Australia bushfires: Much-needed rain 'won't come until March'

Australia will have to wait until March to see rain heavy enough to bring sustained relief from dry weather that has fuelled deadly and untamed bushfires, meteorologists say.

In the past few months, the blazes have killed 29 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and are estimated to have caused the death of more than a billion animals.

The ferocious and unprecedented flames have torn through an area equal to a third of Germany, while smoke has left cities choking on the world's worst air quality.

Authorities tirelessly battling to contain the some 100 bushfires still burning on the east coast believe most will stay alight until they are doused by enduring rain.

But that desperately-needed reprieve appears to be several weeks away, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Thursday.

In a statement, the bureau said there was a 50% chance that the bulk of the country's east will receive "average rainfall" between 1 March and 30 May.

It warned that would still not be enough wet weather to end three years of drought on the east coast.

"While outlooks for drier than average conditions have eased compared to those issued for late 2019, several months of above average rainfall are needed to see a recovery from current long-term rainfall deficiencies," the statement read.

Downpours in many fire-hit areas of New South Wales and Victoria on Thursday provided some hope, while severe thunderstorms caused flooding in Melbourne.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service tweeted that this rain would "certainly go a long way towards containment".

However, it said it was not enough to extinguish the dozens of fires still burning.

In another blow, the bureau said it expects the current relief to be short-lived, with temperatures forecast to rise again in the coming weeks.

The bureau's recently-released Annual Climate Statement found 2019 was both Australia's warmest and driest recorded year.

Dr Karl Braganza, who heads the bureau's climate monitoring, said these records were key influencing factors in the fire crisis.

"2019 was consistently warm, but it was book-ended by periods of extreme heat," Dr Braganza said.

"January last year was the warmest month Australia has ever recorded, while just a few weeks ago in December, we saw the Australia-wide record hottest daily average maximum temperature broken multiple days in a row.

"At the same time, rainfall deficiencies across large parts of eastern Australia have continued to increase, unfortunately exacerbating both drought conditions and the current bushfires."

The report found that although bushfires are common in Australia, dangerous conditions have grown in recent years due a prolonged drought - the worst on Australia's record.

The bush has been losing moisture since January 2017, as fire seasons become longer, average temperatures continue to rise and precipitation dwindles.