Wet Aussie summer: Safety tips for wild weather

Weather experts are predicting a wet and wild summer in Australia, so what does this mean for our health and how can we take care?

If you’re looking forward to long sunny summer days, think again.

Australians are in for another La Niña summer – meaning plenty of wet and wild weather.

In the north and eastern states, people are being told to prepare for more rain and potential flooding, along with other severe risks.

So, what’s causing this unusual summer?

What is La Niña and why is it happening?

Every few years, Australia experiences the La Niña phenomenon.

This is when trade winds become stronger, changing the ocean currents, cooling the central and eastern tropical Pacific.

It is a rare event, but when it happens, it results in cooler days, warmer overnight temperatures and more rain, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

It’s happening right now in Australia, which is why we’re experiencing a big wet summer according to UNSW Science’s Climate Change Research Centre Associate Professor Andréa Taschetto.

“This year we have seen heavy rain, thunderstorms, hail, and flooding in large parts of New South Wales and Queensland,” Assoc Prof Taschetto explains.

“What we saw in October and November was rather unusual, as it rained in areas where generally we don’t receive much, and Australia just had its wettest November on record.”

Professor Ashish Sharma from UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering says extreme weather events like La Niña are happening more regularly due to climate change.

“Climate change means rising temperatures, and as temperatures rise, your atmosphere can store a lot more moisture,” Prof Sharma says.

“So, basically the extreme rainfalls, the big rainfall events will become bigger.”

El Niño, which is the opposite weather pattern where conditions become drier, will also occur more regularly, which means overall Australia will likely experience more varied weather from year to year in the future.

How can we take care around wet weather events?

The downside is with more rain, expect to see the number of drownings rise, warns Dr Amy Peden, School of Population Health and Co-Founder, UNSW Beach Safety Research Group.

“There’s an average of 273 people that die from unintentional drowning in Australia every year and a further 534 are hospitalised,” Dr Peden explains.

“In 2021, the most recent numbers we have to hand show those numbers went up.

“The other important thing to say is people may not be aware that rivers and creeks are actually the leading location for drowning in Australia.”

Amy points to serious floods in Queensland in 2010/11 during a previous La Nina period that caused 33 deaths.

Additionally, northern states will be at more risk of severe cyclones so people in these areas need to take preparation seriously.

Watch out for more mozzies

Stock up on your insect repellent as more rain also means more bugs.

CSIRO scientist and mosquito expert, Dr Brendan Trewin, is predicting a “monster” mosquito season ahead.

“It is true that large mosquito numbers occur after significant rains,” Dr Trewin says.

“La Niña conditions in Australia increase the risk of mosquito bites and sometimes the spread of diseases like Ross River fever and Murray Valley encephalitis.”

To help project yourself Dr Trewin recommends being on guard during the peak biting hours around dawn and dusk.

Use repellant and cover up with long sleeve shirts and long pants, and turn the fan on at night to blow those pesky mosquitoes away.

Written by Alex White.