DEC 22, 2019 2:56 PM PST

Australia on fire

Australia is in a national state of emergency as fires ravage cities and rural areas around the country. One map circulating the media from the Government of Western Australia shows the extent of the fires, which cover more area than negative space in the map. The catastrophic fires come as a result of record-breaking heatwaves combined with a severe lack of rainfall in recent months.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australia's national average maximum temperature spiked great alarm as it reached 40.9°C (105.6°F) last Tuesday, only to be overshadowed on Wednesday by an even higher average of 41.9°C (107.4°F).

In addition to the exorbitantly high temperatures and strong winds, the lack of rainfall and low humidity have conspired to create the conditions for this perfect storm. "We are in a period of unbelievable drought and some areas haven't seen rain for more than 12 months," commented New South Wales Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd to the BBC. "These fires are likely to continue to spread well past Christmas.” Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons added: "We will not get on top of these fires until we get some decent rain - we have said that for weeks and months."

Unfortunately, experts from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology do not expect the conditions to improve much over the holidays, as they have reported is no significant rainfall expected for at least the next two months.

New South Wales has been the region hit the hardest with bushfires, and as of Sunday night Australian time, 98 fires were actively still burning, 50 of which were yet to be contained. According to the BBC, since the bushfire crisis began in Australia in September earlier this year, nine people have been killed and hundreds of homes, as well as millions of hectares of land, have been demolished.

Firefighters are working around the clock to save people’s homes and properties, although many people have already had to face the devastating news that their homes did not survive the fires. Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who recently denied the link between bushfires and climate change, was on vacation in Hawaii while the fires raged and returned only a day ago to his country to try to mend fences and help provide support to his constituents.

Sources: BBC, Common Dreams (1) (2)

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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