AuthorTopic: 🔥 The New World of Wildfires  (Read 22644 times)

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🔥 Australia's fires could change the country forever
« Reply #255 on: January 08, 2020, 01:16:58 PM »

Climate in Crisis
Australia's fires could change the country forever
Wildfires are a part of the natural rhythms of Australia’s environment. But scientists haven’t seen anything like this before.

Sheila Bailey, Judy Brady and Clinical Director Cheyne Flanagan tend to a koala named Paul from Lake Innes Nature Reserve as he recovers from burns at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on Nov. 29, 2019 in Port Macquarie, Australia. Nathan Edwards / Getty Images

Jan. 4, 2020, 2:17 AM AKST / Updated Jan. 4, 2020, 7:05 AM AKST
By Denise Chow

Wildfires are a part of the natural rhythms of Australia’s environment. But scientists haven’t seen anything like this before.

The country is grappling with some of the worst wildfires in its history. At least 12 million acres of land have already been scorched and more than 100 blazes are still active — and the season has yet to reach its peak.

The blazes threaten to reshape Australia’s ecology even in places where plants and animals have adapted to yearly fires.

“If species are adapted to one set of climatic conditions and are now being forced to regenerate in climatic conditions that are very different, it’s going to be a lot harder to come back,” said Camille Stevens-Rumann, an ecologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, who focuses her research on how ecosystems recover after major disturbances.
Emergency crews monitor a fire burning between the towns of Orbost and Lakes Entrance near Mallacoota, Australia, on Jan. 2, 2020.Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

The impact of these fires is also providing a stark warning about the kinds of natural disasters that can be exacerbated by climate change, which is lengthening wildfire seasons in Australia, according to Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“It’s really shocking and really horrible and as much as I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ climate scientists have been warning about this for a very long time — especially in Australia,” she said. “We knew that if we have drought and a heat wave, the whole country is a tinderbox. We knew it was going to happen.”

She said the biggest wildfires of the season typically break out in January or February, rather than in the spring.

These earlier-than-usual blazes could portend a worrisome trend that is echoed around the world.

“If you look at places like Portugal and Spain, they are seeing fires during the year when they didn’t historically see them,” Stevens-Rumann said. “In California, it’s hard to find a month where there isn’t a bad fire. This is one of those big concerns with climate change, that these fires are going to continue to be an issue.”
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The ability of animals to recover from Australia’s wildfires is also a concern. Scientists are estimating that more than half a billion animals have already died in the fires, a figure that Stuart Blanch, a forest and woodland conservation policy manager at the World Wildlife Fund-Australia, called conservative.

The estimate, based on the findings of a 2007 WWF-Australia report by Chris Dickman, a professor of ecology at the University of Sydney, noted that human activities — including the bulldozing of forests and other deforestation practices — had already taken a toll on many species.

Blanch said animals generally recover over the subsequent years and decades, but he added that Australia has not dealt with fires of this size and intensity before, and there are concerns that entire species or subspecies will be wiped out.

“Ecologists have much lower confidence that wildlife populations — particularly the 1,000 threatened species across the continent — will recover from such widespread and utter forest devastation,” he told NBC News in an email.

Climate change is adding further chaos to the system. As the planet warms and sea levels rise, some natural habitats are being permanently altered, outpacing the ability of plants and animals to adjust.
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Cattle under smoke-filled skies in eastern Gippsland on Jan. 2, 2020.Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

Blanch said it has been tough watching the catastrophic fires play out in Australia. “It is like a punch in the guts, nearly every day,” he said. “But I continue to have hope, and do not give into despair.”

Some plants, such as the eucalyptus trees native to Australia, grow back quickly after wildfires. Within weeks of a blaze, eucalyptus can sprout green leaves almost miraculously from blackened trunks, Stevens-Rumann said.

“Wildfires have been a part of the Earth’s ecosystem since there was plant material to burn,” she said. “We’re all adapted to a certain amount of disturbance. I can get a certain number of colds per year and be OK, but if I’m sick for eight months in a row, that’s really going to wear on me. That’s the same thing with an ecosystem.”
Image: Denise ChowDenise Chow

Denise Chow is a reporter for NBC News Science focused on the environment and space.
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🔥 Enormous 'Megafire' In Australia Engulfs 1.5 Million Acres
« Reply #256 on: January 10, 2020, 10:34:44 AM »
Another Toasty Week Down Under!


Enormous 'Megafire' In Australia Engulfs 1.5 Million Acres

January 10, 20206:33 AM ET
Scott Neuman

A New South Wales Rural Fire Service large air tanker drops fire retardant on the Morton Fire burning in bushland close to homes at Penrose, south of Sydney, on Friday.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters

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.
Australia's Wildfires Spark Disinformation Battle As They Take A Tragic Toll
Australia's Wildfires Spark Disinformation Battle As They Take A Tragic Toll

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

Meanwhile, more than 30,000 people attended a protest in Sydney to denounce the government's handling of the crisis and to call for action on climate change.

The protesters directed their ire at Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose coalition government's policies have rejected a link between Australia's unprecedented drought and fires crisis and climate change.

However, the prime minister said this week that his government would launch an inquiry to examine whether there was any connection between the fires and climate change. Asked whether he expected the current fire crisis to become commonplace in Australia because of climate change, he replied: "The links and implications here have been acknowledged."

Morrison, who has also found himself on the defensive for taking a Hawaiian vacation with his family while the fires raged, also said Friday he had ordered the military to be on standby to help firefighters.

"I've given them very clear instructions that they are to stand ready to move and support immediately," he said. "In the event that they are needed in the wake of what we hope we will not see today, but we must prepare for today."

Authorities in Australia on Friday urged a quarter of a million people in Victoria to leave their homes amid erratic winds and soaring temperatures, even as there was welcome rain in some parts affected by the fires.

Helicopters dropped supplies to towns at risk of being cut off and C-130 tankers unleashed torrents of fire retardant.

Fire crews were preparing for what they believe will be a difficult night as the wind shifts and ramps up to 50 miles per hour. In parts of the fire-affected countryside, temperatures pegged out at 104 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday.

Firefighter Andrew Beville, who was battling the Morton fire on the outskirts of the town of Penrose, near Wingello, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that he wasn't sure what would happen when the blaze reached the town.

"We just want to survive the night," he said.

Towns south of Sydney, including Eden, Batemans Bay and Norwa were warned by New South Wales Rural Fire Service to be prepared for another onslaught, The Associated Press reports.

A yacht sails past a burning woodchip mill as bushfires hit the town of Eden, New South Wales, Australia, on Friday.
Rick Rycroft/AP

In neighboring Victoria, premier Daniel Andrews told reporters he was thankful that there were at present no one unaccounted for and no communities cut off in his state.

"Now, all of those things can change and that is perhaps the most powerful reminder that we have to remain vigilant," he said. "Please, listen to the warnings and do as you are asked. If you are told to leave a community, and you can leave, then you should leave."

Veterinarians and volunteers treat koalas at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park on Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide, Australia, on Friday.

The conservation group WWF-Australia estimates that 1.25 billion animals have been killed in the fires and says it fears that some species, such as the glossy black-cockatoo and the knee-high kangaroo, face local extinctions.

Meanwhile, the government says the loss of livestock from the fires will exceed 100,000 animals.
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🔥 Why Australia's fires are linked to floods in Africa
« Reply #257 on: January 17, 2020, 06:55:19 AM »
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