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El nino means hotter weather for Southern Australia

IT’S official. El Niño is back and it’s not good news.

The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed what climatologists have been debating for months – that the warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean has begun.
And it’s a little early.
The last time an El Niño event was declared was five years ago. And they generally occur between June and November.
The news is not great for Australia’s drought-stricken farmers.
El Niño is generally the precursor for drought, as it causes reduced rainfall in winter and spring in the eastern states.
It also causes warmer than average daytime temperatures over the southern half of the country.
Sea surface temperatures have been at, or near, El Niño thresholds since spring last year, save for a brief dip soon after Christmas.
Just four weeks ago, the bureau raised its El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) tracker to the “alert” level, raising to 70 per cent or greater its expectation an El Niño would form in the Pacific in the winter or spring of 2015.
Wide areas of Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia are in severe drought going back more than two years.

 BOM graph explaining how an El Niño occurs. Picture: BOM Source: Supplied

BOM graph explaining how an El Niño occurs. Picture: BOM Source: Supplied

Assistant Director for Climate Information Services, Neil Plummer, said while the El Niño is forecast to strengthen during winter, the strength of an El Niño does not necessarily correspond with its impact on Australian rainfall.

Australia experienced one of its worst droughts during a weak El Niño in 2006–07, while stronger events such as the El Niño event in 1997–98 had only a modest impact on Australian rainfall.

“Recent significant rainfall and flooding along the east coast of Australia, associated with two almost back-to-back East Coast Lows, did not penetrate far into inland regions and therefore have done little to alleviate conditions in drought affected areas,” Mr Plummer said.

 BOM map of El Niño in action. Picture: BOM Source: Supplied

BOM map of El Niño in action. Picture: BOM Source: Supplied

David Jones, of the bureau’s climate information services branch, says forecast models from around the world suggest the El Niño will probably have a significant impact.

“What those models show is that the current El Niño event is likely to see us get increased intensity around about spring into early summer,” Dr Jones said.

“You know, there’s always a little bit of doubt when it comes to intensity forecasts, but across the models as a whole we’d suggest that this will be quite a substantial El Niño event.

“Certainly the models aren’t predicting a weak event. They are predicting a moderate-to-strong El Niño event. So this is a proper El Niño event, this is not a weak one or a near miss as we saw last year.

 This koala is not happy that El Niño is here. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology Source: Supplied

This koala is not happy that El Niño is here. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology Source: Supplied

WHAT IS AN EL NINO?

* A warming of sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean that disrupts weather patterns across the Pacific.

* Can cause a corresponding cooling of the ocean in the western Pacific and around Northern Australia

* Cooler seas near Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia reduces convection – moist air at the surface that is heated, rises, cools and condenses into rain-bearing clouds.

* Convection migrates towards the eastern Pacific and can deliver increased rain to the west coast of North and South America * El Niño can disrupt the trade winds that, in the southern tropical Pacific, blow moisture-laden air towards eastern Australian coast

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF AN EL NINO IN AUSTRALIA?

LOWER RAINFALL:

* El Niño increases chances of below-average rainfall through winter and spring in much of Australia, especially the north and east

* El Niño does not always mean drought but nine out of the 10 driest winter/spring periods happened in El Niño years

* Australia’s severest droughts – 1982/83, 1994, 2002 and 2006 were all associated with El Nino * Since 1900, El Ninos delivered winter/spring rainfall 28 per cent lower than the long-term average

TEMPERATURE EXTREMES:

* Warmer-than-average weather, particularly in southern Australia and particularly in the second half of the year.

Decreased cloud cover increases surface heating and assists to keep rainfall low

* Background warming of the atmosphere has made El Niño years warmer since the 1950s, the Bureau of Meteorology says

* In warmer months, El Niño can cause fewer slow-moving “blocking” high pressure systems, worsening heat extremes for cities such as Adelaide and Melbourne with an increase in extreme hot days and heatwaves further north

* Frost increases in El Niño years in cooler months in eastern Australia because clearer skies contain less daytime heat and lead to reduced minimum temperatures

* Between 15 and 30 per cent more frost days in El Niño years than average in northern Victoria and southern NSW, affecting agriculture

* Australia’s record low temperature of -23C at Charlotte Pass, NSW, on June 29, 1994, occurred during a strong El Niño

INCREASED BUSHFIRE RISK:

* El Niño droughts dry the bush and have led to disasters including the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires that killed 71 people in Victoria and South Australia.

