Kevin Trenberth on Why Climate Change Makes Things Catch Fire

January 2, 2020

Just before Australia started to burn, I talked to Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Turns out, when things are hot and dry, they catch fire more easily.


New York Times:

SYDNEY, Australia — As the fire stalked the east coast of Australia on Tuesday, the daytime sky turned inky black, then blood red. Emergency sirens wailed, followed by the thunder of gas explosions. Thousands of residents fled their homes and huddled near the shore. There was nowhere else to go. 

Apocalyptic scenes like these in Mallacoota, a vacation destination between Sydney and Melbourne, came on the last day of the warmest decade on record in Australia. 

The country is in the grip of a devastating fire season, with months of summer still to go, as record-breaking temperatures, strong winds and prolonged drought have ignited huge blazes across the country. The government prepared to deploy navy vessels and military helicopters to help fight the fires and evacuate people. 

The devastation is immense. In the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, more than 900 homes have been destroyed and nine million acres have burned since November. Almost 100 fires were still raging in the state on Tuesday, with about three dozen more across the border in Victoria. 

At least 15 people have died, with eight deaths confirmed on Monday and Tuesday.

Australia is normally hot and dry in summer, but climate change, which brings more frequent and longer periods of extreme heat, worsens these conditions and makes vegetation drier and more likely to burn. The country recently concluded its driest spring on record. That was followed in mid-December by the hottest day on record, with average highs across the country of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

2 Responses to “Kevin Trenberth on Why Climate Change Makes Things Catch Fire”

  1. redskylite Says:

    Plainly and clearly spelt out by the esteemed and learned US NCAR climate scientist. May this be the warning to bring policymakers and voters finally to their senses and realize what is truly important and worth fighting for.

    Mad Max films not looking quite so fictional now.


    Millions of animals are dead and hundreds of thousands more will perish over coming days as a result of killer bushfires terrorising southeast Australia.

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