Aussie Fire Gains Strength, Size. More Evacuations ordered..

January 10, 2020

Trying to work on a video about this fire and I can’t keep up.

NPR:

A pair of massive bushfires in southeastern Australia has merged into a “megafire” engulfing some 2,300 square miles — a single blaze more than three times as large as any known fire in California.

The merged fire, which straddles the country’s most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria, measures nearly 1.5 million acres, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. It is just one of some 135 bushfires in Australia’s southeast that have claimed the lives of at least 26 people, killed more than a billion animals and damaged or destroyed nearly 3,000 homes.

Since September, the unprecedented bushfires have swept through an area larger than Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined.

NASA has released an animation showing how smoke from the fires has reached the lower stratosphere and traveled as far away as Chile.
(see above)

18 Responses to “Aussie Fire Gains Strength, Size. More Evacuations ordered..”


  1. This disaster is unfolding so fast, hardly anyone can keep up with developments.

    Tipping points. I covered this with a class I teach in December before all hell broke loose in Australia. I hate having to tell them “I told you so” when we meet again next week.

    The future looks incredibly bleak and it their future they’ve been looking forward to, which is being ruined. Still, they are working this out for themselves now. They don’t need me to preach to them anymore.

  2. jimbills Says:

    Hi Peter. A suggestion – don’t discount 100% the burn loads. The freakazoid deniers are using it as a scapegoat, yes, but it is one of several factors in the fires. I don’t think there’s any doubt that climate change is a primary factor, but this is a combination of many issues at once.

    Indigenous Australians burned far more than current inhabitants do, plus they had much lower populations and didn’t have fenced-in properties. Modern societies and governments make it much more difficult to create fire breaks than we should do. Additionally, funding has been cut in Australia to the very agencies in charge of doing so, while at the same time they are finding themselves with shorter time windows to do effective and safe burns.

    Increased and drought are then added to this situation, and are the primary factor for why the fires are happening now.

    This whole thing, though, is being simplified as a just climate change or just lack of fire breaks/arson argument, when it’s both.

    Here’s a recent Australian article on the complexity of the issue:
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-10/hazard-reduction-burns-bushfire-prevention-explainer/11853366

    Also, I found this, which is interesting. It goes over a theory that biodiversity loss has increased the burn load:
    https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acv.12269

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      Yes, a fire needs something dry to burn etc etc, blah blah. The aboriginals stopped burning the odd century ago. The land use has been changed for the odd century. Other bits and pieces go up and down over time, woopie.
      THE difference is heat. The heat waves, the extreme heat, the extended periods of killing HEAT! All the rest is neither new or significant. Bushfires always exist, these catastrophic events are due to a warming planet, full stop!

      • jimbills Says:

        I understand that. My concern is that we will rush to discount the extra fuel when discussing the fires. Both the added heat/drought as well as increased burn load exist, and it’s not correct to say burn load has nothing to do with this – as it is also incorrect to say climate change has nothing to do with this.

        The fact is we’re living in permanent structures in areas that have never had them before our modern society, we’re vastly altering the environment as we do so in multiple ways, and we’re finding that it’s coming back to bite us. Climate change is just one way this is happening, albeit one of the most impactful ways.

        I linked a previous article about this a few posts ago and it’s worth repeating:
        https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/australia-fires-management-climate/

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Do hear you James. All these ‘points’ and changes did not happen last year causing this catastrophe this year, they have been around for years, all of them. The difference from past centuries or decades is heat.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Don’t interfere with the endless navel-gazing and examination of every last detail that JB is so fond of.

            Saying, “THE difference is heat. The heat waves, the extreme heat, the extended periods of killing HEAT! All the rest is neither new or significant”, is SO definitive and unyielding, even though it happens to be 100% ON THE MONEY.

            Unfortunately It will likely take the burning of the entire country and every last wombat, dingbat, and cricket bat before some folks accept the reality that tipping points have been reached down under and it’s NEVER going to get better.

          • jimbills Says:

            On navel gazing, I’m trying to get us to not think the wildfires are a single issue. They’re not. It’s multiple issues at the same time. And that’s our future environmentally – multiple issues converging at the same time.

            This wildfire issue in the public, though, is rapidly dividing into a strictly either/or argument (just burn load vs. just climate change), with political beliefs influencing the discussion. I don’t care about the crazy arse deniers. They can’t think straight, anyway. I care about us, and if we want to maintain authority over fact-based and scientific reality, then details matter.

            Of course the added heat is a primary casual factor for this year’s spike in fires. I expect them to continue to get worse globally as time progresses.

            I’ve said all I have to say on this issue and am signing out on it.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        Like the unusual wildfires in Lisbon, another factor is that eucalyptus trees (like blue gum), with their oil-rich leaves, are exceptionally flammable.

