FORECASTERS have said the outbreak of more than 70 blazes and the declaring of Sydney as an area at risk of severe fires is an “ominous sign” of a long and painful fire season across New South Wales.

On Thursday, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said hundreds of firefighters were tackling 79 fires across the state while four firefighters have been injured while battling a blaze after their tanker rolled over.

In a Facebook post, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons lamented so many fires were burning “ … and it’s still winter”.

However, a new study has shown that, bushfires aside, it’s actually the residents of Melbourne and Adelaide who were the most underprepared for heatwaves.

This could lead to more heat-related deaths in these cities compared to say, Brisbane, despite the Queensland capital being overall hotter than either.

Further research has suggested relief from the heat could be far off with “abnormally high” temperatures set to continue until 2022.

Conditions have eased overnight surrounding a fire that has burnt through more than 3000 hectares near Bega in southern NSW. But the RFS has said strong winds were expected to pick up on Thursday.

Retired potter Susan Curran, from Milton which is close to a blaze in Ulladulla, told AAP she had taken shelter from the blaze in the nearby town.

“All this is about is low humidity, dry fuel and strong winds. Unless we get substantial rainfall, we are really concerned for the summer,” she said.

“Usually winter conditions are just rainy and it just blows roofs off. Winter fires? It’s radical.”


Three teenagers have been charged with lighting a fire during a total fire ban in the NSW Blue Mountains.

Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe said the tourist hot spot just west of Sydney was of particular concern.

“In the Blue Mountains the vegetation is drier than it was in 2013 when more than 200 homes were lost due to fires,” Mr Sharpe said.

“For the Sydney area it was the earliest severe fire danger and total fire ban on record for the season, about three weeks earlier than the previous record, so it’s an ominous sign.”

Mr Sharpe said it was the driest start to the year since 1965 and the warmest first seven months on record. “Considering it’s so warm and so dry, coming through spring and into the starts to summer we’re anticipating a very dangerous fire season,” he added.


His words were echoed by the RFS’ Mr Fitzsimmons, who took to Facebook to raise his concerns.

“We have more than 70 fires burning across NSW and more than 800 firefighters working to save life, property and other assets. Oh, and it’s still winter!” he wrote.

“Unfortunately for all, the forecast over coming months indicates a continuance of drier and warmer than normal conditions for NSW and SE Australia.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s three monthly climate outlook, released today, forecasts September and October are likely to be drier than average for most of northern, eastern and southern Australia.

While El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole — two of Australia’s most powerful climate drivers — are effectively dormant right now, the BOM has said they could crank up in spring. Years that feature an El Nino often mean less rainfall and hotter days for eastern Australia.


A recently released study has said Melbourne and Adelaide were the two Australian cities most prone to deaths during extreme heatwaves among the five largest capitals.

Senior research fellow at the University of Technology Sydney, Thomas Longden, wrote in the journal Climatic Change that between 2001 and 2015 the two cities suffered the most exposure to temperatures beyond a crucial threshold of 7.26C above average, which he states can be an extreme heatwave measure.

“Above this threshold, deaths are more likely because people are not acclimatised to the extreme weather.”

Mr Longden said there were 151 deaths in Melbourne and 144 in Adelaide due to extreme heatwaves between 2001 and 2015.

Despite Brisbane being located in an area with higher overall temperatures, it was less prone to extreme heatwaves and residents were more prepared for and acclimatised to the conditions.

When the heat hits, Brisbanites are better placed to cope.

Graphs produced by Mr Longden (below) show a black line denoting heatwave-related deaths that increases as the temperature rises. The graphs for Melbourne and Adelaide show both cities’ temperatures spiking more frequently, and so more in correlation with the black line showing deaths, than Sydney, Perth or Brisbane.

“Since the severe heatwaves of 2009, many states and territories have implemented or revised their heatwave response plans, or conducted awareness campaigns to educate people about the health risks. But more can be done to make vulnerable people aware of upcoming heatwave events,” he wrote in The Conversation.


Earlier this week, research from the UK’s University of Southampton and the French Laboratory of Physical and Spatial Oceanography said the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans will be “abnormally warm,” beyond the current global warming trend, for the next five years.

Southampton University’s Dr Florian Sévellec said: “We show that the 2018-2022 climate is likely to be warmer than expected by the solely long-term forced global warming trend.”

The researcher told The Sun that the spike in temperatures was partly down to a natural “warm phase” in the climate. This phase was further exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Over the next two years there is a 64 per cent chance for the atmosphere and 74 per cent for the ocean to be anomalously warm, the study said. Extreme cold events of the surface atmosphere are also likely to decrease.