National forecaster admits bushfire prediction bungle

 

The Bureau of Meteorology has blamed the South Coast's diverse topography for failing to predict last night's mammoth winds and high temperatures that fanned bushfires in the region today.

The national forecaster's predictions for the southern tablelands were significantly wrong with discrepancies of up to 7 degrees.

BOM predicted Ulladulla would reach 33 degrees but the southern town reached a sweltering 40.3C.

Southern bushfires seen from Batemans Bay. Picture: Paul Wicke
Southern bushfires seen from Batemans Bay. Picture: Paul Wicke

Nearby Moruya reached 38.4C despite predictions of 33C.

Senior forecaster Jake Phillips accepted that the rapidly rising bushfires in the region show that "there were a lot of winds stronger than we thought."

Bushfires in Currowan and Clyde Mountain are burning at emergency level while nearby Charleys Forest burns at a watch and act level.

"A lot of the fires flared up overnight. Interestingly enough at our weather stations we didn't see particularly strong winds overnight but they did happen," Mr Phillips told The Daily Telegraph.

"It's difficult to say but you often get around mountainous terrain in the southern tablelands, there is variation in topography and you can get different variations in locations that aren't as far apart.

Bushfires arrive at the township of Malua Bay NSW, just south of Batemans Bay. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Bushfires arrive at the township of Malua Bay NSW, just south of Batemans Bay. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Our weather stations didn't pick up anything extraordinary but it's not to say it didn't happen."

Mr Phillips said it was difficult for the bureau to forecast temperatures in such volatile weather conditions but did not comment on whether the incorrect predictions cost lives and homes.

"I wouldn't want to speculate on how people make their decisions (to evacuate or not)," he said.

"What happened was some of these place didn't get the sea breeze and it can be tricky to predict the exactly how far the sea breeze will go."

Residents watch on as town burns. Picture: Jessica Ford
Residents watch on as town burns. Picture: Jessica Ford

Mr Phillips said the bureau had put out a damaging winds warning early in the morning after seeing the overnight weather - but the warning was withdrawn after winds eased.

"It's not possible for us to have a weather station everywhere. In our network we didn't see anything that reached the criteria of strong winds. They didn't get to the levels that require us to issue severe weather warning," he said.

"We had a warning this morning anyway, after the overnight period."

Predictions in the west were also off the mark with Penrith reaching 46.3C instead of the predicted 43C.


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