The Bureau of Meteorology has formally declared an El Nino weather event.
Australia is already seeing extreme conditions in some part of the continent with an extended period of warm and dry weather to start spring.
El Nino declared
With 61 fires burning across the NSW landscape on September 19, the Bureau said there was an elevated risk of fires and extreme heat for the summer.
The declaration comes two months after the World Meteorological Organization announced an El Nino was under way, increasing the likelihood of record high global temperatures.
The BoM has had Australia on an El Nino alert since May, saying there was a 70 percent likelihood of the system emerging by the summer, but did not make the announcement until September 19 because certain conditions had not been met.
In the announcement on September 19, the Bureau declared that a positive Indian Ocean Dipole was under way, which can shift rainfall away from Australia and would increase the likelihood of a drier than usual spring and summer.
When a positive Indian Ocean Dipole and El Nino occur together, their drying effect was typically stronger and more widespread across Australia.
This weather pattern is the opposite of La Nina, and is linked to hot, dry weather and heatwaves.
CSIRO senior research scientist Dr Nandini Ramesh said three consecutive La Ninas may provide some protection against the hot summer ahead.
"Three rainy La Nina years have provided us with a buffer against drought, with soil moisture and reservoir levels still high," she said.
"While the risk of fire weather is higher and preparedness is crucial, this buffer means that we are not necessarily guaranteed a catastrophic fire season this year."
The Bureau said we can expect a continuation of global heat until at least the middle of 2024. They said an El Nino event typically breaks down in early autumn.
South Eastern states already feeling the heat
Melbourne and Sydney has seen a prolonged run of days above 20 degrees, a warm weather spell that hasn't been seen for many years.
A total fire ban has been declared and school students kept home for the day on NSW's South Coast as temperatures soar across the state.
Severe fire dangers will be seen across the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter region tomorrow.
"Its up to individuals and communities now to prepare for a summer of heat and fire hazards," a Bureau of Meteorology spokesperson said.
Record weather has been noted across the globe this year with the northern hemisphere experiencing it's hottest summer on record.
Concerns for wildlife
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is concerned about the potential impact of an El Nino summer on Australian wildlife.
After the 2019-20 Black Summer fires, koalas were listed as an endangered species in Queensland, NSW and the ACT.
IFAW animal rescue officer Robert Leach said a repeat of that summer would be catastrophic.
"I don't want to imagine what another devastating summer would do to the already declining population numbers of our iconic Aussie species," he said.
"We must do all that we can now to ensure our wildlife and the people who care for them are prepared. Too often we see people put their own lives at risk and refuse to evacuate if they cannot take their animals with them. Preparation saves lives."
Climate compounds El Nino
Climate councillor and leader of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) group, Greg Mullins, said climate change adds to what El Nino events can bring.
"An El Nino event can be like putting fire weather on steroids. With the warmer and drier conditions it usually brings, we could be looking at an extended and potentially volatile fire season," he said.
"Already significant fires have been raging nationwide, including in NSW, Queensland, WA and the NT. A fire near Tennant Creek has already burned hundreds of thousands of hectares, and the entire Northern Territory has been declared a fire danger zone until next March. Nationally, we're warned of a hotter, drier Spring and Summer."
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