Drought, Wind and Heat
Bushfire season is starting earlier and lasting longer
Posted on 21.08.2018
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service declared the earliest total fire bans in its history this week. The entire state was declared to be in drought on the same day.
The combination of winter drought and hot, dry weather has made dangerous fires increasingly likely.
Already this week two fires on the south coast have escaped containment lines and destroyed houses.
The weather during these fires was 6 degrees Celsius warmer than the August average, dry and extremely windy. The wind speed peaked at 104 kilometres an hour in Bega and 85kph in Nowra, two towns close to where fires broke out.
Under these conditions, bushfires will spread quickly, produce large numbers of embers and are hard to stop.
Our fire seasons now start earlier and last longer. This means we’re increasingly likely to see repeats of historically large fires threatening residential areas.
While the situation in New South Wales is desperate, we must not forget that conditions here in Queensland are very similar and the level of concern about the potential for disastrous fire damage is very high. We strongly recommend that all Queenslanders become well informed about the likelihood of fires in their local areas; what they can do to prevent them and what they need to do in the event of a fire.
For more help and information go to: Bushfire Prepared
Fire seasons are longer
Current dry conditions are reflected in the maps of live fuel moisture produced by Dr Rachael Nolan of Western Sydney University. This method tracks the weekly moisture content of the forests in southern Australia, as observed by NASA’s MODIS satellite. The latest map shows a patchy distribution of dry areas and a drying trend over recent weeks.
It looks like NSW’s fire season has already started, and it’s likely to be bad. Last year’s fire season also extended well into autumn, with serious bushfires burning in mid-April.
Fire agencies usually enjoy a six-month break from bushfires between April and September, but this year they had only three months’ respite.
This reflects evidence of a trend toward more extreme fire weather over the past 30 years, and lengthening fire seasons.
This problem is being keenly felt in western United States, where fire agencies have warned that the fire season now lasts all year round. Not only that, there is clear evidence climate change is increasing fire activity in the United States; the record for the largest fire in California history has been broken two years in a row
The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest seasonal forecast, issued on August 16, considers it likely that dry conditions will persist for the next three months.