Australian bushfire season 2019-2020 – Severity, reasons and conclusions

Guest essay by Pasi Autio 2.2.2020

The Australian bushfire season of 2019-2020 is now the climate topic of the year – the severe bushfire season has caused more than 2000 houses to burn in the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone. At least 34 people have died and likely over 1 billion mammals, birds and reptiles has been lost (1).

According to wikipedia pages for the 2019-2020 bushfire season (2) 18.9 million hectares of land has been burned as of 14h of January. This sounds severe, but how large is the amount of burned land when comparing to the earlier seasons?

Annual burned area in Australia

There are sources to place this bushfire season in the context like the study by Giglio at al 2013 (3). The paper describes a fourth generation Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED4). This data set combines satellite records like the 500m MODIS burned area maps with active fire data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) and the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) family of sensors. The paper also provides burned area data for Australia and New Zealand (combined) for the years 1997-2011.

Luckily Louis Giglio and his team have continued to work and have created excellent source of all burned area and fire-based emissions datasets.MODIS Collection 6 (C6) MCD64A1 burned area dataset (4) provides satellite-based burned area data for all continents – and also for Australia.

The data is available at globalfiredata.org with a great analysis tool available in the same address. Currently the dataset provides burned area data for the years 1997-2016. It’s possible to select a continent or country and choose several options about the source data from emissions to burned area (among others).

Let’s start with burned area data for Australia:

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Figure: Annual burned area in millions of hectares

Figure provides the total burned area for each year between 1997 and 2016 in millions of hectares. Area burned every year was between 18.2 million hectares (2010) and 94.6 million hectares (2001). On average, the area burned during this time period was 52.9 million hectares. Since there is 769 million hectares of land in Australia, the area burned between 1997 and 2016 was 2.4 – 12.3 % of total land area – every year.

These figures seem very high but satellite mapping shows which areas were burnt in which year. Let take year 2001 as an example.

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Figure: Burned area in Australia for the year 2001

The color of each grid cell presents the percentage of area burned within this grid cell. As we can see the majority of fires are happening within the Australian northern and western territories. But overall, the fires can happen everywhere with the exception of desert in the middle. The reason for lack of fires in the desert is of course obvious: area’s like the Simpson desert have plenty of heat, but little to burn. But if there is sufficient fuel load to burn, the fire seems to be likely at some point.

Thus the area burned so far during the bushfire season 2019-2020 in easy to place in the context: the burned area during this season as quoted by several sources is ~20% of average area burned in Australia annually. It is likely that the quoted area is too low, since the fires in many remote areas are not reported and can be properly identified only with means of satellite observations. The real burned area during this season will eventually be available through satellite burned area datasets.

Most of the burned land areas are shrublands, woodlands and open forests. Forests fires happen mostly within eucalyptus forests (Australia’s northern and eastern shore).

The burned area data provides the details of area being burned in total whether it is forest, non-forest and whether the fire was planned (prescriptive burns) or non-planned. But how about the forests specifically?

Forest fires in Australia

There is another source, which provides a lot of details for forest fires specifically. Australia government’s department of Agriculture provides the “Australia’s State of the Forests Report” for every five year period. The latest one has been published in 2018 (5) and covers years 2011-2016.

This report provides lots of details about forest fires in Australia starting with annual forest fires for seasons 2011-2012 to 2015-2016.

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Figure: Annual planned and unplanned area of forest fires in Australia – millions of hectares

Unplanned forest fires where between 8.9 million hectares (season 2013-2014) and 21.2 million hectares (2012-2013). In addition the area burned due the planned (prescriptive) burns was between 6.2 million hectares (season 2013-2014) and 8.2 million hectares (season 2011-2012).  Also we can see that this data correlates well with the satellite burned area dataset.

Earlier versions of these reports provides similar figures; for example the year 2008 version of this report says that the estimated area of forest burnt in the period from 2001 to 2006 was 24.7 million hectares; an estimated 20.0 million hectares was burnt in unplanned fires and 4.7 million hectares was burnt in planned fires. In average 15.7% of the Australian forest land burned every year. According to the latest report, the total area of forest in Australia burnt one or more times during the period 2011–12 to 2015–16 was 55 million hectares (41% of Australia’s total forest area) (5). Some forests had at least one fire per year during five different years between 2011 and 2016. Thus, forest was in fire every year.

That is a lot of forest fires in one country. You would imagine that after all these fires there are no forests left in Australia. But there is and according to the “State of forests” report, the area of forest has even increased slightly between 1990 and 2016.

Most of the forested ecosystems in Australia are ecologically adapted to fire and even require it for regeneration. Eucalyptus trees – for example – do not just resist fire, they actively encourage it. Eucalyptus leaves don’t decompose and are highly flammable. Some species for these trees hold their seeds inside small capsules until the fire happens. Fire triggers massive drop of seeds to the ground cleaned by the forest fire (6). Due to the flammable materials generated by Eucalyptus trees, the forest fire in Eucalyptus forest is inevitable sooner or later. Sooner it happens, more controlled the fire is and less harm it will generate to the trees and animals. Avoiding fires too long is clearly not a good idea, but since uncontrolled fires are no good either, there are lots of planned (prescriptive burns) in Australia. Prescriptive burns are the only way of managing the volume of burnable biomass in Australian forests, since removing biomass mechanically is in most cases too labor intensive alternative.

In summary, the Australian bushfire season 2019-2020 overall – despite of all the harm it has caused to lives – both for humans and animals – has not been exceptional on country level. It has not been one of the worst seasons in any metric e.g. not based on area of burned land, burned forests or lost lives.

But there is something special happening in New South Wales in particular.

Fires in New South Wales

Almost all the publicity regarding the 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia has been related to the fires in New South Wales. And indeed, based on MODIS fire count data from globalfiredata.org there is something extraordinary going in in south-east Australia – especially in New South Wales, where the number of fires detected is about four times higher than in previous records.

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Figure: Eastern Australia fire counts (7)

Why the fires are so intense especially in New South Wales?

Positive Indian Ocean Dipole event

Incidentally there is an exceptional natural event going on. An exceptionally positive Indian Ocean Dipole (8) is currently ongoing (9) and has caused severe weather not only in Australia, but in Africa too (10). The event among the strongest in 60 years (12).

Why is this relevant to the extreme fires in south-east Australia? According to the study Cai et al 2009 (11) there is a systematic linkage between positive Indian Dipole events and severe fires in southeast Australia. Almost half of most severe fires have occurred during pIOD.

Some of the studies have tried to link pIOD to the Climate Change, but so far the climate model’s ability to predict the pIOD has been less than optimal (13).

Lack of sufficient prescribed burning

According to studies, the hazardous level of fuel loads can occur within 2 to 4 years from the low intensity prescribed burning in southeast Australia (14). But the prescribed burning practices are not popular among locals. The smoke from the hazard reduction burns is a nuisance and health issue itself (15).

