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Bush fire at Captain Creek central Queensland Australia. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season burnt more than 18 million hectares across the country, destroyed more than 2,000 homes, and claimed the lives of 34 people and about one billion animals. The devastation was gutwrenching and a wake-up call to the entire world that climate change is our greatest existential threat.
Yet as fire crews from around the world worked to contain the flames, a report issued by the Australian government showed that the brushfires could very well come back the next year with even more intensity.
Why This Matters:Australia has the highest rate of vertebrate mammal extinction in the world and fires severely threaten already the continent’s endemic species and unique ecosystems. What’s more, is that widespread fires are unsustainable for the economy and human life, underscoring the crosscutting threat of climate change.
Australia’s Fire Risk: This past summer the Australian government published a report from the New South Wales (NSW) Bushfire Inquiry that assessed the devastating fire season and concluded that the brushfires were “extreme, and extremely unusual,” but warned that “it is clear that we should expect fire seasons like 2019-20, or potentially worse, to happen again.”
It also said climate change “clearly played a role in the conditions that led up to the fires and in the unrelenting conditions that supported the fires to spread, but climate change does not explain everything that happened.”
Fires burned through forested regions at a rate never before seen in recorded history, according to the report.
There were 89 fire-generated firestorms — extremely dangerous phenomena that cause lightning, tornadoes and extreme winds — a 50% increase from the 2018-19 season.
Looking Ahead:Voice of America wrote that Australia’s approaching summer is forecast to be wet with an increased risk of floods and tropical cyclones, according to the national Bureau of Meteorology’s climate outlook. It predicts conditions will be wetter and cooler than recent years but warns there is still a risk of bushfires for southern Australia.
Above the North Pole, a polar vortex — a swirling flurry of cold air — could cause weeks of frigid weather in the Eastern United States, Northern Europe, and East Asia according to forecasters. Snow blanketed Spain over the weekend, dumping nearly two feet of snow on Madrid — the most snow in the last 50 years there. Madrid
Why this Matters: While many associate global warming with hotter weather, climate change can also cause harsher, more snowy winters.
This year we shattered the record for the number of named storms over the course of the six months of hurricane season with 30 — we exceeded the previous record by four. There were so many storms that we ran out of names and went deep into the Greek alphabet, which is what happens when we use up all the typical ones.
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