Forecasters warn of early start to Queensland cyclone season

Weather bureau says La Nina to bring more severe weather events over summer months.

Queenslanders have been urged to ramp up preparations for the impact of cyclones with an earlier start to the season expected this summer.

Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) Head of Operational Climate Services Dr Andrew Watkins said while northern Australia was on track for an average to slightly above-average cyclone season, the impact of La Nina usually saw activity start earlier.

"On average, Australia sees nine to 11 tropical cyclones each year, with four crossing the coast,” Dr Watkins said.

“The first cyclone to develop in the Australian region occurs earlier during La Nina years.

"People in the north of the country should prepare for tropical cyclones now. 

“And don't forget tropical lows, which can bring heavy rainfall, flooding and cause significant property damage."

The BoM climate outlook released on 26 November forecast La Nina, underway in the tropical Pacific, to peak in December-January and would likely persist until at least the end of February 2021.

La Nina is typically associated with an increased risk of flooding in eastern Australia.

"While the last three weeks have been dry in many parts of the country – due in part to unfavourable tropical weather patterns – it does not signal a weakening of La Nina,” Dr Watkins said.

"Our climate outlook is the opposite of what we experienced last year in Australia. This summer, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are expected to see above average rainfall, meaning we face an increased risk of widespread floods.”

Dr Watkins said while the risk of bushfires was not as high as last summer, they remained likely.

"There's a great chance of grass fires in some areas as recent rain and warm weather have led to vigorous vegetation growth,” Dr Watkins said.

“South-eastern Australia is one of the most fire-prone regions in the world. Even short periods of hot and dry weather increase the risk of fire in summer."

Dr Watkins said the outlook was also a reminder for communities to be prepared for heatwaves over the coming months with daytime temperatures during December-February forecast to be above the long-term average across parts of south-east Australia, as well as along the northern coastline.

"This summer heatwaves may not reach the extreme temperatures of recent years, but may be longer duration and more humid, which can still have a significant impact on human health,” Dr Watkins said.

"Daytime temperatures in summer are likely to be near average, but there will be periods of high heat combined with milder periods.

"It's important to keep up to date with the Bureau's heatwave service."

The BoM outlook also said Australia's temperature and rainfall variability were being influenced by global warming.

“Australia's climate has warmed by 1.44°C since 1910 while recent decades have seen increased rainfall during the northern wet season (October-April) , with more high-intensity and short duration rainfall events,” the BoM outlook said.

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