New South Wales has about 20 million hectares of forests and the current level of prescribed burning is ~ 200000 hectares annually. This level of prescribed burning will do little to reduce the risks of catastrophic bushfires.

But one thing is sure: the debate about the right level of prescribed burning will continue (16).

Summary

  • All-in-all the bushfire season in Australia is not abnormal
  • Consider Australia to be a continent of fire
  • Most ecosystems in Australia are ecologically adapted to the fire and will even require it
  • The only way to manage the fire hazards in Australia is to manage the fuel loads
  • Natural Indian Ocean Dipole events (and ENSO events) have and will have the effect on droughts in Australia
  • Hazardous volume of fuel loads together with abnormally positive Indian Ocean dipole and the associated drought is the prime reason for extreme bushfire season in southeast Australia and especially in New South Wales during this season

Further reading

Australia’s state of forests report 1998 provides a lot of background information about the forests and forest fires in Australia in the past.

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/07/record-breaking-49m-hectares-of-land-burned-in-nsw-this-bushfire-season
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019%E2%80%9320_Australian_bushfire_season
  3. Giglio, L., J. T. Randerson, and G. R. van der Werf (2013), Analysis of daily, monthly, and annual burned area using the fourth-generation global fire emissions database (GFED4),J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosci.,118, 317–328, doi:10.1002/jgrg.20042.
  4. Giglio, L., Boschetti, L., Roy, D.P., Humber, M.L., Justice, C.O., 2018. The collection 6 MODIS burned area mapping algorithm and product. Remote Sens. Environ. 217,72–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2018.08.005.
  5. Australia’s State of the Forests Report 2018; https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/forestsaustralia/sofr
  6. https://wildfiretoday.com/2014/03/03/eucalyptus-and-fire/
  7. 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season; image credit globalfiredata.org; image and all other images used with https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
  8. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/iod/
  9. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-16/positive-indian-ocean-dipole-bad-news-for-drought-crippled-areas/11120566
  10. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50602971
  11. Cai, W., Cowan, T., & Raupach, M. (2009). Positive Indian Ocean dipole events precondition southeast Australia bushfires. Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L19710. https://doi.org/10.1029/2009GL039902
  12. https://www.severe-weather.eu/news/unusually-strong-indian-ocean-dipole-australia-europe-fa/
  13. Cai, W., and T. Cowan, 2013: Why is the amplitude of the Indian Ocean dipole overly large in CMIP3 and CMIP5 climate models? Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 1200–1205, https://doi.org/10.1002/grl.5020
  14. Morrison et al 1996, Conservation conflicts over burning bush in south-eastern Australiahttps://doi.org/10.1016/0006-3207(95)00098-4
  15. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-08/nsw-fires-rfs-commissioner-weights-in-on-hazard-reduction-debate/11850862
  16. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-20/hazard-reduction-burns-bushfires/11817336

140 thoughts on “Australian bushfire season 2019-2020 – Severity, reasons and conclusions

  1. This excellent article is definitive proof that global warming REDUCES the number of acres burned.

    The global climate had not warmed in about 34 years, as of 1974-1975, but there were a HUGE number of acres burned in 1974-1975 in Australia.

    Skip to 2019-2020, after 45 years of global warming, and far fewer acres burned in Australia (assuming the current wild fire season is over, or almost over).

    So the world had global warming, since 1975 … and fewer acres burned in Australia !

    Proof that global warming reduces acres burned by bushfires.

    More Important:
    “Can someone here explain to me why east coast Americans say “forest fires”, west coast Americans say “wildfires”, and Australians say “bushfires” ?

    Most Important:
    Of course none of this matters because Perfesser Thunberg assures us the world is going to end in 11 years.

    • More Important:
      “Can someone here explain to me why east coast Americans say “forest fires”, west coast Americans say “wildfires”, and Australians say “bushfires” ?

      I can’t speak ye or American cousins, but in Oz we call them bushfires because that’s what we call most of our indigenous forests.

    • “Bush” is not a precise term.
      It can variously mean forest, woodland, scrub or simply be a generic term for that part of the country out of town.

      • Bush as in bush tucker (food growing naturally), bushwalking (hiking), going bush (getting way from it all), bush track (trail), the bush (area of natural vegetation be it forest or savannah), bushwhacked (held up by baddies), out bush etc

    • My _guess_ is that in the USA west”wildfire” is used for fires (underbrush, prairie, grasses, … ) that are not in forests (which are called “forest fires”); in the USA east there are few of those open areas to burn, so most actually are forests, forest fires. There’s also the faux-drama of “WildFire!!!” in news[sic] headlines.

    • Some thoughts.

      1) East Coast is home to a number of forests, both current and historical.
      Keeping in mind that fires like the Wilderness fires during America’s Civil War battle of the wilderness in Virginia:

      ““All circumstances seemed to combine to make the scene one of unutterable horror. At times the wind howled before the tree-tops, mingling its moans with the groans of the dying, and heavy branches were cut off by the fire of the artillery, and fell crashing upon the heads of the men, adding a new terror to battle.
      Forest fires raged; ammunition trains exploded; the dead were roasted in the conflagration; the wounded, roused by its hot breath, dragged themselves along with their torn and mangled limbs, in the mad energy of despair, to escape the ravages of the flames; and every bush seemed hung with shreds of blood-stained clothing.
      It seems as though Christian men had turned to fiends, and hell itself had usurped the place of earth”-Horace Porter”

      has been referred to as an inferno, cauldron, wildfire and “forest fire”.

      The wilderness itself refers to a mixture of dense thick undergrowth intermingled with trees. An underbrush so thick, that when Stonewall Jackson’s troops had flanked the Federals; many did not know how close they were to the Federal troops until they literally burst out from the wilderness growth into the Federal’s camps.

      2) These East Coast forests reach into eastern Ohio west of Pennsylvania, through Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota across the Great Lakes from New York, across the South west of Tennessee and Louisiana petering out in the great plains. All of this area refers to fires in the woodlands as ‘forest fires’.

      3) The West Coast south of Oregon lacks significant forests. Inland of that there are few forests until one reaches certain habitats; e.g. 1) Sierra Nevadas; e.g. 2) Lands around the Grand Canyon, 3) mountains in Arizona and New Mexico; Central and northern Utah; Colorado, etc.

      4) Oregon and Washington east well into Montana are forests, with the exception of a number of high altitude arid areas termed “high desert”.

      Forest fires in areas defined by 3 and 4 are called forest fires, even on the West Coast overlooking the Pacific.

      Other fires along the West Coast are called; Fire, Brush fire, Wildfire, Creosote or Juniper fire, etc. etc., and sometimes as Forest fires.

      If you have the misfortune to witness a fire in any of the arid areas on America’s West Coast, you’d understand why it is often termed “Wildfire”. Grasses, bushes and small trees are loaded with resins and oil and they erupt into hot flaming conflagrations incredibly quickly; as in the blink of an eye.

