Farmers should brace for a hotter and drier-than-usual spring, with drought conditions forecast to intensify across Australia.
Following one of the driest and warmest winters on record, the Bureau of Meteorology's spring outlook shows summer is set to begin early, raising the risk of heatwaves in southern and south-eastern areas as well as bushfires.
"(We are) looking at average to below-average rainfall, unfortunately, for the drought areas and warmer-than-average conditions through those areas as well," Dr Andrew Watkins, told reporters on Thursday.
"It may be we're getting into late spring or even summer before we start to see some better rains in those areas."
The bureau expects drier-than-average conditions to extend across southern Australia and up through NSW into central Australia.
The chances of spring rain are below average for much of the country, particularly southwest Western Australia, most of South Australia, southern parts of the Northern Territory, inland NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, and north Queensland.
Cooler-than-average sea temperatures in waters off Australia's northwest coast are acting to suppress rainfall over southern and central Australia, the bureau says.
There is also double the risk of an El Nino forming in the coming months.
"This will basically mean that as we get into summer, there'd be less chance of having those recovery rains that we need," Dr Watkins said.
"We might have to wait until as late as autumn in 2019 to start seeing some recovery rains in the drought areas.
"But at the moment there's still a 50 per cent chance that El Nino won't come off."
Australian Associated Press