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Australia Facing Unseasonably Hot, Dry Weather

FILE - A man watches the sunset from a park bench in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, Nov. 16, 2020.

SYDNEY - Scientists are warning that Australia faces a scorching summer as the weather bureau is forecasting unseasonably hot and dry weather in coming months.

Heatwaves are Australia’s deadliest natural hazard. They kill more people than bushfires, floods, storms and drought combined.

This year, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting warmer and drier conditions between August and October. Academics warn that if the El Niño weather pattern is supercharged by climate change, then the summer could be scorching. El Niño -- literally “little boy” in Spanish – increases the chances of drier and hotter conditions across much of Australia.

The United Nations World Meteorological Organization said earlier this month that an El Niño was under way.

It is part of the naturally occurring phenomenon called the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which affects the world’s weather.

An El Niño is typically declared when sea surface temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean increase to at least 0.5 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

Australia’s national weather agency has yet to officially declare the start of an El Niño because one of the metrics – the difference in atmospheric pressure between Tahiti and the northern Australian city of Darwin – has yet to reach the necessary threshold.

But as the heatwave crisis continues in the northern hemisphere, many Australians worry about what is in store for them. Some experts are anticipating one of Australia’s hottest summers, fueling the risks of bushfires and droughts.

Barry Calvert, the president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that cities must be designed to cope with the heat.

"The housing we have now in western Sydney is not designed for this heat," he said. "It is all based on air conditioning. As you know, if the grid goes out, the air conditioning doesn’t work, and those houses become like little prisons of heat."

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Its highest-ever recorded temperature is over 50 degrees Celsius.