Bushfire Season 2015 'Going To Get Very Bad'

26/11/2015 3:50 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Bushfire near Newcastle, NSW.

Australia's horror bushfire season is likely to get even worse.

That's the opinion of one of the nation's leading climate and biodiversity experts who says NSW, Tasmania and Victoria are in line for conditions similar to those that have sparked devastating fires in Western Australia and South Australia this month.

The lives of six people have so far been lost in bushfires since the start of November, with the death toll expected to rise from a huge blaze burning out-of-control north of Adelaide.

Curtin University' Grant Wardell-Johnson said the bushfire season had started early and would likely get more severe, with danger spreading to the other southern states.

"It's pretty concerning that it is so early," Wardell-Johnson told HuffPost Australia.

"I think it's going to get very bad ... I think we need to be prepared for increasing severity.

"Victoria will undoubtedly come into play and Tasmania, all of southern Australia is facing a severe fire season.

He pointed to "macro" factors like carbon emissions and increasing global temperatures as driving the horror start to 2015/16.

"The fact that we've got such reduced rainfall over a considerable period in southern Australia in general is a major factor," he said.

"The El Nino issue ... and general global warming are all factors that drive the season earlier and make the environment more fire prone.

"When you've got a very dry environment and you've got a lot of fuel around and you get wind then you only need an ignition source."

According to the UN, 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record, with both land and sea temperatures likely to exceed those of 2014 as the highest-ever recorded.

Wardell-Johnson's warning comes as two people on Thursday were confirmed dead in the South Australian inferno that has torn through around 90,000 hectares of bush and threatened a string of of small towns.

It also follows the deaths of a local farmer and three young Europeans who were killed in the devastating fire north of Esperance, Western Australia, less than 10 days ago.

With such a catastrophic start to the season and summer still yet to hit, bushfire experts have predicted the months ahead to be particularly challenging.

For Australia, the focus needed to shift to lowering greenhouse emissions in order to put a dent in bushfire risk, Wardell-Johnson said.

"We need to focus attention on the issue of emissions and how much it costs Australia to not take action on climate change," the associate professor added.

"Not taking action is a huge cost to the nation ... put a price on carbon and bring emissions down."

He said while a 1 degree celsius temperature rise did not sound like much, it meant more bushfires were breaking out, and burning for longer.

"What happens is that the minimums are getting higher so the fires can burn all night," he said.

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