Update: Hundreds of homes may have been destroyed today. Some areas had people trapped with no water and no firefighters. Conditions have been among the worst ever experienced in NSW with very strong winds fanning the fires and very dry conditions.
#nswfires #bushfire #GodBlessFirefighters Middle of Spring!?! Enough already!! pic.twitter.com/32yhaIoL5y
— Jo (@BeringWells) October 17, 2013
Thank you to the thousands of firefighters who have so bravely fought fires in difficult conds. #NSWRFS #nswfires pic.twitter.com/stDcOP0hIA
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) October 17, 2013
Australia has had an early start to the fire season. In September, when spring had barely started, fires started raging in NSW.
My heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has lost property or been threatened by fire these past few weeks. This is not something one would wish on their worst enemy. All Australians are very grateful to all the brave men and women fighting these fires and everyone who is supporting the firefighters in their efforts.
This is where the fires are burning at the moment, from the NSW Rural Fire Service. Fires are scattered over 1,200 km (approx 750 miles) up NSW, almost from the Victorian border to Queensland.
|Source: NSW RFS|
Sydney is baking in heat more akin to the height of summer
This week has seen more fire disasters as reported by Peter Hannam in the Sydney Morning Herald. On Sunday dozens of people lost their cars when a fire destroyed a car park at Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in Homebush (home of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games).
Today's fires aren't restricted to the back blocks either, there are fires burning around Australia's largest city, Sydney. From Peter Hannam:
The strength of Thursday's winds caught authorities on the hop, with the fire danger only rated "severe" rather than "extreme", as had been forecast for the previous Sunday's heat spike.
Bankstown, for instance, recorded 95 km/h winds, the strongest there for at least 10 years, said Ben McBurney, a meteorologist with Weatherzone.
"The bureau didn't expect wind speeds to go quite as high as they did," he said.
Humidity across the basin also fell as low as 10 per cent. "That's probably what led to these fires getting out of control," said McBurney.
Many areas saw their fire danger ratings rocket to "catastrophic", including for Richmond and Sydney Airport. Camden also had a "catastrophic" rating, the highest in 11 years.
While strong winds remained a concern, the arrival of cooler conditions late on Thursday gave firefighters in some areas a break. But relief may be temporary as a lack of rain and rising temperatures over the weekend will see high fire dangers return.
Friday's maximum will drop back to the long-run October average of 22 degrees and will seem almost cool after Sydneysiders have been baking in heat more akin to the height of summer than mid-spring.
Climate change will see fire conditions worsen
Peter Hannam is one of the journalists in Australia who reports it as it is. In the same article he writes:
David Jones, head of climate analysis at the Bureau of Meteorology, said climate change will see fire conditions worsen for much of Australia over the longer run.
While weather patterns vary from year to year, southern Australia is already seeing springs and summer becoming hotter. As a result, there is a "trend towards more severe fire weather conditions across Australia.”
"We know from about March-April to around June, things have been drying out across southern Australia," he said.
"The fact there is less soil moisture increases the fire risk both towards the end of the fire season but also the subsequent fire season," Dr Jones said. "You have a lesser opportunity to really wet up the vegetation.”
“Global warming exacerbates a number of factors associated with fire," he said, adding that humidity is expected to decline over much of the continent particular in summer.
Read the full article here
Too dangerous for prescribed burns
The thing is, as climate change kicks in it becomes more difficult to do any hazard reduction burns as has happened in NSW.
You can read more articles by Peter Hannam in the environment section here and in the business section here.