Sunday, September 27, 2020

In maps and photos, visualize the extent of the fires in Australia

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By and

Posted yesterday at 12:45 pm, updated yesterday at 7:45 pm

Area affected by fire on January 10

Active fire on January 10

Protected areas, national parks

Vegetation and agricultural spaces

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Since the end of August 2019, the south-east of Australia has been facing an exceptionally early and virulent fire season. For the meteorologists, no surprise. It is the result of three simultaneous phenomena. First, global warming is responsible for warmer and drier weather favorable to bush fires. Since 1910, the country has experienced an average temperature increase of about one degree, and in the southeast, precipitation has dropped by more than 10% in the past three decades.

At the same time, in 2019, an unusually strong positive phase of the Indian Ocean dipole (often called the "Indian Niño" due to its similarity to its Pacific equivalent), further increased the thermometer and reduced rainfall. The year was the warmest and driest on record, compounding the drought that has already hit the east of the country since 2017. Finally, a negative phase in the Antarctic oscillation – a variation in atmospheric pressure which affects the circulation of winds in the southern hemisphere – brought warm and dry westerly winds to this highly flammable environment.

Devastated Kangaroo Island

As early as April 2019, a group of twenty-three former fire and emergency services officials had asked to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call for action to prepare the country for a season potentially catastrophic fires. Without success. He did not receive them.

Since coming to power in August 2018, the conservative elected official, not very sensitive to climate issues, has not adopted any policy that would allow his country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from 26% to 28% in 2030 by compared to 2005 – the modest objective to which Canberra committed itself during the COP21 in Paris in 2015. However, it constantly defended the interests of the mining industry. Coal has made the fortune of the country which has the fourth reserves of the planet. It also represents tens of thousands of jobs. According to Scott Morrison, interviewed on December 23, 2019, he was "Irresponsible" to turn your back on him.

The town of Cobargo, New South Wales. Left, in 2015, right, December 31, 2019. Google Street View & AFP

From the beginning of the southern spring, as specialists feared, the country caught fire. Hundreds of braziers have ignited along the Pacific Ocean. West of Sydney, two gigantic fires progressed to form a arc of fire around the big suburbs of the metropolis. Just before New Years Eve, the southeastern tip of the country went up in smoke, forcing thousands of people to take refuge on the beaches. In South Australia, Kangaroo Island, renowned for its unspoiled nature, has been partially devastated. In most major cities, residents face some of the worst pollution levels in the world.

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