Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early start to the fire season in Australia

Sou | 8:15 PM Go to the first of 12 comments. Add a comment

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.

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.


  1. Many side comments in smh show the need for far worse.

    1. Nobody needs or wants or deserves bushfires. They are all too common here and conditions are getting worse with each decade of global warming.

    2. The lesson is only learnt by confrontation.
      Confrontation today saves multitudes of lives and property tomorrow.
      It took a Sandy to raise the sea defences.
      It took an Odisha Cyclone 1999 to save almost 10.000 lives from Phailin, last week.
      It takes a lot of Aussie bushfires to save a future millions drowned and tens of millions fleeing the Ganges delta.
      That's why. It's called realism.

      The kind of bushfires happening in Down Under, and their number, are definitly not like they were in 1972-76 when I lived there. Modern bushfires destroy the woods permanently and change the scape into schrubbery. Happens in Aussieland, happens in the USA: forests simply not returning.

    3. The conditions in NSW have been appalling and yes, the climate is changing and making fire conditions worse. What I don't understand is you telling us that we need more of the same. That's a horrid sentiment not worthy of anyone.

      I've been through more than enough fires and lost people to them. I wouldn't wish any disaster upon anyone. What has been happening in NSW is horrific.

  2. Sou, I didn't say YOU needed more of same. YOU got the message. YOU did not vote for killing the Climate Council. That means you did not vote for a climate change compared to which the current situation is but a barbie. But the guys & curries I'm talking about HAVE voted for this and they are defending their vote.

    Likewise New York needs no Sandy no more.
    But the Carolina's, Georgia and Florida certainly do.
    And Holland needs two floods of the millenium like central Europe doesn't need anymore (they did need BOTH, by the way).

    Nicing up the CAGW message is the sentiment not worthy of anyone anymore.
    Here's one more why: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/10/drought-helped-caused-syrias-war-will-climate-change-bring-more-like-it/ .

    1. And please don't tell anyone what is happening in NSW brings tears to my eyes, as did the Moore and Reno tornado's, as did the 100.000 cattle suffocated in South Dakota, et cetera. Hush.

    2. cRR, regardless of what people accept or don't accept about climate science or anything else, nobody deserves or needs this sort of catastrophe. Fire is a terrible thing. One of the very worst type of disasters.

    3. Yes. So are floods. Both affect Australia big time.

      Some notes.
      - I am bringing up the classic moral dilemma: would you kill someone if you knew this would save hundreds? Variant: would you let someone be killed (by some other e.g. non-animate agent) if you knew this would save hundreds? Finally: could you wish for someone to be killed, if you knew this would save hundreds? Substitute at wish 'killed' for 'hurt' or something with property damage. Philosophers make careers from this and rightly so.

      - During years of AGW-'debate' many ways were tried to convey the message, ranging from IPCC and scientist's diplomacy via Al Gore to more activist methods as per Mann or Peter Gleick (who imo deserves a statue). After the Russian inferno 2010 and the d-word treatment at WUWT I decided on a way that suits me best and will not perform less (if not better) than any other: the polemic. Buttressed by the Nobel Peace Prize for Gore/IPCC, the water fights in Bolivia and the Syrian atrocity. And of course the hyperextremes hitting faster and faster more places every year.

      - If the lesson is only learnt through confrontation, my reasoning and partial solution to the dilemma described above follows. It works morally because neither I nor anyone possess the actual power to throw a Sandy on some country's coast - or to stop her formation for that matter.

  3. The Murdoch press have launched an attack on Greens MP Adam Bandt for pointing out the bleeding obvious - that AGW and record temperatures are contributing to earlier and more severe bushfire seasons.

    The article is attributed to "Staff Writers" but it reads like the clueless garbage that appears in shock jock Andrew Bolt's blog. Apparently it is news that a moron on twitter tweets to Bandt "You are a pimple on the arse of a snake"

    Ironic coming from the clowns who during and after every bushfire, lie that it is environmentalists stopping preventative burning that cause them. These are also the clowns that exploit every refugee tragedy during and after to push the draconian policies of the LNP.


    1. Murdoch press haven't attacked Peter Hannam at SMH or David Jones at the BoM yet, have they?

      Might be time to get stuck into the Murdoch press.

    2. This may well be Australia's hurricane Sandy moment. The decent journalists in the Murdoch empire continue to report the facts which are becoming harder to deny.

      Here is the former head of the NSW Rural Fire Service.

      "Commissioner Phil Koperberg says NSW has never had such fires in October
      "The former NSW environment minister and current chairman of the State Emergency Management Committee was yesterday appointed Blue Mountains Emergency Recovery Co-ordinator.
      He said there had been worse bushfire disasters in the Blue Mountains - in 1952, 1957 and 1968 - but what was unprecedented was it happening in October.
      "It's not the worst, but it is the earliest. We have never had this in October," Mr Koperberg said. "This is a feature of slowly evolving climate. We have always had fires, but not of this nature, and not at this time of year, and not accompanied by the record-breaking heat we've had."
      He said he had recorded temperatures of 37C at his home in the Blue Mountains, figures extreme even for February, let alone for October."


  4. ""Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Australian radio the U.N. head of climate change was "talking through her hat" when she told CNN's Christiane Amanpour there is "absolutely" a link between the fires spreading across Australia's most populous state and global warming.""

    So the country needs a suburb worth 1000 homes to burn out for this. Just to please this guy.
    Nowhere close to a Sandy moment yet. Good news is there's a summer to go.


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