Australian Fires Roundup

Australian Fires Roundup.

Stephen Wright:

The death toll is lower than the 173 killed in the Black Saturday fires in Victoria state in 2009, but in other respects these blazes—which could persist until March—are being viewed by experts as unprecedented. …

Australia’s carbon emissions have also ballooned. Niels Andela, an assistant research scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who helps maintain the Global Fire Emissions Database, said fires in Australia’s New South Wales alone from August through Dec. 31 emitted 260 million tons of carbon dioxide — nearly half of the country’s regular annual greenhouse-gas emissions according to government data.

He said there is “large uncertainty” about the figures because the fires in 2019 were extreme compared with the historic observations that the estimates of emissions are based on. Final data could take months, he said.

Although the fires emit a lot of CO2 in one go, the same amount of CO2 will be gradually absorbed when and if the trees grow back.

Australia’s tourism industry is also bracing for a hit. Apocalyptic images of raging flames, towering clouds of smoke and the charred remains of kangaroos have been beamed across the world.

The World’s Largest Forest Has Been on Fire for Months, by Jake Rudnitsky in August.

Since the beginning of the year, fires have consumed more than 13 million hectares …

“I don’t remember a situation where the fires burned this long, and I’ve been in forest management since 1972,” said Pyotr Tsvetkov, who runs the forest fire lab at the Sukachev Forest Institute in Krasnoyarsk. “There aren’t many fires, but they are over a huge territory and the smoke covers hundreds of kilometers. There’s no air to breathe in Krasnoyarsk and the smoke has made it to the Urals.”

Scientist David Packham on what’s really causing the bushfires.

As former State Fire Chiefs call for a summit on bushfires, expert and scientist David Packham explains that it has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with fuel-loads.

The BBC offers a high-level perspective:

At least 24 people have so far been killed – including three volunteer firefighters – and more than 6.3 million hectares (63,000 sq km or 15.6 million acres) of bush, forest and parks have been burned. …

Some 900,000 hectares were lost in the 2019 Amazon fires and around 800,000 hectares burned in the 2018 California wildfires. The total area of land affected by the NSW fires would cover most of the south of England. …

Australia’s deadliest bushfire disaster was “Black Saturday” in February 2009, when some 180 people died in Victoria. …

If there is a serious risk of fire reaching homes or properties, authorities urge people to leave in good time as fire can travel fast – faster than most people can run. …

The main climate driver behind the heat has been a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) – an event where sea surface temperatures are warmer in the western half of the ocean, cooler in the east.

The difference between the two temperatures is currently the strongest in 60 years.

As a result, there has been higher-than-average rainfall and floods in eastern Africa and droughts in south-east Asia and Australia.