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National Forecast Services

Goal: Leverage our knowledge and insight to contribute to zero lives lost through natural hazards and increase social and economic benefits by $1 billion to all Australians by 2022.

The National Forecast Services Group focuses on the delivery of weather, climate, water and ocean (including marine) services to enhance value and impact for the general public and emergency services customers. It also develops and delivers the Bureau’s core meteorological, climatological, hydrological, oceanographic and front-line communication expertise across all sectors, and supports Business Solutions Group in achieving its stated outcomes.

The Group’s services span the breadth of Australia, its territories and oceans and are delivered in a tiered approach with national context typically derived centrally and tailored locally.

The National Forecast Services Group consists of four Programs as illustrated below:



Community Forecasts

Public Safety

National Operations

Community Outreach


national services to the general public including climate services, oceans services and water forecast services

services for flood, thunderstorms, severe weather,, fire, cyclones, tsunami and drought

day-to-day service delivery

engagement with the Australian community

national policy, planning and quality management for weather, climate, oceans and marine services

multi-hazard warning system

consistent integrated national forecast service

state media and issues management

understanding community needs

emergency services sector liaison

operation through the National Operations Centre and State and Territory-based forecasting centres

marketing and campaigns

public education

social media


media and graphic design

customer service centre

Throughout 2018–19, the National Forecast Services Group focused on the delivery of three outcomes that support the delivery of the Bureau’s Strategy and purpose. The Group’s achievement in delivering each of these outcomes is discussed below.

Number of public forecasts issuedMORE THAN 700 000 public forecasts issued

Number of weather and ocean warnings issuedMORE THAN 16 000 weather and ocean warnings issued

Number of flood warnings issuedMORE THAN 1400 flood warnings issued

Respondents reporting that Bureau services are 'very easy to use' and Net Promoter Score*ALMOST 80% of general community respondents reported the Bureau’s forecast services are easy to use

Outcome 1 - A systematic and enduring capability to strengthen partnerships and gather deep understanding of customer needs, and translate these into improved services.

Achieving the outcome

Understanding our customers’ needs

User-centred design and customer discoverability activities have informed plans to:

  • improve seasonal forecast services;
  • extend hazard forecasts to include additional impact variables such as heatwave stress, fire weather and tropical cyclone risk; and
  • develop risk-based climate services which emphasise resilience.

The Bureau’s first six-monthly emergency management customer experience survey was completed in June, proving high-level insight into future requirements.

Connecting for flood protection in Victoria

Under its flood supplementary services delivery project, the Bureau worked with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victorian councils, catchment management authorities, the Victorian State Emergency Service and local communities to deliver a flood warning service and community education program that is commensurate to levels of risk. The project is focused on the planning and implementation of new and improved flood warning services for at-risk communities across Victoria.

Cooperation adds to community safety in Tumbulgum

A new flood warning service and response plan was completed for Tumbulgum, a small community located in New South Wales at the confluence of the Tweed and Rous rivers. Tumbulgum was devastated by floods following ex-tropical cyclone Debbie that resulted in the flooding of around 150 homes and 200 cars, and tragically led to three deaths. Tumbulgum is particularly vulnerable as low-lying evacuation routes are often inundated before the Tweed River breaks its banks and before evacuation orders can be issued. The new flood warning service allows the community more time to enact their own flood evacuation plans and to leave the area before evacuation routes become impassable.

Shifting to impact-based forecast and warning services

The Bureau is building its capability to provide impact-based forecast and warning services, where exposure is explicitly considered along with hazard and vulnerability data, with the aim of providing detailed information on precisely who or what is exposed.

Under the first phase of its future warnings services project, the Bureau completed an internal audit of current warning products and services and produced a services catalogue which contains the current hazard warnings provided by the Bureau and their essential features.

The 2018–19 tropical cyclone season

There were 11 tropical cyclones in the Australian region during the 2018–19 season, in line with the long-term average. Each of Australia’s three tropical cyclone regions had five storms during the season (noting that a single tropical cyclone can pass over multiple regions). This is above average for the Northern and Eastern regions, but below average for the Western region. The 2018–19 tropical cyclone season was the first time since 2014–15 to feature at least six severe tropical cyclones in the Australian region.

Of the 11 tropical cyclones, six reached category 3 intensity (severe tropical cyclone) and four made landfall on the Australian coast (cyclones Owen, Penny, Trevor and Veronica). Three of these (Owen, Trevor and Veronica) made landfall as severe tropical cyclones.

