Australia expects La Nina to bring wetter than usual end to 2020

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian braves strong wind and rain in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's weather bureau expects a wetter than usual end to the year across the country's north and east, it said on Tuesday, benefiting grain growers after years of tinder-dry conditions and bringing a respite for fire officials.

The Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña weather phenomenon had developed in the Pacific Ocean, boosting its status to an "active event" from an "alert".

A La Nina is typically associated with greater rainfall, more tropical cyclones, and cooler than average temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

"Climate models suggest these patterns will continue until at least the end of the year," the bureau said in a statement.

The weather event, which mainly affects Australia's north and east, could also boost wheat yields. This month, Australia raised its wheat production forecast for the 2020/21 season after heavy rain lashed the east coast.

La Niña events normally last about a year, with the last, running from 2010 to 2012, bringing one of the country's wettest two-year periods on record, and causing widespread flooding.

"It is likely this year will not see the same intensity as the 2010-11 La Niña event, but is still likely to be of moderate strength," the weather bureau added.

Despite more rain and cooler temperatures brought by the weather system, summer heat waves will persist, though they could be less intense, said Will Steffen, a climate change expert at Australian National University.

More wet weather for the rest of the year could also mean a less severe bushfire season this summer but spring rainfall that is above average can spur growth of vegetation, swelling the risk of fires.

Last summer, fires razed more than 11 million hectares (37 million acres) of southeastern bushland in what Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a "black summer" that killed at least 33 people and billions of animals.

(Reporting by Renju Jose and Swati Pandey; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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