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Flash droughts on the cards in 2023



Parts of Australia could be at risk of a flash drought in 2023, with increasing signs the country could be hit by an El Niño weather event, meteorologists are warning.

The dry, warm weather predicted would be a stark contrast to the La Niña event Australia has been experiencing, which led to record-breaking rain and flooding in eastern Australia last year.

La Niña is almost over, according to Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino, who predicts the Bureau of Meteorology will declare the event has come to an end in the Pacific Ocean later this month.

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He has said the Pacific Ocean will then remain "in a neutral state" for a few weeks.

"This is guaranteed because La Niña can't flip straight from La Niña to El Niño without first passing through a neutral phase," Domensino explained.

The meteorologist has said it is very unlikely La Niña will return again in 2023, as it has in the past few years.

He has said predictions show it is possible that weather conditions will remain neutral for the rest of the year, or that they will be an El Niño event, with it too soon to say either "is a firm favourite".

"While it is still too early to have high confidence about El Niño later this year, most international forecast models currently favour its development this winter.

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An El Niño event would increase the likelihood of unusually dry and warm weather over large areas of Australia, as well as the probability of drought and bushfires.

Domensino has explained that the El Niño coming after the wetter weather brought by the past three La Niña events would would help to offset dry and warm influence of El Niño.

But flash droughts, which the Bureau of Meteorology defines as "a type of drought that has undergone rapid intensification that has devastating impacts on agriculture," do bring risks.

"Rapid transition into drier conditions, which can happen when El Niño immediately follows La Niña, can lead to vegetation moisture stress," Domensino has warned.

Flash droughts can also increase the risk of grass and crop fires, due to this type of vegetation drying out faster than forested areas.

There are already sings that rainfall has been waning over parts of eastern Australia in the last few months, coinciding with the breakdown of La Niña.

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