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Persistent dry, warm spell worsens bushfire risk

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Large swathes of the east coast face above normal bushfire risk as the dry and warm conditions show no signs of easing.

Areas facing severe danger include regions in Queensland and NSW that are struggling with the ongoing drought, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre’s (CRC) latest seasonal report says.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in its spring outlook expects most of the country to endure warmer and drier than average weather in the coming three months.

Its forecast follows what has been one of the driest winters on record for major parts of the country.

“Winter was wet in parts of southern Victoria and western Tasmania, as well as central Queensland, but for most areas experiencing long-term rainfall deficiencies there was little relief,” BOM Head of Long-range Forecasting Andrew Watkins said.

“Unfortunately, the outlook is not indicating an easing of conditions in drought areas.”

According to the CRC update, unusually warm and dry conditions since the start of the year have worsened the outlook for the upcoming bushfire season.

Victoria, as well as parts of SA and Tasmania, face above normal fire potential too.

The conditions have already forced NSW to bring forward by two months the drought-hit state’s bushfire danger period. The season normally starts in October but kicked off in August after some significant fires in July.

The CRC report says the southern half of the country experienced its driest January-July period on record.

Rainfall in the first seven months of the year has been below to very much below average over large portions of the country.

Areas of above average rainfall were confined to central Queensland, extending to the coast.

“The year to date has been unusually warm and dry for large parts Australia,” the CRC update says.

“The 2019-20 fire season has the potential to be an active season across Australia, following on from a very warm and dry start to the year.”