Cyclone Owen brought heavy rainfall to large parts of northeast Queensland, including setting a December daily rainfall record of 688 mm at Halifax. Owen was followed by an active monsoon burst and another tropical weather system that led to several towns in north Queensland recording their wettest December on record.

Cyclone Penny formed on 1 January and continued the sequence of weather systems bringing heavy rainfall to Far North Queensland. However, it was a monsoon low affecting northeast Queensland in late January and early February that produced the most significant flooding of the season.

Severe tropical cyclone Trevor was named on 17 March bringing heavy rainfall in eastern parts of the Northern Territory and northern and central Queensland.

Severe tropical cyclone Veronica formed off the northwest coast of Australia on 20 March, and on 24 March became almost stationary just off the coast, subjecting the Pilbara coastline between Port Hedland and Karratha to a prolonged period of destructive winds and very heavy rainfall.

Coloured lines showing the tracks of Australian region cyclones in the 2018-19 season. Kenanga Veronica Owen Wallace Lili Penny Savannah Ann Oma Riley Trevor Tropical cyclone tracks for the 2018–19 season.

Consulting on Bureau hazard services

The Hazards Services Forum facilitates consultation with State and Territory operational emergency services agencies to guide current and future strategic development of the Bureau’s services to the emergency management sector.

The Forum is an important reference group for introducing changes for impact-based forecast and warning services as strong partnerships with emergency service agencies can maximise the benefits from these warnings. Activities within the three hazard services action plans—flood, fire and extreme weather—were progressed, with 100 out of 131 actions now closed.

Seeking customer insights for product and service design

The Bureau has used its BOMIdeas website to gain insights into the ‘advanced’ types of weather information that matter most to our customers, as well as the best way to present weather elements, such as the fire danger index and UV information, and map features such as rain radar colours. The results informed the design of a new weather webservice.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2019–20 to help achieve Outcome 1 include:

  • undertaking further customer experience surveys with the general community, emergency management customers and partners; and
  • working with State and Territory government departments to enhance heatwave and thunderstorm asthma services.

Outcome 2 - A service of global standing built on world-class science and technology, and deployment of national expertise and local insight to meet customer needs.

Achieving the outcome

Ensuring resilient operations

Under the Public Services Transformation Program, the Bureau is working with its staff, customers, partners and stakeholders to design and deliver a new climatological, hydrological and meteorological services model by 2022. The Program responds directly to the clear and consistent feedback received over many years about our products and services and establishes a plan for truly national operations, products and services to achieve the vision articulated in the Bureau’s Strategy 2017–2022. The Program will ensure that the Bureau’s operations are resilient and sustainable, by investing in technologies that enhance simulation, quality control and quality assurance and ensuring a more productive and safer workplace for staff.

Contributing to a National Disaster Risk Information Services Capability

The Bureau is working with other Australian Government agencies under the National Resilience Taskforce headed by Emergency Management Australia to build a National Disaster Risk Information Services Capability. A pilot project is creating a centre of excellence to deliver advanced climate and disaster risk information, and it is intended that knowledge brokering services will be provided to inform strategic investment and operational decisions by industry and governments.

Adopting scientific developments in weather and ocean prediction

Service improvements resulting from scientific advancement in meteorology and numerical weather prediction included:

  • the introduction of more detailed month-to-seasonal forecasts arising from the launch of the new ACCESS-S climate model, which also supports other Pacific region nations;
  • improved ocean forecasts following an upgrade to the ocean forecasting model, OceanMAPS, to assimilate more satellite and in-situ data, providing more detailed information on forecast uncertainties, which is important for time-critical applications such as marine search-and-rescue operations;
  • the creation of a first-of-its-kind quality-assured and gap-free discharge dataset covering gauged and ungauged coastal catchments in Australia for the marine modelling community in coordination with the University of Tasmania and CSIRO as part of the development and expansion of the Marine Virtual Laboratory; and
  • more reliable polar predictions following participation in a mass-scale observation program in Antarctica as part of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) polar prediction project.

Creating efficiencies in service production

Activities undertaken to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operational systems and processes included:

  • extending the climate monitor and climate analyser systems to become the primary inputs for real-time decision support. These systems framed the communication around the record 2018–19 summer heat and the heavy rain in Queensland which led to flooding from Mt Isa to Townsville;
  • developing standard operating procedures to stipulate when and where forecast intervention is required in routine service production and releasing capacity for higher value functions. Rosters of operational meteorologists are more efficient as a result; and
  • upgrading the Bureau’s tsunami decision support tool to streamline the tsunami warning process.

