Australia gets some relief as thunderstorms put out some bushfires

Vinson Kurian Kochi | Updated on January 16, 2020 Published on January 16, 2020

In this file photo a New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service volunteer douses fire during back-burning operations.

The country’s national weather forecaster expects wetter-than-usual weather over East Australia, where many bushfires continue to burn, next week

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a wetter-than-average week (January 20-26) across much of bushfire-ravaged East Australia, while most of Central and West Australia is likely to be drier than average.

The dry signal shifts to the northern half of the country the following week (January 27 to February 2) with little change in the odds towards a wetter or drier week further South. February to April has roughly equal chances of being wetter or drier than average for most of Australia. This means there is no strong push towards wetter- or drier-than-average conditions for the coming three months for much of the country.


Also read: Indian Ocean Dipole decays, to hasten monsoon over fire-ravaged Australia


Some small parts of the East are a tad more likely to be drier than average, while parts of the North are likewise more likely to be wetter than average. While outlooks for drier than average conditions have eased compared to those issued for late 2019, several months of above average rainfall are needed to see a recovery from the current long-term rainfall deficit.

Welcome weather

This outlook came out even as the bleary-eyed country woke up to some delightfully welcome weather as heavy rain and a massive thunderstorm rolled over the worst-affected parts in the East and South-East over the past day or two. Heavy rain, flash floods and severe thunderstorms have swept over Melbourne and rain is forecast to hit the bushfire-affected parts of New South Wales and Victoria later this week.



Australia's wildfire crisis intensified as coastal towns across the southeast caught ablaze, forcing thousands of stranded tourists and locals to seek refuge on beaches. –Bloomber (file photo)


The good tidings even prompted the NSW Rural Fire Service to tweet that the weather alert amounted to “all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one.” One of the country's worst bushfire seasons has so far burnt through more than 10 million hectares of land, killed 28 people, and destroyed thousands of homes nationwide.

Monsoon: So near, yet so far

While monsoon-like conditions were experienced over North Australia this past week, and some locations experienced heavy rainfall, official thresholds used to determine the monsoon onset at Darwin have not been met, the Bureau of Meteorology had said in an earlier update. Monsoonal flow was too shallow and did not last long enough over Darwin for monsoon criteria to be met. This was even as a monsoon trough provided ideal conditions for cyclones Blake and Claudia to form off the North Coast, before moving away. As a result, monsoonal conditions are no longer occurring, although significant residual moisture remains over the region.




This is what is triggering widespread rainfall over parts of the North-West of the country and northern parts of Queensland. Meanwhile, a monsoon trough and associated tropical low pressure were being established over the northern Coral Sea, east of the Northern Queensland coast.

Thunderstorms, heavy rain

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said that 4 cm of rain fell at Avalon on Wednesday afternoon, and wind gusts reached 110 km/h as wild weather hit the South and moved North. At St Albans, 5.4 cm fell in 30 minutes between 4.15 pm and 4.45 even as the Bureau updated its forecast to include the possibility of giant hail.

Across the country, it has forecast up to 1 cm of rain could fall over active fire regions in New South Wales and Victoria on Wednesday, with more expected on Thursday and Friday. Up to 5 cm of rain could fall across the South Coast of New South Wales from Wednesday to Saturday, and up to 2.5 cm in the Snowy Valley and North Victoria, where cross-border fires continue to burn through hundreds of thousands of hectares. The Bureau has issued a warning for severe thunderstorms, damaging winds, and heavy rainfall for Queensland province, in the north-east of the country, as well.



Published on January 16, 2020
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