      Fires in America’s grasslands are called grass fires; fires in swamp areas are called swamp fires, fires in sugar cane fields are sugar cane fires, etc. etc.

      There a several WUWT commenters who have or are spending time as professionals fighting forest fires. Perhaps one or more could elaborate about forest fires and wildfires.

    • – Australia uses “bush” for wilderness.
      – Western U.S. are referring to wilderness in general.
      – Eastern/Midwest differentiated forest from prairie, but as much of the prairies are farmland, they don’t see as much fire anymore.

      – Bonus fact: for all the whining about wildfires in California, the biggest fire in the U.S. was in Wisconsin/Michigan. It’s not even close.

    • According to globalfiredata.org:

      “Cumulative MODIS active fire detections for New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland summed per ‘fire year’ running from July 1st to June 30th in the following year. This fire year, satellite fire detections in New South Wales are more than four times higher than the previous record year (the 2002-03 fire season). In Victoria, fires are above average at this point in 2019-2020 but have not yet surpassed previous extreme fire years in 2002-2003 and 2006-2007. In Queensland, MODIS fire counts were consistent with previous years, despite large wildfires in southern Queensland, since total fire activity in this state is dominated by savanna fires in northern Queensland, a natural part of these ecosystems.

      Hmmmm

  2. Australian Bushfires have been severe for thousands or even millions of years, what is new is the Green inspired Panic reaction and CAGW propaganda opportunism, The solution to the bushfires threatening human habitats is not bad analyses by panic. Blaming rising CO2 concentrations and global warming is misdirecting efforts to minimize wildfire destruction. Australia needs to address reducing human ignitions and arson (42% of fires), reducing invasive flammable grasses and improved fire suppression by better fire-breaks and hazard load limitation that reduces the accumulation of fire fuel which enables large intense and destructive fires to wreak havoc on human habitation.

    • exactly
      the 2009 fires didnt get a damns worth of climate hysterics
      it was as usual a hot dry nth wind day when fires are the norm and smart people keep an eye on the horizon and sniff the air often for smoke.
      and smoke?
      why now after decades is smoke from preventative burning an issue?
      farmers burnoffs ditto
      its pretty brief doesnt smeel bad and is very localised
      not the crisis to everyones health etc etc thats now the extra added bonus hysterics new bugbear
      was irate hearing Scomo say that summers werelonger and fires were worse on the radio today
      the mans looking like hes falling to the greenside of the fence
      and his new deputy dawg is a rabid believer
      god or something ..help Aus

  3. Sorry to be picky but I thought a million hectares was equal to 1000 square kilometres
    and that the area of Australia was 7.7 MILLION square kilometres?

      • Given that only 17% of Australia is forested I still find it hard to believe that 12.3 % of total land area burned in 2003.
        Only 5% survived?
        If nothing else this is a remarkable recovery…17 years later it’s up and burning again!

        • 12.3% refers to total area burned during 2001 and forests are only a subset of that. Less than 1/3 of annual burned area in Australia are categorized as forests.

        • I live in Australia and there is NO WAY 12.3 percent of our continent burned in 2001. Did not happen. I mean are you seriously saying nearly a million square kms burned in 2001? Poppycock! Which means this entire article is worthless, as are I suspect many articles on WUWT.

          I went to globalfiredata.org and on the very front page it states that in NSW this fire season there were 4 times the number of fires than the previous record fire season. Hmmmm

      • 7.7 million km2 = 770 million hectares. Area burned during 2001 was 94.6 Million (0.94 million km2) hectares according to Giglio et al, which is 12.2% of the total land area in Australia.

        Most of those fires are bushfires far away from highly populated areas in Australia.

  4. A hundred years of supplying railway sleepers etc. to the world has changed Australia’s great eucalyptus forests to great fire hazards.

    • The demonisation of forestry is what kick-started this great green Aussie madness. Forestry ensured access to areas for fire-fighting, along with machinery and workers.

      Forestry is part of the solution. It is not the problem. The problem is people who espouse green propaganda.

      Environmentalists are not conservationists. They cause widespread destruction, then blame it on others.

      • Trees are renewable… right up until they are not.

        Maybe our Prime Minister should propose a new ‘drax’ style power plant fuelled by the biomass removed from bushfire prone areas.

      • I am referring to the great natural “old growth” eucalyptus forests. The big trees are cut out time and time again every 30 or 40 years or so over a period of 150 years. The big old trees unsuitable for timber use die and the end result is forest of smaller trees evenly spaced. This type of “new growth” forest is very susceptible to fire. The trees will live for more than 250 years.

        • The problem with blaming logging, is that it the same dynamic has occurred in areas that were not logged.

          It happens because intense fires kill big trees and promote “wheat field” regeneration events . Dense sprouting of seedlings and scrub that never get big because the competition is too high, and they eventually provide the fuel that burns intensely to set off another cycle.

          It’s not logging that is the problem, but the lack of frequent fire.

        • Except that much of the areas burnt are Class A nature reserves with no logging and that was part of the problem in fighting them … no access roads and no way to do reduction burns. There may be some parts that had the issue you refer but there is also the reverse.

          That is one of the problems that needs to be carefully looked at by a Royal Commission, if we have Class A nature reserves what resources and management plan do we need in place.

          I gave the example a few days ago of Stirling Range National park in Western Australia which has no fire fighting units and not even a water stand pipe to fight fires in the park. It basically relies on farmers in the area to play unpaid fire fighters using there own equipment.

        • I hope to visit Murrabrine Forest Rd soon. Just 30 km away. Placed in the early 1990’s to harvest the last of the old growth forest in my area. A change of governing party saw that this was reserved as national park. It will be interesting to compare this last old growth forest with the other stuff in the area where I live. (everything burnt 31 Dec 2019 and 23 Jan 2020)

  5. “All-in-all the bushfire season in Australia is not abnormal”

    Yet another blogger telling us from somewhere (Finland this time) that we really shouldn’t be upset about the fires – it happens nearly every year.

    • Nick implies – “don’t get upset about the increasing numbers of arsonists, just get upset about the fires”.
      I presume Nick that the additional fuel loads in Australian forests (courtesy of the Greens) are also nothing to worry about.

    • Yes, Nick, another agency is telling us the Australian bush has evolved to burn and that fires are the norm and not the exception.

      You might say (cough) there is a CONSENSUS on the topic.

      /snark

    • No one said not to be upset about the bush fires. Feel free to be upset.
      The only thing they are telling you is that the evidence points to this being just another year of fires in a nation that has massive amounts of fire every year. Nothing special, except maybe this round it hit your area rather than another area it hit in other years. But that is the thing about fires, if you do not have one in an area that builds up fuel, you eventually become due for a fire. You likely should not act surprised that a fire happened, but do feel free to be upset. I would be livid with government that refused to clear the fuel load either physically or through prescribed burns. It is not like natives of the land and the new settlers of the last couple hundred years did not know this stuff and burn the bush regularly to prevent catastrophic fire events.

