Australia weather bureau says no sign of cooler weather or rain on horizon

SYDNEY, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Australia’s weather agency said on Thursday it saw no sign of cooler weather or significant rainfall in the next few months, an unwelcome forecast for authorities who have warned that only a large downpour will halt bushfires sweeping across the country.

“There is nothing indicating that things will cool down over the next few months,” Karl Braganza, Head of Climate Monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology told reporters in a briefing about the agency’s 2019 climate review.

“I’d optimistically say less dry rather than wet,” Braganza said. “There is no indication that we will see significantly above average rainfall.”

Australia has been battling large bushfires for weeks. A three-year drought that has left the countryside tinder-dry and that experts have linked to climate change has helped fuel the crisis.

More than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land - an area the size of South Korea - have been razed since September, killing 26 people and killing or injuring an estimated one billion animals, including livestock.

More than 100 fires remain alight and authorities have said the largest of the blazes will only be doused by significant rainfall.

The bureau’s annual report confirmed that 2019 was Australia’s hottest, driest year on record. (Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Jane Wardell)