El niño threatens a fiery Australian summer

THE chances of the el niño climate phenomenon hitting Australia this summer are rising.

Six of eight international climate models surveyed by the Weather Bureau indicate el niño, or near-el niño, conditions are likely.

The phenomenon was one of the factors that led to the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983 and the tragic Black Saturday fires in 2009.

Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland general manager Justin Choveaux has warned of the danger.

He said recent rain in south-east Queensland had filled some dams but did little to abate the fire risk.

"We have el niño coming, which means lower than average rainfall, and hotter than average summer," he said.

"This year looks like a hard year. We've had quite a few fires already this year.

"The fire season will end when it rains properly."

Mr Choveaux said about 85% was still in drought but he was most concerned about the areas where "suburbia meets the bush", such as the Sunshine and Gold Coast hinterlands, Hervey Bay and the outskirts of Brisbane.

"That's where all your danger lies because you can't trade land for time, there's high density housing there all over the place," he said.