    • “…Yet another blogger telling us from somewhere (Finland this time) that we really shouldn’t be upset about the fires – it happens nearly every year…”

      This from the guy who acts like he knows more than Americans about US history and politics.

      Does the data analyzed look different from outside of Australia? Is there a secret decoder for Aussies that show different results?

      You’ve been falsely caught claiming the Green Party has no power, that volunteer firefighters in SE Australia don’t do controlled burns, that the Green Party didn’t push for a reduction in controlled burns, etc. Apparently at least one Aussie needs outside fact-checking.

        • No Nick, you were proven false on all of them. Always hard to tell how much is lying vs. outright ignorance on your part.

          You also claimed there was no 1974-75 major bushfire season. You said it only existed on Wikipedia. Even your old CSIRO admits it was huge https://www.publish.csiro.au/wf/wf08093

          • “Even your old CSIRO admits it was huge”
            The link is about fires in the NE Simpson desert. Burning mainly spinifex. And yes, 1975 was a big year, apparently, for spinifex fires in the NE sSimpson desert. Or so Landsat imagery tells us on re-examination. No-one saw it. No-one suffered from it, or tried to put it out.

            That has been my challenge about this supposed terrible fire season in 1974-5. Find some contemporary reports from people on the ground. Who was affected? Even some details like when did they happen, and where exactly? There is nothing.

            Australians know about bushfires. There are some terrible years, well remembered. And when folks from far away try to tell us that 1974/5 was the worst of them, they just get laughed at.

          • Notice how when we point out that 75 was big, he misrepresented that as “terrible”.

            The contradiction – or outright lie in his case – is claiming that we don’t know the difference, while he and his cronies conflate the two any time they like.

            They tell us that this season is “unprecedented”, and when it is pointed out that other seasons have had more intense fires that have killed more people, they resort to blathering on about the area burnt.

            When we point out that other seasons burnt more area, they revert to claiming that it IS actually the damage that is more important.

            Hypocrisy much…..

    • Nick specializes in jumping to unwarranted conclusions. Especially when he can use such excercise to change the subject.

      Saying that something is not unusual is not the same as saying one shouldn’t be upset.
      If you were half as smart as you believe yourself to be, you would know that already.

    • Nick must be in trouble he obviously couldn’t redefine or deflect so he has gone for the last resort the Ad Hominem attack.

    • “Yet another blogger telling us from somewhere (Finland this time) that we really shouldn’t be upset about the fires – it happens nearly every year.”
      Yet its OK for bloggers telling us from somewhere that we should be alarmed about the fires in Australia because – its all about man made climate change.
      Give us a break Nick.

  6. Yes well there’s been plenty of rain since the fires, and it’s cooling in Sydney this week.

    It is variations in cosmic ray intensity which cause virtually all climate change by seeding clouds and thus altering albedo, not tasteless, colorless and odorless carbon dioxide gas comprising one molecule in 2,500 and, along with water vapor and methane, cooling all the other air molecules especially at night, radiating some of their energy back to Space.

    The temperature gradient in every planetary troposphere is formed by gravity in accord with the maximum entropy production associated with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It is NOT caused by the radiating or absorbing properties of IR-active (“greenhouse”) gases and in fact they reduce the gradient and thus cool the surface. This is evident when comparing regions with varying concentrations of water vapor. If climatology “science” were correct, then rainforests could be shown (with their false physics) to be 50 to 80 degrees hotter than deserts. That is just how WRONG is the fictitious, fiddled physics of climatology.

    Circulate this message!

  7. “Australia’s state of forests report 1998 provides a lot of background information about the forests and forest fires in Australia in the past.”
    In fact it’s section on extent of fire is on p 94. Here is the complete section:

    “There are no consistent continental-scale data on the amount of forest burned annually by either bushfire or prescribed burning: statistics for this were reported until recently, but their collection was discontinued because of problems with consistency and meaning”

    Worth noting.

    • “Luckily Louis Giglio and his team have continued to work and have created excellent source of all burned area and fire-based emissions datasets.MODIS Collection 6 (C6) MCD64A1 burned area dataset (4) provides satellite-based burned area data for all continents – and also for Australia.”

      • So what does MODIS tell us about 2001? Pasi from Finland tells us that
        “But overall, the fires can happen everywhere with the exception of desert in the middle.”
        But the desert isn’t in the middle. Here is a Wiki map of deserts. The MODIS burnt area includes the Great Sandy Desert, the Tanami Desert, and much of the Great Victoria desert.

        As the forests report said
        “their collection was discontinued because of problems with consistency and meaning”

        You will not find any contemporary press articles about the great fires of 2001. Or 1974/5.

        • Fraser, B Macquarie Book of Events, 1986 pp 584
          New South Wales Government Ministry for Police and Emergency Services, 1974 – 1975, Far West NSW Bushfire, website viewed 24 May 2011

          • “1986, 2011”
            You have an odd notion of contemporary.

            JoNova gave the game away writing about this:
            “From the other side of the world comes this extraordinary collection of data that few in Australia seem aware of.”

            The real fires of 1939, 1967, 1983, 2009 and 2018/9 got massive contemporary press coverage. But then folks from Finland and elsewhere start telling us about huge fires that few Australians seem aware of. And were not noticed at the time. It seems that one of these things is not like the other.

        • Sorry Nick I don’t know what you are taking about.
          The fires occurred they were big and it wasn’t extremely hot.
          Here’s another quote this time from Australia bureau of statistics
          Even the normally arid interior of the country is capable of carrying extensive fires. In 1974-75, lush growth of grasses and forbs following exceptionally heavy rainfall in the previous two years provided continuous fuels through much of central Australia and in this season fires burnt over 117 million hectares or 15 per cent of the total land area of this continent.

          • “Sorry Nick I don’t know what you are taking about.”
            Contemporary news reports. Like we’ve had saturating the news for the last four months. Or even in 1939, like this. With, say, 1974/5, nothing. Well, almost nothing. There were some fires in the semi-arid W of NSW which got some muted newspaper reports. These get mixed up in the muddled stories of the supposed megafires. But most of these fires we only know about because someone interpreted something from satellite pictures. That’s certainly not true in 2019/20.

        • Nick
          What is the relevance of “real fires”
          From a scientific climate change attribution concept I don’t know how your “real fires” is relevant.
          Example there were 300 plus fires on black Saturday 2009 but only 15 considered in royal commission and only really 3 focused on by the media.
          I can only guess you are saying only the 3 “real fires” should be considered.
          I personally think any scientific study should address all 300.

