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Heavy summer rainfall across Queensland likely to dampen bushfire risk, says BOM

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Southeast Queensland can expect a particularly wet spring and summer, with rainfall predicted to be 80 per cent higher than average to ease the bushfire risk.

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Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) senior climatologist Greg Browning said the BOM expected a La Nina weather phenomenon combined with a negative Indian Ocean dipole would create widespread high levels of rainfall.

Both drivers can lead to above-average cyclone activity, which is also likely this year. However, Browning said the BOM’s cyclone outlook would not be released until October.

He said the seasons’ winds would be nothing like those last year that made a bad bushfire season even worse.

“It’s not looking anything like last year,” Browning said. “Last year we had really dry, windy, horrible conditions that were conducive to the bushfires last year. We’re not likely to see them in any widespread fashion.”

Browning said southern parts of Queensland could expect to receive the heaviest levels of rainfall at 80 per cent above average, but above-average falls would be widespread.

He said the La Nina weather phenomenon would not be as strong as it was in previous years, such as 2010 and 2011, when the rainfall resulted in heavy flooding.

“The impacts are not likely to be as strong,”  Browning said.

“The schedule is already behind what we saw in 2010 so we have a fair bit more work to do for the possibility of widespread flooding to start occurring.”

But Browning said increased rainfall would not be enough to seriously alleviate the big dry in drought-declared areas.

“While we have seen some rainfall compared to the long drought which has been going for at least three years, we have a long way to go before we get back on top of those long-term rainfall deficiencies,” he said.

“Something like the La Nina could certainly improve that situation and some areas may [recover], but that still needs a lot of work.”

‘Dangerous transition period’

Queensland is at the start of its bushfire season. While heavier falls would help dampen down fire grounds, the rain has not yet begun.

“We’re already at that stage now where bushfires can start to become an issue,” Mr Browning said.

“We’re in a little bit of a potentially dangerous transition period; there are a lot of areas that haven’t seen rain yet at this stage and they’re dry coming off a couple of years of really dry conditions.”

Parts of southeast Queensland and the southern border region are still quite dry. Until significant rainfall arrives, they face an elevated fire risk.

– ABC / Jessica Rendall

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