DISRUPTED TROPICAL WEATHER:

* Fewer tropical cyclones, especially for Queensland

* Later onset of northern monsoon rains

* Below-average wet season rains early in the season, with average rain later in the season

REDUCED WINTER SNOWFALL:

* The four lowest recorded peak snow depths in Australia’s alpine country occurred in El Niño years, including severe drought years in 1982 and 2006

Summer 2014-15 weather forecast: Bushfires, heatwaves and severe heat

Australia set to swelter through summer

Australia set to swelter through summer


AUSTRALIA is headed for its third consecutive severe summer with temperatures set to hit way above average bringing increased risk of bushfires, heatwaves and not much rain, a new report has revealed.

If you thought last summer was hot, you’re not wrong. Australia has sweltered through record warm temperatures over the past two and a half years with 2013 our warmest year on to date. And the heat’s not going to let up any time soon according to the Sky News Severe Weather Report, released today.

Preview: Bondi Beach was already packed in September and summer’s still a long way off. Source:  News Corp Australia

Preview: Bondi Beach was already packed in September and summer’s still a long way off.
Source: News Corp Australia


Temperatures are likely to hit more than 10 degrees above average over summer 2014-15.

“The distinguishing feature of this upcoming severe weather season will be heat, and we’re expecting above average temperatures across the whole country,” Sky’s chief meteorologist Tom Saunders told news.com.au.

“We can’t predict exactly how much but we’re expecting a scorching summer.”

Average temperatures are set to soar. Pic: Sky News Weather. Source:  Supplied

Average temperatures are set to soar. Pic: Sky News Weather. Source: Supplied

The report has forecast another very hot summer with temperatures “likely to remain above average across virtually the entire country”, the Sky News report reveals.

The report warns severe temperatures would lead to “a heightened risk of bushfires and heatwaves”.

Heatwaves are predicted across the country. Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are all expected to be hit with at least one or two periods of more than five days where temperatures exceed five degrees above average.

The warning comes at the beginning of the bushfire danger period, with NSW Rural Fire Service yesterday warning those in bushfire zones to begin to prepare their homes.

We’ve already had a preview of what’s to come with maximum temperatures for September well above average.

Reaching up to 35.5 degrees, Sydney had its hottest two consecutive days on record earlier this week.

Jocelyn Seaman and Alan Seaman are among victims of last year’s severe bushfires and have begun rebuilding their home at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains. Pic: Ruttyn Sam. Source:  News Limited

Jocelyn Seaman and Alan Seaman are among victims of last year’s severe bushfires and have begun rebuilding their home at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains. Pic: Ruttyn Sam. Source: News Limited


Originally published as Summer 2014-15 weather forecast: Bushfires, heatwaves and severe heat

Power bill rip off

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A planned cut in the government’s Renewable Energy Target would put billions in the power giants’ pockets while slugging mums and dads. Source: Getty Images

FAMILIES are set to be hit with another big power bill increase, as the energy companies reap a whopping $10 billion profit windfall.

A planned cut in the government’s Renewable Energy Target would put billions in the power giants’ pockets while slugging mums and dads.

A report commissioned by the Climate Institute, Australian Conservation Foundation and World Wildlife Fund Australia — which is due to be released today — shows that a proposed drop in the RET would add $30 annually on families’ power bills.

Energy Australia would be the biggest winner under such a reduction, netting a massive $2 billion.
Rival companies Origin Energy would get $1.5 billion and AGL $1 billion.
The power companies’ profits would be boosted by a 7 per cent rise in coal-fired power production, the report said.
Pollution would also increase by 150 million tonnes of carbon up to 2030, at a cost of $14 billion.