          • “Real fires” burn people, houses and towns.
            The figures on numbers of fires are anyway worthless. On a fiery day, there are embers flying, starting new fires as they go. Conversely, fires merge. The effect of a hot windy day is to greatly increase the area that fires cover. That matters much more than how many are initiated.

        • Nick, I have reported before that if the MODIS satellite equates light (at night) with fire, it will also likely report lightning strikes as ‘fires’, which to me explains the MODIS image above that shows a large number of ‘fires’ in the northern half of Australia which has a large percentage of arid land with little chance of bushfires. However, in our summer the northern half of Australia (e.g. at the moment – see the BoM website) has frequent thunderstorms, and hence lightning. IIRC a typical thunderstorm here can easily generate 10,000 lightning strikes. QED. Please let me know if I am wrong about any of this.

          • AFAIK, they do deduce burnt area principally from detections based on light. So lightning is a possibility. It also requires a guess as to the area of the subsequent fire.

            I too think their reports of extensive fire in such arid land are implausible.

        • Nick
          I’m sorry you have a different view.
          My view is that incidents (whatever issue) reported in the media is only a subset of the total type of that incident.
          Additionally, the media is likely to focus more on the more newsworthy incidents.
          Additionally, I’m sorry you didn’t read the rest of my comments re the amount of burn area in 1974 highlighted by the government source which imo is better than contemporary media

          • Nick should stand in a bush fire and then in a grassland fire and get back to us on whether the grass fire was a “real fire”!

            FFS!

      • And then Krigg it .. apparently that solves everything.

        Then all you need to do is provide the code so Mosher and data doesn’t complain and your golden.

  8. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are fuelling more plant growth. In Australia, that translates to more flammable material from eucalypts and acacias etc. This could increase bushfire prevalence.

    The other side of the CO2 coin, however, is that an increase in growth could lead to a slightly wetter climate, thus decreasing bushfire prevalence.

    Most probably, the two will cancel each other out. There certainly is no need for bushfire panic to capture the carbon dioxide debate. Many Australians know what we need to do. The problem is that we are prevented from undertaking fire prevention measures by radical environmentalist policies.

    To live in ‘the bush’, that is rural Australia and not just forested areas, is to live with fire. To live in green-leaning inner-city areas is to largely live in ignorance.

    That very old-time egalitarian, Henry Lawson, would have understood. However, as a long-dead male rhyming poet of European extraction, he’s well out of favour in leftist circles now. For heaven’s sake, Lawson even wrote about cutting down trees!

    • In the agricultural areas, a general increase in plant growth will also result in a general increase in plant utilisation. More livestock being the classic example.

      If you look at the fire map for SE Australia this summer, you will find that the great majority of fires – and all the really damaging ones – are in or adjacent to the eastern ranges. That is where fuel is left to build up. Out west, not so much.

      • Yes and no. Fires in the west of southeastern Australia do occur. Just not so much lately. That is partly to do with agriculture, but also due to drought reducing some districts to dustbowls.

        The forests of southeastern Australia will always have greater fire severity than farmland, open woodlands or grazed rangelands of bluebush etc.

        The fire that blew onto my property to the west of the Dividing Range this season started in grass, but it certainly did burn trees.

        Any burning requires ignition and arson and human error along the east coast is far more prevalent than out west where the population densities are low. Powerlines are also fewer to the west, with less tall trees beside them. Add this to less forest growth and the SEAus west is certainly different to the east. However, that does not mean that residents of the Mallee etc can rest easily.

        Roadsides and parks to the west still carry excessive fuel loads. Those fuel loads may be lower but the summers are also hotter out west. Ultimately, mallee eucalypts live by fire just as much as their east coast cousins do and farms are not immune either.

        The fire we experienced this season started at a powerline in another’s paddock cut for hay, that is, a paddock without livestock. Sure, it was not a really damaging one, although personally it was bad enough, but it could easily have been a lot worse for ourselves and others.

        You would be better off attempting to educate those that need educating on the subject. I won’t bother coming back. I am sick of being lectured to by the left, but the right can be pretty quick with the lectures too. Just because the right are correct on this subject does not give adherents the right to patronise.

        • Hmmm… When it comes to lectures, I seem to be playing kettle to your pot, but never mind.

          When countering the warmist panic ( and doing so does not make me “ the Right”, just a Conservative who respects consequences) we must address the claim that more growth automatically means more fires.

          The first response is that if the fires are less damaging, so what?

          The second is that plant growth is not directly proportional to fire-destruction for the reasons that we have both mentioned. Rain and utilisation.

          It’s worth pointing out that in grassland areas the most destructive fires typically follow an abnormally productive spring in otherwise arid areas. It’s not the growth as such, but the lack of utilisation.

        • Centre left, I live in Henry Lawson country, our land is paddocks without livestock and I know the dangers of grassfires, the death and destruction they can cause.

          Fast moving grassfires can move easily to scrub and dwellings, it does not discriminate. We have had four fires that have have come up on our ‘fires near you app’ in the last six weeks, non of them were started by lightning strikes. Three of them were within two kilometers of our local 300 hectare 87 mw ‘thin film’ solar farm.

          The fire brigade tell us they’d have to ‘let it burn’ if the solar farm was involved in a grassfire, toxic fumes are to dangerous for them, that and the fact that you can’t train a firehose onto solar panels in any case.

          As if it’s not enough simply to have the fear of an out of control grassfire.

    • ”Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are fuelling more plant growth. In Australia, that translates to more flammable material from eucalypts and acacias etc. This could increase bushfire prevalence.”

      Not really. Even if we have had the claimed 15% increase in organic matter, it pales into insignificance when you take the claim that we have 10 times more fuel now that when white man arrived into consideration.

      ”The other side of the CO2 coin, however, is that an increase in growth could lead to a slightly wetter climate, thus decreasing bushfire prevalence. ”

      Not in the east. It is slightly (-5mm/decade) drier since 1900. Although one rain event will cancel that out in any given year.

      I am of the opinion that we need to get away from the ”it’s got to be native” concept and replace Euc plantings with Mediterranean and Southern Cal Oaks etc. Change the landscape around humans in other words.

  9. Maybe Finnish bloggers are able to interpret graphs and studys better than proselytizing religious nuts! Which of the studys cited were refuted?

  10. Consider Australia to be a continent of fire

    And floods. Fortunately, sometimes the floods put out the fires.

    Generally this season has only been notable because it caused the latte-drinking classes some anxiety, and was therefore newsworthy. Normally they don’t see it and don’t care.

  11. ‘More Important:
    “Can someone here explain to me why east coast Americans say “forest fires”, west coast Americans say “wildfires”, and Australians say “bushfires” ?’

    I’ll attempt this. The term ‘bush’ is very much part of the Australian vernacular to the extent that it is an integral part of our culture, our national identity if you prefer. If you don’t live in the city, you live in the bush. You’re either a ‘townie’ or a ‘bushie’. ‘The bush’ refers to pretty much any land that is not under cultivation and even that gets a bit grey. It covers everything from mountain scrub to river valley, grazing land, national parks, you name it. It’s the bush. When it burns it’s a bushfire.

