Explainer: Why Australia is battling floods, weather again

Thousands of people are being urged to evacuate as a result of floods brought on by excessive rain that are affecting broad areas of southeast Australia.

Emergency flood warnings have been issued for parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and the island state of Tasmania after an extreme weather system this week dumped more than a month’s worth of rain on the region.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, flooding in March and April on the east coast caused A$4.8 billion ($3.3 billion) in insured damage.

With numerous rivers in the state at catastrophic flood levels, Victoria has been the state most severely affected by the recent floods.

The Goulburn River at Seymour, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Melbourne, reached its highest point this week above the May 1974 record of 7.64 meters (25 ft), and conditions are predicted to deteriorate in the regional city of Shepparton, where major flooding is predicted for Saturday night.

A flood clean-up was in progress in Melbourne’s west after the Maribyrnong River breached its banks on Friday, flooding neighbourhoods close to the CBD.

More than 60 warnings are in effect in New South Wales across the state line, including ones for the cities of Forbes and Wagga Wagga. Sydney, the capital of Australia, had the wettest year on record since records first began in 1858 earlier in October.

In Tasmania, flooding has impacted the north, particularly the rural districts close to Launceston, the second-most populous city in the state. Authorities have issued a warning that flooding in the state’s flood-affected areas are likely to continue to rise on Saturday.

Australia is exposed to the Pacific Ocean’s La Nina weather phenomena for the third consecutive year, which normally provides above-average rainfall to the east of the country.

The Indian Ocean Dipole, a phenomena affecting rainfall patterns close to the Indian Ocean, including Australia, is another factor. The likelihood of above-average rainfall in most of Australia from September to November rose after it turned negative in May.

According to Agus Santoso, a senior researcher at the University of New South Wales Climate Research Centre, “the oceans north of Australia are warmer and that causes more moisture to migrate from the Indian ocean to eastern portions of Australia.”

Storm cells that recently dropped very strong rainfall to the east of the country made the situation worse, he said. “You basically have storm and rain systems and severe weather.”

Santoso projected that when the effects of La Nina and the Indian Ocean Dipole fade, circumstances will improve, particularly over the summer.

Despite this, the nation’s weather forecaster anticipates that eastern Australia will enjoy above-average rainfall in the spring and early summer due to the ongoing La Nina.

During Australia’s severe weather season, which lasts from October to April, more widespread flooding has been predicted for the country’s eastern and northern regions, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The forecaster stated this month that any rainfall currently has the potential to produce widespread flooding because rivers are high and dams are full throughout most of eastern Australia.

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