borneo

borneoWhat’s this got to do with a website about Australia?

Well, Australia could be next. A Godzilla of El Niño, as it’s been described, is about to affect the weather worldwide.

It is probably a stretch of the imagination to suggest that El Niño caused the fires in Indonesia, apparently they started as a result of illegal slash and burn fires by farmers and firms wanting to clear some land.

On the other hand it probably is fair to say that the hot conditions of El Niño made it easier for these fires to spread and much harder for them to be brought under control. Unfortunately when these hot conditions are around, a very small minority of deranged people think it’s fun to start fires.

Many a bushfire in Australia has been known to have been started by such nutters.

A long hot summer

El Niños are not easy to predict, but as we approach summer, I don’t think there are many people who believe that we are not going to have one this year. Some are suggesting it could be the biggest El Niño on record.

I wrote about this kind of weather event in 2009 in my post called The Australian Climate: El Niño and La Nina; that was the last time we had an El Niño.

At that time I briefly explained the effects of El Niño, so what we can expect this year?

  • Lower rainfall
  • Hotter temperatures
  • Increased risk of bushfires
  • Fewer cyclones
  • Late and weak tropical monsoon

Australia’s 2009 El Niño is the only one I’ve experienced here, but the two El Niños before that were far more severe.

During the 1982–83 El Niño there were strong drought conditions; the low rainfall began in April 1982 and continued throughout until February 1983 when southern Australia experienced heatwave conditions. This culminated in the Ash Wednesday bushfires that claimed 75 lives, 47 in Victoria and 28 in South Australia.

The El Niño in 2002–03 was responsible for one of the most severe droughts in Australian history, on a par with 1902 and the just mentioned 1982 event. There were widespread bushfires and water shortages.

Worldwide effects

Australia is not the only country affected though, the effects of El Niño will be felt worldwide. The UK, for example, can expect severe storms, heavy rainfall and high winds. So whilst the Brits will be grabbing their raincoats and brollies, here in Australia we will be preparing for bushfires.

I’m pretty sure each state and territory has its own procedure for that, here’s how Queensland are asking its residents to prepare…

Download your Bushfire Survival Plan now.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer or a cold, windy and wet winter, depending where you now live.

Thank you El Niño.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Ronny October 30, 2015, 12:35 am | Link

    Another interesting post, thanks Bob

    I don’t know if you will get a hot summer but the recent supercell that hit qld with hail big as tennis balls makes me wish you (and your beloved) a safe spring.

    • BobinOz November 1, 2015, 8:34 pm | Link

      Well apparently everybody stayed safe during the two storms mentioned here, which we are all certainly grateful for. Let’s hope that safety continues. Cheers, Bob

  • Virginia G October 29, 2015, 11:52 am | Link

    I hadn’t heard about this fire – I hope the people of Sumatra are safe! I had no idea the entire region could be effected by one event like this. We’re going to most of those countries on a cruise in December, so the selfish part of me hopes it clears up before then!

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, because Seoul is routinely overwhelmed by pollution coming in from China. The air quality here becomes terrible for weeks at a time, and yet it’s still only a fraction of how bad it is in China. I don’t envy them at all.

    Sorry, I know that wasn’t the point of your post, but it was very interesting to me!

    • BobinOz October 29, 2015, 11:29 pm | Link

      I didn’t know about this myself until yesterday, came as quite a surprise to me.

      I’m not sure everybody is safe, certainly hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by the quality of the air, a lot of people are having breathing problems. In Singapore parents are keeping their children indoors because there’s too much air pollution outside for them to play out there.

      I’m not even sure they will get it under control by December either, I believe the fires have already been going for two months. What they really need is a powerful monsoon. If you’re planning to visit the area, you might want to look into this more thoroughly, it might not be such a great idea.

      Good luck, Bob

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