    “Forest” is a more concise term. Scientific papers won’t refer to the bush in a particular area. They will use terminology like “wet sclerophyll rain forest” or “open eucalypt forest”.

    I suppose technically in Australia we have forest fires. It’s just our way of speaking. To us, bushfire is one word, two syllables. Forest fire is two words and three syllables. It’s interesting. We’ll often refer to forest areas as ‘scrub’ but we never use the term ‘scrub fire’.

    As to what our cousins do over in the USA and Canada, I think they universally call their tree country ‘forest’ but the fires in the west are often huge and uncontrollable and the term ‘wildfire’ possibly grew from experience.

  12. I can’t speak for all of Australia but here in South Australia we’ve had a very cool summer with a few days of very intense heat. On those days where the fires were burning near Birdwood and Kangaroo Island, the temperatures were above 40C. Not unusual for this time of year. What was unusual were the high winds on those hot days. I keep hearing everyone blaming the fire load for the intensity of the fires (and that is a major contributor), but it was the impact of the high winds feeding the fires oxygen that made the greatest contribution to the intensity of the recent fires around Birdwood and Kangaroo Island.

    I would be looking more for an explanation as to what causes hot, dry temperatures and concurrent high winds as a greater contributor to damaging fires.

    • ”I would be looking more for an explanation as to what causes hot, dry temperatures and concurrent high winds as a greater contributor to damaging fires.”

      At a guess, I would say the winds where brought about by great temperature differentials which where in turn driven by the pIOD (or the other way round)?

    • I came home from school to meet the 82/3 drought.
      One of my memories of that drought is being unable to face the wind, because it carried so much grit with it at such high velocity. This is in the eastern Riverina, an area that is relatively low in drought risk.

      We have had windy days this summer, but nothing like that.

      As Mike noted, wind is caused by temperature and pressure DIFFERENCES. Not by temperature per se, and definitely not by dryness.

    • High winds feed a fire no matter what the temperature because an increase in oxygen occurs.
      High fuel loads contribute to the fire’s intensity.
      So, you can get a fast moving fire with low fuel loads in high winds, but here’s the difference, under those circumstances the fire is easy to fight. If you add in high fuel loads the situation becomes explosive, with fire services overwhelmed. Temperature plays a part, but only a small one. In Australia, high temperatures mean low humidity, and the dryer the air the more intense the fire.
      The only, only thing that can be controlled here is the fuel load. Hazard reduction lowers the risk, that’s why it’s called ‘hazard reduction’.

      • Exactly right WG. A catastrophic fire can have a temperature range of 20 degrees C. As you say its the wind and low humidity that drives a fire.

    • SMS
      Just came back from Adelaide. It was very mild Victor harbour ( adjacent to kangaroo island) was quite cool.
      The Australian seasonal outlook for fires 2019 singled out kangaroo island.
      I haven’t read the background but touring the area I would make a layman’s observations.
      Rainfall timing and amount can be very localised and just as important to temperature.

  13. Take away point…
    ”climate change” (gradual drying of the southeast, ”heat waves”, ”above average temps”, ) has next to nothing to do with the current bad fire conditions or bushfire in general.
    Anyone who claims otherwise is either stupid or opportunistic. (or both)

  14. The present fire season is very like the 1898 fire season during the Federation Drought:

    One aspect that has generally not been recognised, however, is that the
    rainfall deficit and its accompanying heatwaves, dust storms and bushfires,
    together with their huge impacts on the environment and human activities,
    were the result of three closely following El Niño events. The first stage
    ran from 1895-98, with the summer of 1897-98 suffering some of the most
    extreme recorded weather in Australia – heatwaves, bushfires and dust
    storms in the south-east

    We’ve had el Ninos in 2015-6, 2017-8 and a weak event in 2019 arguably a Modoki. Also the very big IOD spike has contributed strongly to this season.

    The massive bushfires during 1898 were especially fierce in east Gippsland – which is where some of the worst fires were this season.

    Interestingly the phase of the ~60 year thermohaline cycle was the same – 121 years ago.

  15. I saw reports on how the Indian Dipole affects Australia and Africa’s climate. But is there anything out there that shows a link between the Indian Dipole and the climate in places other than Australia and Africa? Does it affect the climate in the America’s, Europe, or Asia?

  16. The blogger does not seem to realise how big and diverse Australia is. Claiming that the fires this year are
    un-exceptional because the total area burnt is small compared to average is like claiming that 10 feet of snow in Miami is un-exceptional because it snows in the US every winter. The fires in Australia this year are very different from the typical bushfires in terms of what type of forest is burning, where it is burning and when.

    • The post is pretty clear.

      And indeed, based on MODIS fire count data from globalfiredata.org there is something extraordinary going in in south-east Australia – especially in New South Wales, where the number of fires detected is about four times higher than in previous records.

    • What’s a “typical” bushfire Izaak?

      Over the ages (not just the ~ 50k years humans have been present on the Oz continent), many species grew across the land. But through fire, the numerous eucalyptus species came to dominate the forestscape.

      One species that is sorely missed these days is beech.

      From wikipedia –

      Many individual trees are extremely old, and at one time, some populations were thought to be unable to reproduce in present-day conditions where they were growing, except by suckering (clonal reproduction), being remnant forest from a cooler time. Sexual reproduction has since been shown to be possible.[8] Although the genus now mostly occurs in cool, isolated, high-altitude environments at temperate and tropical latitudes, the fossil record shows that it survived in climates that appear to be much warmer than those that Nothofagus now occupies.[9]

  17. How can we compare how much was burnt recently compared to say 1969-70 or 1919-20 relative to the total amount of green cover? Perhaps more was burnt recently because there was more protected and dense cover than say fifty years ago? To compares apple with apples we can only accurately compare recent data that was recorded using the same method. If we face so many uncertainties looking back over a century or two how can we be so confident looking ahead over the next thirty let alone eighty years? I would much sooner put my money on uncertainty before I do on the certainty of alarmists. The prophets of doom do not actually have the best of records.

  18. From “Ken Burns: The National Parks,” at the very beginning of episode 5, the narrator, Peter Coyote relates…

    “In July of 1929, a 90-year-old woman returned to the Yosemite Valley in California. She was called Maria Labrado, but 78 years earlier as a young girl, she had been know by her real name To-tu-ya, the granddaughter of Chief Tenaya, leader of the Ahwahneechees, an Indian tribe who for centuries had called the valley their home until in 1851 a battalion of white men had driven them out at bayonet point.

    To-tu-ya was the sole remaining survivor of that sad moment. This was her first time back. Half a generation after the Ahwahneechees’ expulsion the federal government had preserved the beautiful valley permanently as a national park.

