Bushfires tearing through southeastern Australia have killed at least 25 people and burnt over 14.8 million acres of land (in comparison, 2.2 million acres of land were burnt during the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires). It is feared that a billion animals have perished, nearly 2000 homes have been burnt down and thousands took to beaches for refuge. The smoke from the Australia bushfires is so dense that glaciers in New Zealand have turned brown from ash and smoke. Adding to the chaos is Australia’s own government, who continue to deny the link between the fires and the climate crisis and intend to use an accounting loophole to reduce its emissions reduction efforts.
While Australia bushfires are a regular ecological patterns in the country, this summer’s exceptionally high temperatures and strong winds have spread the fires further into the east coast.
Environmental Factors of the Australia Bushfires
Australia experienced the hottest and driest year in its recorded history in 2019, which was a major contributing factor to the devastating wildfires that continue to rage, the country’s meteorology bureau said.
Dry conditions limit the variety of vegetation cover, which makes areas more vulnerable to fire. Australia’s outback is covered with xeric shrubland and savanna grassland; grass fires can spread as quickly as 14 miles per hour, twice the speed of forest fires.
Data released by the climate monitoring body show Australia’s mean temperature in 2019 was 1.52°C higher than average, making it the warmest year since records began in 1910; January 2019 was the warmest month Australia has ever recorded. Rainfall was 40% below average, its lowest level since 1900.
As a result of changing weather patterns in recent years, the fire season has extended by a month in some locations, and fires have become more severe, the bureau said.