Fire Threat Looms in Sydney, Australia, Despite Brief Heat Relief

By Dan DePodwin, Meteorologist
October 10, 2013; 7:50 PM ET
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After a scorching Thursday, plummeting temperatures late in the evening brought relief to Sydney, Australia. The reprieve, however, will be short-lived, and an enhanced brushfire risk will persist through October with little rain in sight.

Thermometers soared to over 37 C (99 F) in Sydney, Thursday, just shy of the October record of 38.2 C (101 F) which was set in 2004. As the area transitions into summer, hot spells are not unusual but warmer-than-normal conditions have persisted over the last several months dating back to the winter.

Thankfully, a return of searing temperatures is not expected over the next several days as a cold front sliced the heat Thursday evening. With the passage of the front, the temperature in Sydney fell from 30 to 20 C (86 to 68 F) in only 30 minutes! Wind gusts over 70 kph (43 mph) accompanied the cooldown.

@PE_LakeElsinore tweeted: "Wildomar's fire chief Steve Beach advises, "This rain we're having is absolutely inconsequential to the fire season." The threat persists."

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After issuing a total fire ban Thursday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service lifted the ban Thursday evening, and the fire danger was dropped from "extreme" to "very high."

While the cooler weather will help quell the fire threat, rainfall is expected to remain sparse. Aside from a system moving eastward across New South Wales Sunday, dry conditions should prevail in Sydney through much of next week. Without much wet weather, the fire threat should remain elevated over the next several weeks.

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Brushfires are a frequent occurrence in Australia and are beneficial and a way of life for many parts of the ecosystem. However, widespread and fast-moving fires are a threat to homes and businesses across the continent, resulting in property damage and fatalities.

The extended period of parched conditions across New South Wales has made the state particularly vulnerable to fires leading into the summer. Sydney, for example, has only received 38 percent of their normal rainfall since July 1. In addition, an equally long stretch of weather nearly 5 C (41 F) warmer than normal has contributed to the danger.

The weekend should start cool then turn warm Sunday with another brief cool spell early next week. After that, a return to daytime highs above 30C is likely. Expert Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls notes, "The remainder of October looks mainly dry and warm. A cooldown, with a return to normal temperatures, could occur at the very end of the month. Unfortunately, the weather pattern will not but a damper on fire concerns."

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