    Still, everywhere she looked. To-tu-ya was reminded of how much things had changed. In a broken mixture of English, Spanish and her own ancient language, she told her escorts the valley floor was now more wooded and brushy than in her day. Her people had regularly set grass fires to keep the meadows open and the trees and shrubs at bay.”

  19. Those who do not know history are certain to repeat its worst events.
    Here, people ignored the wisdom of historical planned burns, and got burned.
    It sucks, but it is not like you did not have the information and the means available to prevent these catastrophic fires. You just chose to stick your heads in the sand and imagine bad things will not happen.

    • And we did learn some lessons if you want to rate this the worst ever season. Only 34 people died versus 171 in black Saturday alone in 2009 and similar number of houses destroyed 2000. People could not say they were caught unaware even in WA we got detailed briefings days before the worst days.

  20. It looks as though he 161 scientists who wrote to the prime Minister saying the 2019-20 fires were due to climate change are worried about their jobs.

  21. “Forests fires happen mostly within eucalyptus forests (Australia’s northern and eastern shore).”
    Actually, the south west corner has large eucalyptus forests ranging from temperate rain forests along the far south coast through to the Great Western Woodlands that reach almost to Kalgoorlie. These areas also have huge dangerous bushfires.
    The Great Western Woodlands is “The Great Western Woodlands is the largest and healthiest temperate woodland remaining on Earth.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Western_Woodlands

    • Yes and no Dave. Western Australia (WA) is the only state with a sufficiently high prescribed burning program that plans to burn the SW forest areas 7-10% annually. It is this program that greatly reduces the incidence of large bushfires in WA. Victoria only burnt 1.3% in 2019, and at that rate, the eucalypt forest fuel load increases dramatically over the years.

  22. It angers me that the MSM can take a less than normal occurrence and report it as catastrophic, unprecedented, and “record breaking” when none of that is true. Thanks for the reminder that reporting and journalism are dead.

  23. Breaking News.
    In the Federal Parliament the PM has just announced there will be a Royal Commission into this summer’s bushfires to be headed by former Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin.
    As well as serving as Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force (2008-2011), he was Chief of the Defence Force from 2014 to his retirement in July 2018.
    I think his appointment will be well received.
    The Terms of Référence of the Royal Commission will not be settled until all State Premiers have their input.
    There have been calls for climate change impacts to be included in such Terms.
    We can only await developments.

  24. Just wondering, where does this billion dead animals claim come from?

    The article cites The Guardian which could mean anything.

    I played around with the numbers based on the 18.9m ha and, assuming my maths is correct, got a density of about 53 animals per ha, or, to flip the units, about 189m2 for every animal.

    The extension to this line of thought is what defines an animal in this context?

    This ‘billion’ gets thrown around a lot, but I have seen next to no explanation as to what it really means.

  25. Surely the animal death number has to be a trillion by now. In Australia animals are nailed to the ground or tree branches as appropriate (its a tourism thing) so unfortunately the cannot flee even slow moving bushfires.

    Its amazing we have any animals at all really in old bushfire areas, I wonder where they come from?

  26. Nick
    I’m sorry you have a different view.
    My view is that incidents (whatever issue) reported in the media is only a subset of the total type of that incident.
    Additionally, the media is likely to focus more on the more newsworthy incidents.
    Additionally, I’m sorry you didn’t read the rest of my comments re the amount of burn area in 1974 highlighted by the government source which imo is better than contemporary media

  27. Sorry, haven’t read all the comments, but one thing I’d point out is that the bushfire season isn’t even close to being over. In Western Victoria we had good rainfall over winter, resulting in a lot of growth and wet soil. This has dried out now. Western Victoria has had some some real doozies of fires in the past, including 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, 16th Feb.

    So the comparisons in this article are a bit sus. You can’t compare half a season with previous whole seasons.

  28. Sorry Nick
    You make no sense.
    All fires must be considered in any scientific assessment.
    If small spot fires are created from another fire so bit it you can’t ignore it.
    Interestingly, the royal commission investigated a very small fire that caused minimal damage and no loss of life.
    But many people including myself (and of course the royal commission) understand that the upper Ferntree Gully fire was a extremely significant event. This fire was brought under control with seconds to spare before it engulfed the Dandenong ranges.

  29. I tried to figure out what are the real outcomes of this story. I am sorry but I could not find any reliable figures about the season 2019-2020 fires statistics. One reason is that this season is not over and there are no reliable statistics available.

    There were misleading numbers about the burned area: sometimes the figures were in comparison to the forest area and sometimes to the total land area.

    There is a great mismatch in these figures:
    1. On average 15.7% of the Australian forest land burned every year.
    2. Thus the area burned so far during the bushfire season 2019-2020 in easy to place in the context: the burned area during this season as quoted by several sources is ~20% of average area burned in Australia annually.

    The conclusion of this story is that the season 2019-20 has been only 20 % about the average season. Sorry, but I do not believe it. Just common sense.

    There are some figures about the burned forest areas but I could not find any numbers for this season.

    My final conclusion is this: This story is premature because there is no reliable statics of the season 2019-20.

    • Unfortunately I submitted the early version of the text to WUWT. The final one contains updated figures and text. For example:

      The original was:
      “Thus the area burned so far during the bushfire season 2019-2020 in easy to place in the context: the burned area during this season as quoted by several sources is ~20% of average area burned in Australia annually. It is likely that the quoted area is too low, since the fires in many remote areas are not reported and can be properly identified only with means of satellite observations. The real burned area during this season will eventually be available through satellite burned area datasets.”

      This should read:
      “Thus the area burned so far during the bushfire season 2019-2020 can be placed into a context. The burned area as quoted by several sources (~ 18.9 million hectares) is ~36% of average area burned annually in Australia and exceeds the minimum burned area year in the satellite dataset (year 2010). Thus, it is likely that the quoted area is too low, since the fires in many remote areas are not reported. The real burned area during this season will eventually be available through satellite burned area datasets.”

      The final version of the text is available at:
      https://faktantarkistus.blog/2020/01/12/australian-bushfire-season-2019-2020-severity-reasons-and-conclusions/

      Charles, if you could update the story from the link above, I would be more than happy. Thanks! And sorry about the inconvenience.

      Updated text also mentions credits to Jo Nova, who provided valuable feedback and comments from Australian perspective.

