The heat wave in south eastern Australia has significantly increased the risks of a fast moving major bushfire.
Jason Sharples, a Senior Lecturer at the University Of New South Wales, says a bushfire would spread more rapidly than normal.
“The forecast weather patterns are quite reminiscent of conditions before Black Saturday, with severe and expansive high temperatures across the southern part of the continent and the presence of low pressure cells on either side of the country in the tropics,” he says.
Black Saturday was on February 7, 2009, when 173 people died and more than 2,000 homes were destroyed in Victoria.
The factors: temperatures above 40 degrees; forecast low atmospheric moisture; relative humidity likely to fall below 20 per cent.
The combination of high temperature and low relative humidity means that the moisture content of vegetation will be very low.
“Hence, if a bushfire was to start, it would be expected to spread more rapidly than normal,” Dr Sharples says. “Moreover, spot fires can be expected to be more numerous and to spread more rapidly.”
The temperature in central Adelaide hit 45 degrees at lunchtime with more heat forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.
Melbourne also was sweating past the 40 degree mark.
And in the Perth Hills residents were preparing to inspect the damage from bushfires which left one dead and more than 50 homes destroyed.
The Bureau of Meteorology says there’s a build up of excess heat when there are high temperatures over several days.
Alasdair Hainsworth, Assistant Director for Weather Services, says the bureau’s new pilot heatwave forecast shows extreme heatwave conditions in southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.
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