Australia’s east coast, much of Victoria and large parts of Western Australia face a higher risk of severe bushfires this summer.
Large parts of the country have experienced below-average rainfall across successive years while a developing El Nino weather system in the Pacific could bring drier conditions and higher temperatures.
Together, these factors could increase the severity and duration of the bushfire season, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre said on Tuesday.
“Such impacts will challenge the limited resources of the fire and land management agencies and have created the situation where each fire season is likely to be more demanding than the last, both in economic and human costs,” it said.
Victorian Fire Authority emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley said central and western parts of the state were already dry, almost in a mini-drought.
“We’ve got dry fuels, dry soils already,” he said.
“El Nino is strong and getting stronger, which says we’ll have a dry, hot summer and it will be a long summer.
“We shouldn’t be scaring Victorians but they should understand that October and November is the time to do fire prevention work.”
South Australian Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton said the state’s southeast has an above-average chance of fires but other areas could also be hit.
“All we need is one afternoon of high temperatures, low humidity and very strong winds and we can have a serious and dangerous fire anywhere in the state,” he said.
The east coast of Tasmania, which was hit by serious fires two years ago, is forecast to have an increased risk.
In WA below-average rainfall and high fuel loads point to a higher risk in a large section of the state, including the area around Perth.