More extreme weather, fires and drought forecast for Australia

A personnel conducts drone seeding to help regenerate Australia's forests after devastation bushfires, in Aroona, Queensland, on Oct 14, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS/WWF AUSTRALIA

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia can expect longer wildfire seasons, more droughts and increased bleaching events at its famous coastal reefs as the climate continues to warm, according to a report on Friday (Nov 13).

The warning from the Bureau of Meteorology and national science agency CSIRO comes as Australia tries to learn lessons from unprecedented wildfires earlier this year that caused more than A$10 billion (S$9.8 billion) of damage and killed 33 people as firefighting resources were stretched to the limit.

More than 24 million ha was burnt - an area about the size of the UK.

At least 3,000 homes were destroyed and almost three billion koalas, kangaroos, reptiles and other animals were killed or displaced.

This year's La Nina weather event, which typically delivers more rain and cooler temperatures, means 2020 is unlikely to be as warm as 2019, said Mr Karl Braganza, the bureau's manager of climate prediction services.

"However, the warming trend, primarily caused by climate change, increases the likelihood of extreme events that are beyond our historical experience," said the State of the Climate 2020 report.

Overall, cool season rainfall in the country's south-east and south-west is expected to continue to decline, leading to more time in drought in the coming decades.

Still, more intense, short-duration heavy rain events are expected.

"The message is very clear here," said Dr Jaci Brown, research director at the CSIRO's Climate Science Centre.

"The projections are for hotter and drier conditions going forward."

Increased and longer-lasting marine heatwaves will raise the likelihood of "more frequent and severe bleaching events" at places like the Great Barrier and Ningaloo reefs, according to the report.

Covid-19 restrictions this year have curbed emissions but not enough to make a discernible impact on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, it said.

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