Who is being affected?
Australia is home to many unique and different species of animals. Many of these species can’t be found in other countries. Koalas that aren’t endangered now have taken a hard hit from the bushfires. Experts are saying that around 600,000 to 700,000 species have been affected by the fires, and an estimated one billion animals have died. 28 people have died (including 4 firefighters), and over 2,000+ houses have been consumed by the flames in New South Wales.
How much damage is there?
Over 15.6 million acres of land have been affected by the fires. New South Wales and Victoria are the most affected states. Around 130 active fires were burning in New South Wales on January 9th. Two people and an estimated 25,000 koalas were killed when the flames hit Kangaroo Island last week.
What’s causing the fires?
Scientists have been warning Australia that a hotter drier climate would contribute to more fires and more intense fires. For many years many parts of Australia have been in drought conditions, which makes it easier for fires to spread. Based on data from scientists, Australia has warmed overall by slightly more than 33 degrees Fahrenheit since 1910. Scientists are saying the main climate driver behind the fires is a positive Indian Ocean Dipole. IOD is an event where sea surface temperatures are warmer in the western half of the ocean, and cooler in the east. A positive IOD means the average water temperature is cooler pooling off of Indonesia. This means other parts of the country have less rain-bearing weather systems, and warmer than average temperatures. Additionally, the difference between the two temperatures is at its strongest in 60 years. As a result, there is a higher average rainfall and floods in Africa and droughts in Australia and Asia.
How does this affect climate change?
New South Wales is seeing some of the worst smoke pollution and air quality. Their air quality is now rated the third worst of all major cities. Although Australia’s normal weather typically contains some bushfires, this year has been a lot worse than normal. Once fires have started, embers can be blown by the wind which causes blazes to spread to new areas. Additionally, Pyrocumulonimbus clouds can be formed from the smoke and can cause lightning and downbursts of rain. Lightning can then cause more fires to form.
Australia’s worst fires
Australia’s deadliest bushfire disaster was “Black Saturday” in February 2009, when 180 people died in Victoria. 1983 Ash Wednesday’ South Australia killed 75 people. Lastly, the fire of 1967 ‘Black Tuesday’, in Tasmania claimed 62 lives.
What can you do to help?
You can donate to charities that are helping the firefighters, families, and protecting the animals.