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Eucalyptus can explode before flames touch, speeds up the fire front no end. Fuel reduction burning has been prevented by air quality ‘concerns’ which has resulted in disastrous fires. A tricky problem. Once again, eucalypti have always been there, along with every other factor in fires. The excuse of excessive fuel load today is a lie. The difference for these catastrophic is heat, global warming. It is an interesting video.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      The [2005 Wilsons Promontory hazard reduction fire] got out of control 10 days after being ignited and forced the evacuation of about 600 people — including then-premier Steve Bracks, who was on holiday.

      There’s a problem in human society when it comes to pre-emption: Natural floods, fires and earthquakes are labeled by insurers as “Acts of God”, and people will often sue governments for neglect. Paradoxically, a government can be sued for explicitly causing damage with pre-emption (the hazard reduction fire above, opening of flood gates which damage surrounding homes, etc.), even thought the policy as a whole can prevent much more damage than it causes.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      More “complexity”

      => Ocean Warming Is Speeding Up, with Devastating Consequences, Study Shows

      In 25 years, the oceans have absorbed heat equivalent to the energy of 3.6 billion Hiroshima-size atom bomb explosions, the study’s lead author said.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    It’s a bit perverse of me to so enjoy clever depictions of horrific situations, but I really liked that video/animation.

  4. jimbills Says:

    Hi Brent. We’re essentially on the same page. Burn loads ARE used as an excuse by politicians to deflect attention away from climate change. Climate change IS the primary cause of the increased heat and drought we see now, and this significantly increases the chances and size of wildfires.

    But, I’ll be repetitious on the ‘many causes’ argument, because I think it’s incredibly important for us as a species to acknowledge the many ways we mess up environmentally. The global wildfire story can (and will increasingly over time) be traced to increased heat/drought as the primary agent. But, we’ve done several things over the past centuries to significantly increase that wildfire threat.

    It’s not accurate to say the ground environment now in Australia is essentially the same as it has been for millennia, especially the inhabited areas under discussion for the wildfires, and that only the heat levels have changed. Australians have changed their environment significantly in the past century in the following ways: increased habitation and fencing, biodiversity loss, failure to continue indigenous practices, industrial livestock and agriculture practices, and in timber farming and other causes of deforestation. The Australia of today is not the same Australia it was even a century ago.

    In fact, some of these have increased significantly in the past few decades. That would essentially be a book’s worth of content, but going back to just eucalyptus, here are some under-reported items:

    Eucalyptus plantations:
    http://theconversation.com/australias-plantation-boom-has-gone-bust-so-lets-make-them-carbon-farms-49754

    “The area of eucalyptus plantations grew from almost nothing in 1998 to about 1 million hectares by 2008, spurred by a massive influx of finance encouraged by the Managed Investments Act (1998), which turned plantations into tax-effective investments.”

    Kangaroo Island, which has seen some of the worst of the recent fires, reported this recently:
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-12/kangaroo-island-bushfire-livestock-wildlife-losses/11860478

    —-

    Timber plantations ‘exploded’

    Late last week, Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly criticised the island’s forestry industry, saying the plantations exacerbated the spread of the bushfires.

    “[The industry] promised the world and never delivered anything,” he said.

    “The pine trees are now three-four decades old — they’ve gone up like candles.”

    “But I can tell you that out on the ground, it doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer or a resident or if you’re the most extreme environmental greenie, no-one wants them.”

    Kangaroo Island farmer Peter Murray said the plantations and farming were “not compatible” and one of them had to go.

    “When they burn, the ferocity is something to be seen, to be believed. The flames were 100 foot [30 metres] high,” he said.

    “And the timber has oil in it which basically explodes.”

    Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers director Shauna Black said 90 per cent of her plantation had been “touched by the bushfires”.

    She said the fires had provided a “clean slate” and the business would now decide how to best use its land in the future.

    “I think timber and agriculture do work together because they’re both agriculture; we farm trees, they farm sheep or crops, so we’re all farmers,” she said.

    “Forestry is an integral part of many rural communities around Australia, and it was encouraged by all three levels of government in the 1990s.”

    —-

    Black is vastly understating that by saying they have been ‘touched’. The company is reporting a loss ‘in excess of $100 million’.

    Now, the Kangaroo Island mayor (Murray) is also a crazed climate change denier, and he’s most definitely using the plantations as a scapegoat while denying climate change – but this just muddies the issue. High intensity industrial eucalyptus plantations are going to increase wildfire risks – period.

    There are many other ways wildfire risks have been increased recently in Australia. But again, that’s a book, and at some point this discussion has to end – and it’s my compulsions that have mainly continued it.


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