Climate Context on Continuing Australia Fires

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By Tom Yulsman
Oct 18, 2013 10:36 PMNov 20, 2019 3:56 AM


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True-color and false-color satellite views of a massive blaze in Australia's Blue Mountains just west of Sydney alternate in this animation. (Images: NASA) More than two thousand firefighters continue to battle blazes across New South Wales in Australia, with more than 20 fires still uncontained despite easing weather conditions, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports. The animation above shows true- and false-color satellite images of one of those fires, in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney on the coast. The false color frame, based on data from NASA's Terra satellite, emphasizes the scar from the fire, which has so far torched a little more than 100 square miles — an area slightly larger than the city of Sacramento, California. The fires have erupted following some of the hottest climate conditions on record in Australia.

The darker orange color in the map above shows the portion of Australia that experienced record high mean temperatures for the 12 month period between Oct. 1, 2012 and Sept. 30, 2013. That's 39 percent of the country.

In fact, the number of climatic records that have been broken over the past 12 months is truly astonishing. Here's a summary from a report by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:

In the past 12-month period a large number of mean temperature records have fallen across Australia including:

Two significant daily maximum temperature records were also set this year:

  • Australia’s warmest month on record (January)

  • Australia’s warmest September on record

  • Australia’s largest positive monthly anomaly on record (September)

  • Australia’s warmest summer on record (December 2012 to February 2013)

  • Australia’s warmest January to September period on record

  • Australia’s warmest 12-month period on record (broken twice, for the periods ending August and September)

  • Indeed, Australia’s warmest period on record for all periods 1 to 18 months long ending September 2013

  • Australia’s hottest summer day on record (7 January)

  • Australia’s warmest winter day on record (31 August)

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who took office in September, has dismissed evidence of climate change as “absolute crap." He recently abolished the nation's Climate Change Commission. But it has now been resurrected as an independent, privately funded organization called the Climate Council

, which is dedicated to providing independent information to the Australian public. On its new web site, the Council has weighed in

on the links between climate change and bushfires in Australia. Here's an excerpt:

Climate change can affect bushfire conditions by increasing the probability of extreme fire weather days. Many parts of Australia, including southern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and parts of South Australia have seen an increase in extreme fire weather over the last 30 years. The projections for the future indicate a significant increase in dangerous fire weather for southeast Australia.

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