Australia is struggling with one of its worst brush fire seasons, fueled by record temperatures and months of severe drought.
What is happening in Australia Simple guide to start from:
Where are the fires?
The fires burn along the east and south coasts, where most of the population lives. The surroundings of Sydney and Adelaide the important cities of Australia fall in this area. This is causing more pain and financial damage also.
At least 19 people have died in fires since September and dozens are missing. In New South Wales alone, more than four million hectares were burned – one hectare is about the size of a sports field. To put this in perspective: Around 900,000 hectares were burned in the Amazon fires in 2019 and around 800,000 hectares in California in 2018.
Why are the fires so bad?
Australia has always experienced bush fires – it has a so-called fire period – but this year they are much worse than normal. The immediate cause is the weather, especially the phenomenon known as the dipole of the Indian Ocean, which means a hot, dry phase.
Australia set a new temperature record twice this year: On December 17, an average of 40.9 ° C was measured, a day later it was 41.9 ° C. That goes beyond a long drought. Some fires are also started on purpose.
How are the fires fought?
Firefighters spray water and fire retardants from airplanes and helicopters as well as from the ground. Fighting bush fires is extremely difficult, however, and authorities often have to focus on stopping the spread rather than extinguishing the fire.
The spread can be contained, for example, by digging earth boundaries to prevent the spread of the flames. The priority is to save lives.
How do you fight extreme forest fires?
Professional firefighters are the first to fight the flames, but they are among the thousands of volunteers. Three of them have died. Aid also comes from abroad: The United States, Canada and New Zealand have sent firefighters to help.
The evacuation efforts are being put in by Australia police, military and Navy simultaneously.
Is that climate change?
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that rising CO2 levels are warming the planet. Australia has become hotter in recent decades and is expected to continue to do so. While fires are a natural part of the Australian weather cycle, scientists have long warned that this hotter, drier climate helps make fires more frequent and intense.
The more extreme weather conditions and higher temperatures increase the risk of bush fires and enable faster and wider spread.
Is climate change responsible for the fires in Australia? What is climate change? How much is the wildlife affected?
While people can flee the fires and evacuate if necessary, the flames devastate wildlife in the affected areas. Fast runners like kangaroos can often flee from the fires unless they are caught and surrounded by flames. Koalas move slowly and often die in the flames.
Which animals do best and worst in fires? Zookeeper brings animals home to save them from fire However, the fires not only kill animals directly, they also destroy the habitat and make survivors vulnerable even after the fires have ended.
According to an academic study, nearly 500 million animals have died in New South Wales alone. Countless cattle and sheep are lost.
What is the government doing?
Each state has its own emergency operation – New South Wales is officially in a state of emergency. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised better firefighting funding and disbursements to volunteer firefighters. However, the national government was heavily criticized by its opponents for not doing enough to combat climate change.
The country is one of the world’s largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters, but has committed itself to reduction targets as part of international agreements. Mr. Morrison has repeatedly defended his government’s stance.