THE state government last week warned Victorians about a long, hot and dry fire season ahead but made no mention of a key driver of drier conditions and hotter temperatures across southeast Australia – El Nino.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the El Nino weather pattern now building in the Pacific Ocean could be worse than the record-breaker of 1997-98, which was one of the drivers of the so-called Millennium drought, which lasted from 1995 to 2010 in some parts of Australia.
The drought in Victoria broke in March 2010 when storms pounded the state but it was not declared over until after the floods of September that year. Dams in the state were 70 per cent full by mid-2012, the highest level for 14 years.
Last week the bureau said the warming of the sea surface in the equatorial Pacific Ocean was a key indicator of El Nino conditions. It would bring lower rainfall on the east coast and southern Australia.
Last Wednesday, Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2015-16 predicted “an above normal fire season with an increased bushfire risk for Victoria”.
The government said it had allocated “more than $20 million [for] a fleet of specialist firefighting aircraft to help keep communities safe this summer”.
Almost 50 aircraft, including two large air tankers (the first one to arrive from the United States several years ago was dubbed Elvis), would be on hand to support emergency services.
Some aircraft would have infrared scanners to pick up hot spots not seen by the naked eye.