Applying the BARRA climatology

The Bureau has commenced providing its customers with advanced weather and climate analysis services using the Bureau atmospheric high-resolution regional reanalysis for Australia (BARRA). The BARRA dataset provides hourly information for nearly 100 meteorological parameters on a 12-km grid, over the whole of Australia, New Zealand and surrounds. Emergency service agencies are using BARRA to derive input for fire simulators, and it is being used to construct a national climatology of the new National Fire Danger Rating System. BARRA has been used by researchers at Monash University to analyse extreme wind speeds that led to a statewide power outage in South Australia in September 2016. The Bureau is also making use of BARRA data, including for the development of wind climatologies, severe weather indices, estimates of precipitable water content and moisture back trajectories.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2019–20 to help achieve Outcome 2 include:

  • implementing nationally consistent tropical cyclone and storm-surge procedures at the three tropical cyclone warning centres;
  • implementing a resilience operations plan for the 2019–20 severe weather season; and
  • commencing ACCESS-S based multiweek forecasts and trialling ACCESS-S based forecasts for tropical cyclones and fire weather on multiweek to seasonal timescales.

Biggest Territory evacuation since cyclone Tracy

As severe tropical cyclone Trevor bore down on the Gulf of Carpentaria, building strength from the Gulf’s warm waters, the Bureau worked closely with Northern Territory emergency services to establish the likely impact of the cyclone on communities within the warning zone. With community safety the first priority, more than 2000 people were evacuated from Alyangula, Borroloola, Numbulwar and Ngukurr; the biggest evacuation since cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Trevor had first crossed the Queensland coast near Lockhart River on 19 March as a severe category 3 cyclone, and maintained strength as it crossed Cape York Peninsula forcing the closure of the Port of Weipa for several days. Parts of central-west and southwest Queensland received their first substantial rainfall in more than a year, with the remnant tropical system delivering between 100 mm and 200 mm of rain in a 24-hour period.

After its second coastal crossing near the Territory–Queensland border on 23 March, the most widespread impact from the cyclone and its remnant tropical low was the heavy rainfall in eastern Northern Territory. Localised flooding cut many roads in the Carpentaria, Barkly and Simpson districts including the Tablelands, Sandover and Plenty highways.

The full weight of the Bureau’s capability was deployed to help protect the community across Queensland and the Northern Territory and was widely acknowledged by Emergency Management Australia, emergency service agencies and other industry stakeholders.

Post-season reviews highlighted opportunities to further develop the Bureau’s services and initiatives are underway to strengthen the resilience of our operating teams as they prepare for severe weather in 2019–20.

Satellite image and track map of tropical cyclone Trevor.Satellite image and track map of tropical cyclone Trevor.

Improvements to ocean forecast charts

The Bureau made significant improvements to its suite of publicly available ocean forecast maps in August, enabling customers to view more detailed forecast maps for sea surface temperatures, currents, sea level anomalies and salinity.

The improvements include more detailed maps for Queensland and Western Australia, and new maps covering eastern Tasmania, the Timor Sea, and the whole country to view the overall patterns of ocean conditions around our continent. Ocean current forecast maps now show the speed and direction of ocean circulations, providing useful spatial scales.

The Bureau’s ocean forecast maps are used by boaters, fishers and others with an interest in understanding what’s happening in the oceans around Australia.

The new maps can be viewed at: www.bom.gov.au/marine

The Bureau’s enhanced oceans portal displaying the speed and direction of ocean currents on the south-east coast of Australia. Red colours represent stronger currents, forming an eddy off the coast of Gabo Island.The Bureau’s enhanced oceans portal displaying the speed and direction of ocean currents on the south-east coast of Australia. Red colours represent stronger currents, forming an eddy off the coast of Gabo Island.

Improving climate forecasts for Australia

Feedback about the Bureau’s long-range forecasts—on monthly and seasonal timescales— indicated that customers sometimes had difficulty interpreting forecasts, and were looking for higher-resolution, more frequent updates, and higher demonstrated accuracy.

In response, the Bureau has undertaken a multi-year project to develop a world-class long-range forecast service. The Bureau now has a higher accuracy climate outlook model (ACCESS-S) that updates forecasts fortnightly at a much higher spatial resolution (60 km and downscaled to 5 km) and improves how forecasts are displayed and shared. The improved accuracy is reflected across all variables and is opening up the possibility of new forecasts for wind, fire weather and tropical cyclones—helping our customers to make more informed weather and climate decisions.

