It’s gonna be hot, damn hot

Safecom fire  pic

Photo:  Safecom

South Australia’s fire season outlook

SOUTH Australia is likely to have an early start to the fire season, following the Bureau of Meteorology's spring weather forecast.

The forecast, released on August 16, shows that the chances of getting more than the median (typical) rainfall in September and October is only 40 per cent at best over the Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula, Mid North and the Mt Lofty Ranges, and as low as 20 per cent in parts of the Riverland and southeast of the state.

There is a least a 60 per cent chance that temperatures will exceed the median maximum temperatures in September and October, except close to the coast and on Kangaroo Island  and the southern tips of the peninsulas.

The soil dryness index, one of the factors used to calculate the fire danger ratings, is already high in part of the Eyre Peninsula, Riverland and the Southeast.

On 16th of August, the index for Renmark was 160 – meaning it would take an estimated downpour of 160mm of rain to saturate the soil.   Cleve and Wudinna on the EP were almost as dry, with indices of 141 and 132.  Lameroo, near the Victorian border, had an index of 139, while Clare, in the heart of one of the state's great wine regions,  and just 135 km north of Adelaide, had an index of 54.

The outlook for New South Wales, Victoria and the south west of Western Australia is as bad, or worse.

Drier conditions

The Bureau notes that much of the eastern and southern mainland has already experienced a very dry first half of the year. It warns that the "increased chances of drier conditions indicates areas currently experiencing drought are less likely to see significant respite in the coming three months".

That's bad news for farmers, especially in NSW, where the entire state has been drought declared.

It is not good news either for the nation's firefighters.

The fire season has officially started, almost two months early, in NSW, and the Rural Fire Service there has already had to battle more than 50 fires across the state in the past week.  As of August 17 one of those, at Bemboka in the Bega Valley area, had burnt 4,000 hectares, destroyed a number of homes, and was still out of control.  Three others each burnt more than 1,500 hectares before being controlled.

In Victoria, a fire north of Cape Conran in the east of the state burned at least 800 hecatares before being contained, but late last week it was still not fully controlled.

South Australia has been relatively quiet  . . . so far.

Updated 17 August 2018

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