Friday is shaping up to be a “critical day for fire danger” as the mercury soars and gusty winds smash into parts of eastern Australia.
Forecasters have said conditions in some areas could be similar to last Friday, one of the fiercest of the current bushfire season, when blazes swept across the south-east.
The bushfire risk is expected to be particularly bad in Victoria and South Australia. However much of eastern New South Wales may escape the worsening conditions.
Sky News Weather meteorologist Tom Saunders told news.com.au that South Australia will be the first to be hit, with temperatures reading 40C in Adelaide tomorrow and up to 43C in inland areas. Kangaroo Island, a third of which was decimated by fires causing two deaths, will see highs of around 38C on Thursday.
There are currently total fire bans and severe fire danger ratings in place for the Spencer Gulf and country areas around Adelaide.
“This is all happening ahead of a rapidly moving cold front,” Mr Saunders said.
Once it passes through South Australia, the cold front will barrel through Victoria where fires remain out of control.
“On Friday Victoria will get a spurt of heat and strong winds. Friday will be a critical day of fire danger,” he said.
Friday will see very high fire danger ratings over much of Victoria, rising to severe to extreme danger in northern parts of the state.
The epicentre of Victoria’s fires, Gippsland, is only forecast to have a very high fire rating. However, Mr Saunders said he expected there to be localised areas of Gippsland with more severe danger that could lead to blazes that were impossible to control.
Melbourne should see 33C on Friday, Mallacoota 34C, Orbost 39C and Wodonga 41C. Expect to see some rain in Melbourne with the possibility of a shower in Gippsland.
Once the cold front blows through, some rain should follow it — but not nearly enough.
The fact that there is any rain at all is chiefly down to the monsoon season’s arrival in northern Australia, which is weeks late. Ex-Tropical Cyclone Blake has moved inland over Western Australia and moisture from that is being sucked down towards the southern states.
“It will link up with the cold front. But the problem is the rain won’t last very long. It would be more beneficial if the rain was moving south and linking up with a trough as they are slower moving.
“But because the cold front moves so quickly it’s likely only light rain, between 1 to 10mm, will fall and that’s not enough to extinguish the bushfires. It’s not even close,” Mr Saunders said.
NEW SOUTH WALES/ACT
There was better news for New South Wales which should escape some of the worst effects of the front.
It could still be hot in a number of areas, with Wagga Wagga facing 42C on Friday and Canberra 39C. But areas that have been punished by fires, such as Eden on the far south coast, will only sneak as high as 30C. Nowra could get to 34C and Sydney 29C on Friday.
The cold front is likely to rush through at the best possible time.
“When the strong winds arrive in NSW it will be late on Friday and in the evening the temperatures aren’t so high so the fire danger won’t be so bad.
“By the time people wake up on Saturday, the cool change will have moved through so the timing will work out quite well.”
Rain, however, will be thin on the ground with just a few spots possible on the south coast.
Fingers crossed, more rain could be on the horizon. While Tropical Cyclone Blake is dissipating, another cyclone is brewing off Australia’s north.
What could become Tropical Cyclone Claudia is north-east of Arnhem Land and could strengthen to cyclone force on Thursday. Whether it becomes a cyclone or not, Darwin should see heavy rain — potentially up to 80mm on Friday alone.
The cloud cover from the monsoon should help lower temperatures in the centre of Australia, which in turn should help lower the mercury in the east. And with the right conditions, some of that rain may even make it south as well.