Forecast from the new ACCESS-S model for maximum temperatures during summer 2018–19 showing the chance of exceeding the median maximum temperature December 2018 to February 2019.Forecast from the new ACCESS-S model for maximum temperatures during summer 2018–19.

Preparing the region for tsunami

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) participated in the international tsunami exercises IOWave18 and PacWave18 which were organised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO over consecutive weeks in September. The JATWC, jointly operated by the Bureau and Geoscience Australia, monitors, verifies and warns of any tsunami threat to the coastline of Australia and its offshore territories.

Both exercises involved State, Territory and Australian Government agencies conducting functional or desktop exercises to test the effectiveness of the Australian Tsunami Warning System under the overall exercise control of the Bureau. Exercise IOWave18 also tested the JATWC’s role as a Tsunami Service Provider (TSP) to the 28 member states of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWMS). During this exercise, in excess of 118 000 people participated in community evacuations across the Indian Ocean Region based on the advice provided by the Bureau and TSPs in India and Indonesia.

During IOWave18, a new public website was successfully tested, displaying the warning status of each IOTWMS member state as determined by their national warning authorities.

National Operations Centre and public affairs staff participated in international tsunami exercise IOWave18 on 5 September.National Operations Centre and public affairs staff participated in international tsunami exercise IOWave18 on 5 September.

Outcome 3 - Valued services for customers and partners that optimise their use through our technology, people and communication expertise.

Achieving the outcome

Briefing our customers for enhanced preparedness and response

Ahead of the 2018–19 high-impact weather season, the Bureau coordinated pre-season briefings for State and Territory emergency management agencies and their jurisdictions in partnership with Emergency Management Australia. The outlook indicated that bushfire and heatwave activity was more likely, the risk of tropical cyclones was close to average and the risk of widespread flooding was less likely. Briefings were also provided to the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre and other Australian Government representatives.

Extensive briefings on near-term and longer-term climate risk were provided across government, community groups, emergency services, and business groups, supporting the rollout of consistent climate and disaster risk approaches across Australian Government agencies. The ‘Know your weather, know your risk’ tagline was applied across numerous communication channels as the foundation for the campaign.

Delivering service enhancements for greater impact

Service upgrades in 2018–19 included:

  • the release of an improved, more robust heatwave service in September, using official temperature forecasts at high resolution and including a web map service that enables users to more easily understand the extent of the threat to communities;
  • implementation of a smoke and air quality forecasting capability in Victoria to assist fire agencies to make decisions around planned burns and potential smoke impacts. This system will be extended to other parts of the nation in the future;
  • the release of updates to the popular BOM Weather app including new features such as sunrise and sunset times, improvements to retain favourite and recent locations and enhanced usability;
  • enhancements to the Bureau’s severe thunderstorm warning service through a new threshold for ‘giant hail’, which is defined as hail with a diameter larger than 5 cm. This addition allows emergency services and the insurance industry to focus their efforts on areas most impacted by hail damage, and was used operationally for the first time during the 20 December Sydney thunderstorm event;
  • delivery of an upgraded 7-day streamflow forecasting service using probabilistic forecasts to include forecast uncertainty in daily updates. This upgrade enables risk-based decision-making by water and environment managers;
  • the launch of Rainfields 3, a tool that provides flood managers and urban water utilities with real-time quality-controlled rainfall estimates and forecasts using radar, rain gauges and numerical wealth prediction models. This tool is available to registered users, with supporting documentation and updates to the Flash Flood Advisory Resource website to provide user support; and
  • extension of high seas forecasts and ocean wind warnings for a new area extending to Antarctica.

Providing flood scenario outlooks for better flood preparation

A new national flood scenario outlook product focuses on the seven days ahead and complements the Bureau’s existing flood watch service, providing additional detail on the likely magnitude and timing of flooding based on two different rainfall scenarios. The service will be used by emergency services agencies for event pre-planning and preparedness and has entered a 12-month trial period, concluding in June 2020, during which feedback will be gathered from our emergency services partners.