The federal government’s RET scheme aims to have 20 per cent of Australia’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

The scheme has been given bipartisan political support, but there is a growing view within the federal government that the scheme’s renewable energy target should be lowered.

Climate Institute executive John O’Connor said the report showed the campaign by the big energy companies to lower the RET was designed to protect their bottom line.

“This modelling highlights the cynical self-interest by power companies’ calls to weaken the Renewable Energy Target,’’ Mr O’Connor said.

The report said lowering the RET would increase prices for mums and dads.

“Reducing the RET increases the wholesale electricity price by 15 per cent on average over the years to 2030,’’ the report read.

“The increase in wholesale prices is due to reduced competition from renewables which have no fuel costs and can therefore outbid fossil generators.’’

The release of the report comes as the Abbott government awaits the findings of a review of the RET scheme.

Conducted by independent economic modelling firm Jacobs, it claims that over the next 15 years coal companies would be $8 billion better off while gas corporations would earn an extra $2 billion.

The report suggested the federal government would need to spend an extra $680 million by 2020 if it were to reach the current RET goals.

The government-authorised report is due out in the coming weeks.

If the federal government was to lower the targets, it would face serious challenges in passing the change to legislation in ­the Senate because Labor and the Greens would oppose the measures.

Originally published as A $10 billion power bill rip-off

Electricity price hike shock

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PRICE SHOCK: Keith Browne and his electricity meter. Picture: Michael Frogley

LIKE everyone else, Wagga retiree Keith Browne was looking forward to a fall in electricity prices, or at worst almost unchanged charges, with the abolition of the carbon tax last month.
So he received a massive jolt when he received a letter from his electricity retailer Sanctuary Energy telling him his tariff was leaping 28 per cent.
Mr Browne’s tariff per kilowatt hour was hiked from 31.11 cents to 39.88 cents, which will add hundreds of dollars onto his annual bill.
“I checked it three times, I thought 28 per cent, that can’t be right, surely,” Mr Browne said.
But it is right, much to Mr Browne’s shock and anger.
In a letter dated July 16, but received by Mr Browne on July 23, Tuggerah-based Sanctuary Energy blamed removal of electricity price regulation by the NSW Government from July 1 for the jump.
The company “linked” Mr Browne’s individual contract to its standard negotiated contract price for the rest of the contract term without prior notice or consultation.
The increase defies government predictions that deregulation will allow customers on a regulated price to “share in the benefits of increased competition, better offers and more control over the price they pay” (NSW Resources and Energy facts sheet).
Mr Browne rang Sanctuary Energy’s customer service number to complain.

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“They said this is a new thing for us and we don’t know how to deal with it; send us an email and we will pass it on to management to deal with,” Mr Browne said.

He sent the email and as of Friday was not aware of a response.
“That is probably the biggest disappointment at this stage, that they have not responded to my problem; whether they don’t care or won’t do anything about it I don’t know,” Mr Browne said.
Responding to an an inquiry by The Daily Advertiser about Mr Browne’s predicament, a Sanctuary Energy spokeswoman said the company was looking at the issues he had raised and would give him a response to address those concerns.
She said she could not answer questions on the wider issue of why deregulation had led to such a big price rise because that issue needed to be referred to executive management.
And that response would take some days.
In his email, Mr Browne asked if his contract with Sanctuary Energy was now null and void as the sudden tariff change had changed the contract.
Unfortunately for Mr Browne, it is not simple for him to change electricity retailers.
The contract he signed with Sanctuary Energy two years ago included the installation of solar panels on his garage roof.
If Mr Browne breaks the contract within five years, he will have to pay Sanctuary Energy $4000 for the panels, a figure that drops to $2000 after five years and zero after 10 years.
Mr Browne said he had been a happy Sanctuary Energy customer until being hit with this price rise.
Origin, Wagga’s largest electricity retailer, announced last month it would reduce its fixed and variable electricity charges by 1.5 per cent for residential customers on regulated contracts as a result of deregulation.
Origin has said scrapping the carbon tax should also save households about 7 per cent on electricity and 5 per cent on gas.
Origin, however, has increased gas prices by about 20 per cent.
The increase has been blamed on a tight gas supply market.