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…
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.
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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