Delivering flood warning services

The Bureau provided services for several significant flood events during the year including:

  • monsoon trough rainfall and floods events in Queensland during January and February, most notably the Townsville flood;
  • inflows into Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre during March to July from rains in Queensland in February and March that slowly made their way downstream, greening the channel country. The Bureau’s services included flood warnings and tailored communications to keep the public safe and satisfied intense interest from media, community and the tourism industry on this largest inflow since 2011; and
  • record flooding in the Pilbara region of Western Australia following severe tropical cyclone Veronica, which was the strongest system to impact Australia during the 2018–19 season. The heavy rainfall resulted in the highest-ever recording in De Grey River tributaries, the evacuation and isolation of several communities and suburbs, and impacted the mining and resource sector. The Bureau identified the increased threat of a cyclone forming and impacting the area three weeks ahead. Customised hazard warning products supported by regular briefings were provided to emergency management and mining and resource partners. This information was relied upon heavily to inform decisions to protect life and minimise impacts to road, rail and port infrastructure. Impacts included the shutdown of the Pilbara ports with an estimated production loss of approximately $1.7 billion. Land operations associated with salt mining, iron ore, gold and petroleum were impacted for several days due to road closures, including primary links to the Great Northern and North West coastal highways. While there were considerable operational impacts, effective action taken reduced financial losses and no injuries or fatalities were reported.

Providing water availability outlooks for improved water resource management

Seasonal water availability forecasts for the following three months, updated monthly, were provided to the public and registered users for water resource allocation and environmental flow planning purposes. The service achieved 83 per cent higher accuracy than the benchmark historical data typically used by water agencies in Australia.

Updated daily, 7-day streamflow forecasts, were provided to public and registered users at important locations upstream of major dams and unregulated tributaries. These forecasts support daily water infrastructure operations and the timing of environmental watering events.

Providing a real-time climate watch for Australia

Climate products and services delivered in 2018–19 included real-time climate data, preparation of summary reports on months, seasons and annual timescales, and the publication of the authoritative State of the Climate Report. A series of special climate statements were also prepared on individual extreme climate events including droughts, floods, heatwaves, fire weather and the record Australian summer heat.

Delivering our message to the Australian community

A weather, climate, water and oceans narrative was delivered throughout the year to ensure the community was informed, particularly during the high-impact weather period from October to April. Information, education and updates were regularly posted through social media and online channels, and through news media. The Bureau communicates regularly to its more than 1.4 million followers across social media, responded to more than 16 000 calls through its customer service centre and serviced 14 100 media enquiries via its State and Territory offices. The Bureau’s expanded webinar series attracted almost 1500 participants with high levels of customer satisfaction.

Keeping users up-to-date with the Bureau’s marine weather services

The Bureau launched BOM Marine News in June—a monthly e-news update to enhance information sharing and awareness among the Bureau’s marine users of any changes or improvements to products, as well as new educational tools and resources. The first issue featured improvements to interactive forecast map products and the ocean currents portal.

Rainfall, river and flood service development

Projects to enhance the Bureau’s water and flood forecasting capabilities included:

  • an extended lead-time flood forecasting pilot for the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, which delivered ensemble flood forecasting capability and a pilot service to assist emergency response agencies in making decisions at longer lead times with enhanced understanding of forecast confidence;
  • a rainfall and river alert service for selected catchments in Victoria in partnership with emergency services agencies; and
  • an upgrade of the Hydrologic Reference Stations (HRS) service showing long-term trends in water availability for high-quality streamflow monitoring sites across Australia. The upgrade will likely include more than 200 new HRS sites available from the website, bringing the total number of high-quality monitoring sites to more than 400.

Extending water quality and quantity forecasting for the Great Barrier Reef

As part of a water quality and quantity forecasting project for Great Barrier Reef catchments, additional catchments and locations for quality and quantity modelling were added in consultation with stakeholders including CSIRO, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Queensland Department of Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Great Barrier Reef Independent Science Panel. Time series data—observed and simulated—were provided for the annual Reef report card.

A nowcasting system for water quality and discharge during extreme weather events was tested in the Great Barrier Reef region during the extended rainfall and flood event that took place across Queensland over January and February, demonstrating high levels of prediction capability accuracy.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2019–20 to help achieve Outcome 3 include:

  • undertaking several projects to understand how customers perceive the Bureau’s communications and how best the Bureau can promote its services;
  • establishing an improved fire danger rating system for Australia in partnership with emergency services agencies; and
  • delivering and evaluating a pilot forecast service for extended lead-time flood forecasts for the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley.

