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Effects of the 2006/7 El Niño on Australian climate and bushfire season Brad Murphy National Climate Centre Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

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Presentation on theme: "Effects of the 2006/7 El Niño on Australian climate and bushfire season Brad Murphy National Climate Centre Australian Bureau of Meteorology."— Presentation transcript:

1 Effects of the 2006/7 El Niño on Australian climate and bushfire season Brad Murphy National Climate Centre Australian Bureau of Meteorology

2 Outline  ENSO impacts in Australia  typical climate response to El Niño / La Niña  El Niño in Australian region  rainfall and temperature response  impacts on water availability  economic impacts  Long-term drought in south eastern Australia  Bushfires in south eastern Australia  Impacts on Bushfire season

3 Typical El Niño rainfall response Jan Apr Jul Oct Jan Apr Jul Oct Jan

4 Previous Droughts and El Niño

5 2006 Rainfall and Temp anomalies 30% of continent in decile 1 (Vic 93%, Tas 74%, South Aus. 50%) Alpine regions lowest on record

6 Records broken in 2006   SE Aust Tmax +1.93°C (highest)   Southern Aust +1.85°C (highest) Record low minimum temperatures - severe, damaging frosts:   Major losses in the Goulburn Valley fruit crop (25 Sept –2.7°C at Wangaratta)   Crop losses in parts of SE Aus in Oct, particularly to grapes (29 Oct –12.0°C at Charlotte Pass (NSW), new Australian record low for Oct) Examples of lowest annual rainfall on record:   Harrietville, Vic., 503 mm (opened 1884, mean 1435 mm, previous record 707 mm in 1982)   Burnie, Tasmania, 408 mm (opened 1944, mean 950 mm, previous record 670 mm in 1972)

7 Statistical OutcomePOAMA ModelDynamic Seasonal Outlooks from 2006 Winter Spring Rainfall Tmax Tmin

8 Long-term drought Last 10 years Last 5 years 50 year trend

9 Water storages/streamflows Lowest recorded inflows into Murray River system (40% of previous lowest record) Severe water restrictions in many urban and rural centres

10 Agricultural Production and Drought Assistance

11 Major Past Bushfires in Victoria  February 'Black Thursday’  5,000,000 hectares burnt, 12 lives lost, 2000 buildings  February – March  60 lives lost  January 'Black Friday’  2,000,000 hectares, 71 deaths, 650 buildings  1944  deaths, 1 million hectares burnt  February 'Ash Wednesday’  100 fires, 47 deaths, 2000 houses lost  Eastern Victorian (Alpine) Fires  87 fires on 8 Jan, burnt for 59 days, 1.3 million hectares, 41 homes lost  Significant but smaller-scale fires also in:  1898, 1932, , 1952, 1962, 1965, , 1972, 1977, 1980, 1985, 1988, 1997

12 Seasonal Bushfire Assessment  Consensus assessment of bushfire potential in upcoming season  Participants from NCC, Research Centre and Regional Fire and Water Agencies  Modelled on U.S. National Seasonal Assessment Workshops  Considers recent climate, seasonal climate outlooks, current fuel loads and curing  Began in 2006, now split into Northern and Southern fire seasons Seasonal Fire Potential Outlook for Seasonal Fire Potential Outlook for

13 Tasmanian Bushfires October 2006  Record lowest rainfall Jan-Oct (232mm Hobart Airport - mean 402mm)  Record October max and min temps on 12 th (33.4°C/17.0°C at Hobart Airport, averages 17.3°C/7.4°C)  Gale force winds on 11 th and 12 th  Extremely early start for fire season  Worst fires since 1967  No homes or lives lost

14 Alpine Fires December 2006 MODIS Rapid Response Project at NASA/GSFC 5 December 2006  Lightning ignited 83 fires on 1 Dec, merging into one major complex  Longest fires in Victorian history (69 days)  1,048,000 hectares burnt (10480km²)  1 life lost (fire fighter - indirect)  51 dwellings destroyed Bairnsdale, SE Victoria, 2:30pm December 14.

15 Near Chestnut, NE Victoria, 2pm 7 December. G. Arnoldussen Alpine Fires December 2006  External fire-fighting resources brought in, highest ever international deployments: NSW 1,050, NT 108 SA 10, Qld 14, WA 20 Canada 52 New Zealand 115 USA 114  Severe weather forecasting resources overloaded  season began earlier (September)  request made in September to US National Weather Service for fire weather forecasters to be deployed  ~ 16 forecasters arrived in January (Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart), invaluable in relieving over-worked/stressed local forecasters MODIS Rapid Response Project at NASA/GSFC 12 December 2006

16 2006: 10,480 km² Total area burnt Total area burnt 2003: 13,000 km ² 1939: 20,000 km² FFDI = f(T s, |V|, RH, Drought Factor)

17 Climate Change and Bushfires   Fire seasons are becoming longer and severe seasons more frequent   Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) projected to increase in southeast (except Tasmania)   More “extreme” fire days projected   5-25% (low) and 15-65% (high emissions) by 2020   10-50% (low) and % (high) by 2050 From Lucas, et al From N. Nicholls (2007)

18 Summary   2006 El Niño climate impacts typical for Australia   Dry/hot conditions followed long-term drought and warming trends   Impacts extreme, particularly on water resources and agriculture   Extreme fire conditions forecast in August   Major fires developed in Hobart (October) and Victorian Alps (December-January)   Longest fires in Victorian history, largest area burnt since 1939   Resources stretched to limit, employments from interstate and abroad, losses minimised   Fire seasons getting more frequent and likely to become more severe


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