    • Antero
      Good comment.
      It is not fully clear to me. But the area is clearly not unprecedented.
      Yes The state of NSW seems to broken its previous record of 4.5 million hectares to be now over 5 million. My state Victoria has only had 1.5 million hectares.
      But the Northern Territory has ONLY had 6 million hectares burnt.
      The total so far is estimated at 20 million hectares for the whole country.
      As dr Roy Spencer highlighted 1974 had 117 million hectares burnt.
      While the actual numbers will take time to be tallied 20 million is clearly less than 117 million

    • Unfortunately old version of the essay from the start of January was sent out. The text should read:

      “Thus the area burned so far during the bushfire season 2019-2020 can be placed into a context. The burned area as quoted by several sources (~ 18.9 million hectares) is ~36% of average area burned annually in Australia and exceeds the minimum burned area year in the satellite dataset (year 2010). Thus, it is likely that the quoted area is too low, since the fires in many remote areas are not reported. The real burned area during this season will eventually be available through satellite burned area datasets.”

      I also ran a monthly cumulative report of Australia’s burned area for years 1997-2016 from globalfiredata.org. According to this data the fires between January and March in Australia have been really minor compared to all other months. Thus, assuming 18.9 Million hectares from early January is correct, there will be little additional cumulative fires until end of the fire season.

      But – as said in the essay – the number is probably too low and not fully comparable to satellite datasets.

      When comparing these numbers we have to remember that Giglio’s dataset is for calendar years, not for fire seasons.

  30. I am seriously concerned.
    As a child, One of my families properties in Healesville was burnt in 1981
    I then experienced the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria especially Cockatoo.
    I observed how people came complacent over the following years until the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. ( many friends lost their homes).
    But my real concern is the peri urban area of Melbourne’s outer east. In excess of 100,000 people live amongst the trees and the three municipalities which cover these areas are some of the biggest opponents of fuel reduction.

  31. There is to be a 6 month investigation in to this “fire season”. I bet you now there will be a report, there will be recommendations and they will all be ignored. Just like the 50 or more such investigations since the 1930’s. Nothing will be done and climate change will be blamed. If that is the case I suggest all fire fighters simply go home, especially, brave, international ones because there is nothing we can do to stop climate change.

    • Patrick
      I am also pessimistic.
      Nevertheless I hope there will be a commission.
      I would then make a submission.
      As the previous Royal Commission was so recent it will be easy to link the recommendations that have not been addressed to the actual government positions responsible.
      For example recommendation 62
      – did VicRoads assess the road into Mallacoota?
      – did VicRoads plans to do works on the road?
      – did they actually do the planned works?
      My guess is no to the third question. There will actually be a person who is responsible for this.
      After looking at the east Gippsland shire fire management plan it is clear the only road to access the tourist town of Mallacoota is the Genoa Mallacoota Road which should be cleared fence to fence.
      Guess what not done ( based on street view).
      There are still towns accessed by single roads. VicRoads should be held directly accountable for not clearing roads they have fully documented that need to be cleared.

  32. I grew up in Darwin (Norther Territory) throughout primary school and early high school well before Cyclone Tracy blew it away and fire was a constant companion in the 6 month dry season. Darwin is surrounded by typical northern savannah woodland you can see here-
    https://denr.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/261062/vegetation-types-in-nt-factsheet.pdf

    As you can imagine grasses and understory grow well in the 6 month wet season but come the dry those woodlands are burning regularly everywhere if not by lightning strike and the odd schoolkid or discarded bottle then by the high aboriginal population. They’re accompanied by the many hawks and kites wheeling overhead feasting on the fauna escaping the slow fire fronts.

    But here’s the rub. They’re simply not a threat to property and human life as the fires don’t crown but continually burn the understory every dry season. Not hard to see that everywhere with the blackened trunks of the eucalypts in those woodlands. There is one difference with the SE eucalypt forests we’ve seen burn now. Savannah means flat but if you have steep valleys and gullies you’d best make sure the understory fuel load doesn’t build up to allow fire progressing up slopes to ignite the crown with all its eucalyptus oil or you’re in big trouble being anywhere near it. Mind you there’s lots of that undertaken now in the SE and it’s probably a good idea to maintain it like those savannah woodlands going forward although that’s a big task.

  33. Looking at the mean annual burn area. the burn rate is highest where the rainfall is also the highest.

    Source Giglio et al 2013
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/jo.nova/graph/land/fires/burned-area-map-aust.png

    Australia average annual rainfall:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/climate_averages/rainfall/index.jsp

    And the reason for the 2019-20 bushfires being mainly in east, was firstly the positive SAM conditions in winter giving NSW etc a proper soaking, followed by negative SAM in spring-summer giving dry conditions for the east, and exacerbated by the positive IOD index.

    Understanding the Southern Annular Mode (SAM)

  34. We had two very wet seasons about 6-7 years ago, then average to low rainfall. Lots of undergrowth and vegetation growth. Then the last two years were by far the driest two years in a row on record. Massively more dry than any previous pair of years. And then we had the dipole delaying the monsoon, and lots of very hot windy conditions. And less in the way of hazard reduction burns around properties. And more and more properties are being built ‘in the bush’ with large trees nearby.
    Put an abundance of fuel near properties on 40+ days with 100kph winds and you get firestorms of rather massive dimensions.
    I’m in my 60’s and have seen lots of bushfire seasons. There is no doubt at all that this was by far the worst, in scale and severity. No-one should attempt to under-estimate the magnitude of it. If you haven’t seen a video of how aggressive these fires are, seek them out. No amount of ‘fuel reduction’ would make any difference when a super aggressive fire happens. Fuel reduction burns, done frequently, are safer and easier to manage than if done intermittently, and can, if done around properties, make them easier to defend. But in really severe fire weather it’s tough to survive in the bush.
    The monsoonal weather has finally arrived, very late, and we have rain. So it’s over, basically.
    There’s no climate signal in it. It was the result of an unusual combination of events.

    • Chris.

      With respect , estimated fire intensities on Black Saturday were twice anything observed this season….

      It should be cause for consideration that it has taken us months to reach this extent, when some of the landmark seasons of the past reached their peaks in two or three days.

      It has been a tough season, without doubt. But to claim it is unprecedented seems to require cherry-picking. We can always find exceptions if we do that hard enough.

  35. I don’t get how most climate research temperature forecast models include the positive feedback of increasing greenhouse effect due to increasing water vapour from more evaporation as temperatures rise, yet droughts and bushfires (i.e. less water vapour) are also considered a symptom of AGW. This seems to be a contradiction.

    • That’s old hat global warmening silly whereas there’s nothing climate change cannot do. You have to keep up or go to the back of the class with the rest of us still on climate disruption.

  36. landclearing exacerbates drought and bushfires. record landclearing in oz over last 10 years.
    indeed this is a problem, unlike CO2 emissions. landclearing and water mining are a big problem that is not being faced by either side of the discussion, cos it ends up pointing out the obvious: capitalism and long term survival are incompatible.

  37. I’ve looked through several of the references but I can’t find where the bar chart: “Figure: Annual burned area in millions of hectares” for Australia is located.
    Can anyone direct me to where Pasi Autio found it?
    Thanks in advance.

    • You can find it from globafiredata.org. Select analysis tool. Select graph symbol from the left. Select what you want for your graph.

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