2019 monsoon trough rainfall and floods

Very heavy rainfall and significant flooding occurred over areas of tropical Queensland from January into early February, linked to an active monsoon trough and a slow-moving low- pressure system. Record-breaking rainfall occurred around the Townsville area with several sites recording up to 2 metres of rain. Record-breaking rainfall also occurred over the northern inland between Julia Creek and Hughenden, a previously drought-affected region.

The Bureau issued around 140 weather warnings and over 500 flood warnings across the event, and adopted an enterprise-wide response, standing up additional management, support staff, meteorologists, hydrologists and communication specialists, both locally and remotely based from all States and Territories.

Communication of risk was enhanced though briefings to all levels of government. Tailored messaging was included in flood warnings to convey the heightened risk to local communities, and the Bureau sought to keep people up-to-date through its numerous interviews on radio, television and online, including through social media posts.

Communication outages across the Gulf rivers and inland northern Queensland catchments presented unique challenges during the event, with the Bureau losing access to data from third-party automatic weather stations (AWS). This was overcome using flood intelligence from manual observers, interpreting flood extents from satellite imagery and sifting through social media and crowd sourcing websites for further flood information.

Aerial footage looking south over Rosslea during the Townsville flood event. (Image courtesy of the Australian Defence Force.)Aerial footage looking south over Rosslea during the Townsville flood event. (Image courtesy of the Australian Defence Force.)

High seas service extends over the Southern Ocean

The Bureau commenced providing high seas forecasts and ocean wind warnings for a new Southern area extending from latitude 50° South to 65° South, and between longitude 80° East and 160° East. Forecasts for the Southern area are broadcast to mariners with existing high seas meteorological bulletins on the Inmarsat SafetyNET satellite service. They are also available via the Bureau’s High Frequency radio service and published on the Bureau’s website.

This change supports the fulfilment of Australia’s commitment to provide meteorological services for the entire extent of METAREA X as part of the International Maritime Organization/WMO Worldwide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service. The new service will contribute to the continued certification of Marine Weather Services to the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Standard.

Map of Australia’s high seas forecast areas, including the new ‘Southern’ area.Map of Australia’s high seas forecast areas, including the new ‘Southern’ area.

2018–19: Australia’s hottest summer on record

Australia experienced its hottest summer on record in 2018–19, with national mean temperatures 0.86 °C above the previous record. December and January were each the hottest on record with January being Australia’s hottest month on record by nearly a degree. January was also the hottest month on record for several States and Territories, with

New South Wales breaking its previous record by more than 2 °C. Only southern Western Australia and parts of eastern Queensland escaped the above-normal temperatures. An Australian record high overnight minimum temperature of 36.6 °C was set at Borrona Downs in northwest New South Wales. The highest temperature recorded during the summer was 49.5 °C at Port Augusta, the highest-ever recorded in the world, so far south.

The above average temperatures were well forecast by the Bureau’s new ACCESS-S forecast model and the Bureau’s heatwave service kept the community informed when extreme heat was expected.

Australian temperatures in the 2018–19 summer. Dark orange areas show those parts of Australia which had their hottest summer on record.Australian temperatures in the 2018–19 summer. Dark orange areas show those parts of Australia which had their hottest summer on record.

Tasmania bushfires in January and February

Following a prolonged dry spell throughout December, dry lightning on 27 December ignited a bushfire near Gell River in southwest Tasmania. The fire rapidly increased in size during early January. Hot and dry conditions continued with January being one of the hottest and driest on record. Another widespread band of dry lightning ignited numerous other fires on 15 January, including significant fires on the Central Plateau (Great Pine Tier), in the Huon Valley (Riveaux Road), and on the West Coast (Western Hills, Dismal Swamp). The Tasmanian Fire Service reports that during January, there were 100 fires over half a hectare in size across Tasmania, constituting over 210 000 ha or about 3 per cent of the State.

Seven properties were lost and there were 28 injuries, but thankfully there was no loss of life from the fire activity. Many Tasmanians were impacted for weeks with numerous small communities evacuated, chronic smoke pollution and high levels of community anxiety. Roads and national parks were closed.

During the event, the Bureau issued multiple incident weather forecasts each day, outlining the expected conditions including advice on potential wind changes that could drastically alter fire activity. Daily fire weather video briefings were provided to all fire agency staff and twice-weekly briefings focused on the medium-to-long-range weather outlook. In total, 303 incident weather forecasts were issued, and 50 video briefings were provided.

Smoke over Hobart CBD on 4 January.Smoke over Hobart CBD on 4 January.