Bush fire is nothing new to Australians because of the natural temporal conditions, but this summer has been calamitous and it’s far from over. With a magnitude of unprecedented scale, the firestorm in Australia continues to engulf the Southern region including Sydney and New South Wales.
This week, thousands of residents and tourists in south-eastern Australia were forced to abandon and migrate to shorelines as bush fires encircled communities and razed scores of buildings. Military ships and aircraft with supplies were deployed on Wednesday to deliver water, food and fuel to towns cut off with the main land as a result of the fires.
Record-breaking temperatures, extended drought and heavy winds have integrated to create disastrous and life threatening fires.
As an intense heat wave gripped most of the country in mid-December, Australia witnessed its hottest day on record, with average highs of 107.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 41.9 degrees Celsius. The heat wave is no where near its end this week in south-eastern Australia, with temperatures expected to reach 105 in Canberra, the capital.
Humans are sometimes to blame for initiating the fires, but they are also often sparked by natural phenomenon, such as lightning striking or dry vegetation, the very case in firestorm in Australia.
Once fires have started, other areas are at risk, with embers blown around by the wind causing blazes to spread to new areas.
Bush fires themselves can also accelerate thunderstorms, increasing the risk of lightning strikes and further fires.
In words of Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, from the University of New South Wales’ climate change research center, “everything about this firestorm is unprecedented”. She says it is difficult, after years researching and facing the media about the link between emissions and extreme heat, to find the apt words to describe what the country is now experiencing.
“Climate scientists and researchers have been banging on about it longer than I’ve been alive,” Perkins-Kirkpatrick states. “We all knew at some point that everything would galvanize in a perfect storm to make people fully realize climate change is here and now it is. We aren’t surprised, but we are equally shocked and grieved.”
Three fires have combined to form a single blaze bigger than the New York borough of Manhattan, as Australian firefighters battle what has been predicted to the most catastrophic day yet in an already devastating bushfire season. https://t.co/VG47cEZ0fp
— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) January 4, 2020
In total, around 12 million acres have been burned down by the fires. In comparison, about 1.9 million acres burned in the 2018 fires in California; those fires, which were the state’s most destructive in history, killed about 100 people.
As the blazes swept south-eastern Australia this week, the fire season’s death toll reached at least 15, and officials said it is most likely to rise. Around seven people were killed on Monday and Tuesday in New South Wales — including a volunteer firefighter, the third to die this season.