Australia is witnessing widespread fires or we can name it as ‘Australia Fire’ or ‘Australia bush fire’. This fire has engulfed 6 states of Australia. Human life to wildlife everyone is suffering from this monster fire. This fire has damaged Australia in every aspect whether it would be social or economical. So, here are the things which all you need to know about Australia fire.
Dozens of fires erupted in New South Wales, Australia in November and rapidly spread across the entire continent to become some of the most devastating on record. In total, more than 5.9 million hectares (14.7 million acres) have been burned across Australia —- an area larger than the countries of Belgium and Haiti combined. The worst-affected state is NSW, with 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) burned.
Bush Fire /Australia fire:
Each year there is a fire season(Bush Fire) during the Australian summer(Nov to Feb), with hot, dry weather making it easy for blazes to start and spread. Such fires happen when grass, branches, trees start burning in an uncontrolled manner.
Causes of Australia fire:
- Natural causes are to blame most of the time, like lightning strikes in drought-affected forests.
- Humans can also be blamed.
Why present Australia Fire is so devastating?
- Australia is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades. According to the country’s Bureau of Meteorology, last spring was the driest on record.
- Heatwave in December broke the record for highest nationwide average temperature, with some places temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius
- Strong winds have also made the fires and smoke spread more rapidly.
The main reason behind this Worst Climatic condition in Australia: Positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
A positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) – an event where sea surface temperatures are warmer in the western half of the Indian ocean and cooler in the eastern half of the Indian ocean. This temperature difference between the western and eastern Indian ocean is currently the strongest in 60 years.
Due to the higher than normal sea surface temperature of the western Indian ocean -> increased convection(hot air rising with more moisture from the ocean) -> Higher rainfall. As a result, there has been higher-than-average rainfall and floods in eastern Africa.
Due to the lower than normal sea surface temperature of the eastern Indian ocean -> reduced convection means hot air not rising and so, droughts in south-east Asia and Australia.[daily news]
Now, Bush fires themselves can also drive thunderstorms, increasing the risk of lightning strikes and further fires.
Bushfires also release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The gas, which makes up only a small percentage of the total gases in the atmosphere, is exceptionally good at trapping heat. In just three months, Australia’s fires are estimated to have released 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This will cause more heat-trapping, a more heated condition that may worsens the bush fire condition.
Experts say climate change has worsened the scope and impact of natural disasters like fires and floods. weather conditions are growing more extreme, and for years, the fires have been starting earlier in the season and spreading with greater intensity.
What has been the damage so far?
Residents across several states have lost their homes. The heaviest structural damage occurred in New South Wales, the country’s most populated state, where close to 1,300 homes have been destroyed and over 440 damaged. More than 5.9 million hectares have been burned across Australia’s six states. The worst-affected state is New south wales, with 4 million hectares burned. A total of 24 people across Australia have died.
There has also been extensive damage to wildlife and the environment. Almost half a billion animals killed in Australia wildfires. Massive bushfires have killed 480 million native animals in New South Wales alone. Almost a third of koalas in NSW may have been killed in the fires, and a third of their habitat has been destroyed. The smoke has become another disaster. On January 1st, Australia’s capital Canberra recorded the worst pollution it’s ever seen, with an air quality index 23 times higher than what’s considered “hazardous.”[UPSC current affairs analysis]
What is being done to overcome this situation?
State of emergency is declared in NSW in December, which grants “extraordinary powers” to the NSWRFS (NSW Rural Fire Service) commissioner and the authority to allocate government resources and direct government agencies in taking action.
The state of Queensland also briefly declared a state of emergency in November.
There are 2,300 firefighters working on the ground in NSW alone, and more support is on the way — the US, Canada, and New Zealand have sent additional firefighters to help.
The federal government has also sent in military assistance like army personnel, air force aircraft, and navy cruisers for firefighting, search and rescue, and clean-up efforts.
When will the fires end?
Unfortunately, Australia is only just entering its summer season. Normally, temperatures peak in January and February, meaning the country could be months away from finding relief.
The fires are unlikely to end entirely since they are an annually occurring event but efforts are going on to control it.[upsc current affairs 2020]