What is causing the fires?
I am taking climate change off the table for this article.
Each year there is a fire season during the Australian summer, with hot, dry weather making it easy for blazes to start and spread. For the record, Australia’s seasons are opposite ours in the northern hemisphere.
Australia’s deadly fires have been fuelled by a combination of extreme heat, prolonged drought and strong winds.
The country is in the grip of a heatwave, with record-breaking temperatures over the last three months. In mid-December the nation saw the hottest day in history – the average temperature was about 108 degrees Farenheit.
All this follows the country’s driest spring since records began 120 years ago, with much of New South Wales and Queensland experiencing rainfall shortfalls since early 2017. Trees, shrubs and grasslands have turned into the perfect tinder for flames.
Natural causes are to blame most of the time, like lightning strikes in drought-affected forests. Dry lightning- lightning not accompanied by rain, was responsible for starting a number of fires.
Strong winds have also made the fires and smoke spread more rapidly, and have led to fatalities — a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter died in NSW in December after his truck rolled over in high winds. Airborne embers, not the flames, are largely to blame. The embers travel ahead of the fires and ignite homes.
Fires of this intensity often create their own weather. They can create their own thunderstorms and “Firenado’s”.
When will the fires end?
Australia is only just entering its summer season. The fires have been burning since September. Normally, temperatures peak in January and February, meaning the country could be months away from finding relief.
The fires are unlikely to end entirely since they are an annually occurring event.