Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, has recorded its wettest year since records began 164 years ago following hours of rain on Thursday morning.
With some 86 days of 2022 still to go, total rainfall in the city had topped 2,213mm (87 inches) by Thursday afternoon, surpassing the previous record of 2,194mm (86 inches) that was set in 1950, official data showed.
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More than 58mm (2 inches) of rain fell in the five hours from 9am (22:00 GMT, Wednesday), the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BoM) live data showed, with the authorities bracing for major floods in eastern Australia and more heavy downpours forecast over the next three days.
Australia’s east coast has been in the grip of the La Nina weather pattern for three years and more heavy rain is expected throughout the rest of 2022.
A La Nina phenomenon causes the temperature of the western Pacific to warm, creating better conditions for cloud and rain over eastern Australia.
Sydney’s sprawling western suburbs have been hit by serious floods three times in the past two years, and the city, along with other parts of the state of New South Wales, is bracing for more disruption.
“We know that our catchments are saturated, our dams are full, and our rivers are already swollen. So any additional rainfall, no matter how minor, is likely to exacerbate flooding circumstances,” state emergency services minister Steph Cooke said.
“Any additional rainfall has the potential to cause flash flooding.”
Many dams and rivers are already at full capacity.
The New South Wales state government has committed to raising the height of the wall at Sydney’s Warragamba Dam, which supplies 80 percent of the city’s water, to help prevent future floods.
Some of the state’s rural inland towns have already flooded, with television footage showing damaged roads and residents moving farm animals to higher ground.
New South Wales emergency services said there were 47 flood warnings in place across the state.
Australia is at the forefront of climate change, with scientists warning that the country’s climate will become hotter and drier, and at greater risk of extreme weather events as a result of the warming planet.
In late 2019 and 2020, the eastern part of the country was devastated by bushfires that destroyed swathes of forest and agricultural land, burned through thousands of properties and left more than two dozen people dead.
Wildlife was also severely affected with ecologists estimating one billion animals were killed or injured, including vulnerable native species such as the koala.