Wild shift coming after hellish heatwave

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Parts of the nation will experience a dramatic temperature drop towards the end of the week after a short taste of summer to kick spring off.

The Bureau of Meteorology cancelled its heatwave warning at 4pm on Wednesday after placing large stretches of Australia’s eastern coastlines under catastrophic fire conditions. The unseasonable heat has put authorities on high alert, with firefighters working to contain blazes from Queensland to Tasmania.

Parts of Sydney hit a scorching 36C on Wednesday even as winds picked up, forcing firefighters to prepare just three weeks after the end of August.

But for those thinking summer had rolled in and was here to stay, there’s still an ounce of winter to bear before Australia experiences one of its hottest New Year periods in recent years, according to estimates.

Sydney will see a drop of almost 20C from its 36C peak on Wednesday — with the mercury tipped to hit a maximum of 22C on Thursday and a chilly 17C on Friday.

A trough extending to the southeast has brought strong, hot winds over parts of NSW and southern Queensland, while cooler winds behind the trough have brought showers to Tasmania, Victoria, and southern South Australia.

Onshore winds have brought scattered showers to southwest Western Australia and northern Queensland.

From Wednesday evening, Sydney and much of the east coast will be much cooler until Wednesday next week, forecasts say. Friday will be particularly cold, with a top of just 18C in the city’s centre. In the coming days, the cool front will sweep through Tasmania, Victoria and NSW — while the northern parts of the nation will remain hot.

“A high pressure system over the eastern Tasman Sea is extending a ridge over the state‘s northeast while a trough of low pressure is moving across the south, promoting warm and dry conditions in many parts,” the Bureau of Meteorology explained.

“The trough will be reinforced by a cold front entering the far south and these systems will sweep across the southern and western parts of the state on Wednesday, before heading to the northeast on Thursday, bringing a cooler relief in the wake.

“Following this, a new high pressure system is expected to drift across the southeast of the continent and reach the southern Tasman Sea by the end of the week, with heat returning in the west.”

The freshly declared El Nino weather pattern largely affects Eastern Australia and brings dry weather as well as warmer than usual temperatures for the southern two-thirds of the country.

It also brings an increased risk of extreme heat across large parts of the country and increased bushfire danger in southeastern Australia.

Bureau climate services manager Karl Braganza is “confident” the weather pattern will last until the end of summer, saying “that will mean we are likely to see a continuation of the warm and dry conditions over the summer months”.

Though the bureau predicts this year‘s bushfire season will not be as catastrophic as Black Summer in 2019-20, there are still major concerns.

“We‘re already seeing extreme conditions in some parts of the continent, particularly in the duration of heat, so we’ve had an extended period of warm and dry weather to start spring,” Dr Braganza said.

“It is drying out more rapidly than has occurred in recent years, and we are seeing that elevated risk now occurring in eastern NSW in particular and Sydney equalling its record so far today for temperatures for September.”

The findings mean that Australians are at an increased risk of more heat events like the ones currently facing NSW and Victorian locals, according to Climate Science Senior Lecturer at Melbourne University Dr Andrew King.

“The unusually hot weather we‘re seeing across southeast Australia at the moment is a warning of the kind of extremes we’re likely to see more of over the next few months,” he said

“Coming on the back of consecutive La Niña events, this spring will likely be very different and we need to be prepared for more heat, drought and fire weather conditions.”

Australia has been on an El Nino alert since June, with the conditions experienced on the east coast finally ticking every box for the bureau to declare it official.

Dozens of fires are burning across the state, with the most severe on the NSW south coast as increasing hot and dry winds stoke the risk of more serious blazes.

“I think El Nino means we’ve elevated the risk of fire danger and extreme heat in particular in terms of the hazards we face … we aren’t leading into this summer on the back of extended drought which somewhat reduces the risk, but we have seen eastern NSW dry out quite particularly,” Dr Braganza said.

Read related topics:Weather

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