Spirng wildfire rages in New South Wales

Friday, September 22, 2023


Australia is grappling with a severe wildfire threat exacerbated by an unusually hot start to the meteorological spring season.

New South Wales is particularly affected, with dozens of wildfires still burning. While the worst of the heatwave may have passed, persistent dry conditions and gusty winds continue to pose wildfire risks.

The current heatwave is linked to the strengthening of the El Niño climate phenomenon. El Niño occurs when eastern Pacific Ocean water temperatures near the equator exceed the long-term historical average. In Australia, El Niño is associated with increased warm and dry weather.

Sydney recently experienced an official heatwave, with the Sydney airport recording temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) for four consecutive days. In September, when historical average high temperatures in the region are typically around 67 F (19 C), this heatwave shattered records. The previous highest September temperature recorded at the airport was 96 F (35.6 C) in 2000, but this week, temperatures reached 97 F (35.9 C).

“A strong area of high pressure has led to the intense heat,” explained AccuWeather Lead International Forecaster Jason Nicholls.

This scorching weather posed challenges for the Sydney Marathon, where over two dozen participants were hospitalized due to heat-related illnesses.

The heatwave follows Australia’s warmest winter on record, and residents are eagerly anticipating cooler temperatures returning to historical averages over the weekend.

However, the reduction in heat does not eliminate the risk of wildfires. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported that over 70 wildfires were actively burning in the state, with 30 still uncontained. Gusty winds throughout the weekend could fan flames and lead to more uncontrolled blazes.

While the situation may not reach the scale of the devastating 2019-2020 wildfires, concerns persist for wildfire outbreaks during the upcoming summer season, highlighting the ongoing challenges posed by Australia’s harsh climate.

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