Fire risk in northern Australia high this dry season
Large areas of northern Australia face the prospect of an above normal bushfire season this year, due to generally below average rainfall in the months leading up to the main fire season.
This is the major conclusion of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre’s (CRC) Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for the Northern Territory and northern Queensland and Western Australia.
The bushfire risk is greatest for the north west Northern Territory, central Queensland and the central region of northern Western Australia. These conditions are due to a wet season that saw rainfall in short intense bursts, followed by high humidity, isolated afternoon thunderstorms and sunny days. This short burst of wet weather followed by long exposure to sunshine was ideal for vegetation growth.
Bushfire risk for the Northern Territory is greatest in the north west, extending around the coast from Darwin and inland towards Katherine. This is chiefly due to the increasing density and spread across this region of gamba grass– a weed that burns easily with high intensity.
Above average bushfire risk is faced across north central Queensland, due to high fuel loads and dry soil conditions. Fast running, high intensity grass fires can be expected over most of this region.
In Western Australia, widespread grass growth due to high rainfall in the early dry season has resulted in high fuel loads and above average bushfire risk in both the Kimberly and Pilbara.
Fire agencies warn that significant fire activity can still occur in areas identified as having normal bushfire potential. These fires may still cause environmental damage and risk to life and property.
Each year, the Bushfire CRC publishes separate seasonal bushfire outlooks for northern and southern Australia. The 2013 Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook was prepared after a meeting between fire and land managers from the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Bushfire CRC. The fire season starts earlier in the north than in southern Australia, coinciding with the dry season.
The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for the 2013-2014 summer will be available at the beginning of September.
Seasonal Outlooks are published as Bushfire CRC Fire Notes. View the Northern Australia seasonal bushfire outlook 2013 here.