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Aussies Burning, Early 2020

Aussies Burning, Early 2020

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 24 January 2020



Freak Fires, Now Freak Rains
Graphic Depicting Recent Intense Rainfall Across Western Australia
Rain Brought Brief Relief to Australia, January 2020, NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens.
Puke Blue Color is 0-2" total precip, Red is 4-6". Graphic by NASA. NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using IMERG data from the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) at NASA/GSFC.


Heavy Rains Crush Parts of Western Austrailia

Rain Brought Brief Relief to Australia,
NASA Earth Observer, January 24, 2019.


Some Relief
"In mid-January, some of those plumes were finally quelled by a few days of much-needed rainfall."

Wet Spots
"...north of Sydney, where rainfall averaged between 20 and 30 centimeters (8 and 12 inches). In Victoria, areas near Melbourne received a month’s worth of rain in a single day."

Dry Spots
"The weather system was spotty, however, and some areas along the southeast coast saw less than a centimeter of precipitation."

Fires Numbers & Status
"...it helped reduce the numbers. According to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, 64 fires (16 uncontained) were burning across the state on January 21. That’s down from 88 fires (39 uncontained) on January 15."



Climate & Weather Extremes Whipping Australia,
NASA Earth Observatory, January 16, 2020.

Extreme Weather Increasing





Stratospheric Smoke
Stratospheric Smoke from Aussie fire of 2019-2020, NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using data from the CALIPSO team, and VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.

Aussies Afire Update: Global Stratospheric Effect

Explosive Fire Activity in Australia,
NASA Earth Observatory, January 10, 2020.


Aussie Fire Weather
Pyrocumulonimbus. Fire clouds. Flammagenitus. Fire-breathing dragon of clouds.

"Australians have been getting familiar with all of those names."

Pyrocumulus Clouds
"The formation of pyrocumulus clouds requires fires to burn hot enough to create an updraft of superheated, fast-rising air. As the hot air rises and spreads out, it cools, causing water vapor to condense and form clouds. In certain conditions, powerful updrafts can create clouds that rise several kilometers and turn into full-fledged thunderstorms as they reach the top of the troposphere—turning a pyrocumulus into a pyrocumulonimbus."

One for the Record Book
“By our measures, this is the most extreme pyrocumulonimbus storm outbreak in Australia.”

Stratospheric Smoke
"The CALIPSO satellite observed smoke soaring between 15 to 19 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) on January 6, 2020—high enough to reach the stratosphere."

Huge Stratospheric Smoke Injection
High & Huge
"...preliminary evidence indicates that the current Australian event will probably fall within the top five of all the plumes ever documented in terms of height. And the overall volume of smoke injected into the stratosphere appears to be among the largest observed in recent decades.”

An Increasing Record…
"...with extreme weather conditions forecasted in the coming days, it's likely there are more to come."

The Volcanic Stratospheric Effect
"When volcanic plumes reach the stratosphere, they are closely watched by scientists because they can cause widespread atmospheric cooling in the months after the eruption."

"Wildfire smoke has a different composition..."

The Aussie Fire Stratospheric Effect
New World Weather
"...the consequences for weather and climate are not as well understood. Smoke this high in the atmosphere also may have effects on the chemistry of stratospheric ozone."

"...the smoke has now travelled more than halfway around the Earth, crossing South America, turning the skies hazy, and causing colorful sunrises and sunsets. It is expected to make at least one full circuit, returning once again to the skies over Australia."


The Earth’s Atmosphere
Chart of the Layers of the Earth's Atmosphere, Credit to NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).
Credit to NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). More Atmospheric Information on the Polar Vortex Page.



Original Report


Australia Rapidly Adapting to Our New Climate. Through Fire...
Australia burning, smoke from satellite, by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.
Image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.


Aussies Burning

Fires and Smoke Engulf Southeastern Australia,
NASA Earth Observatory, January 6, 2020.


What’s causing Australia’s devastating fire weather?
Ars Technica, January 4, 2020.


"...almost 15 million acres of land have burned."

Trends Converge
"...what has been driving these fires to such extremes? Obviously, it's the trio of hot, dry, and windy, but these conditions are occurring due to a combination of long-term trends and short-term weather patterns."

"On December 18, Australia saw the nation's hottest day on record, hitting an average of nearly 42°C (over 107°F). That eclipsed the previous record, set just one day earlier."

Regional Cold Water
"...the Indian Ocean Dipole, which has been in a strongly positive phase recently. That means that waters in the western Indian Ocean have been warmer than average, with cooler temperatures to the east. This has the effect of pushing rainy weather away from Australia."

Hot Wind
"...in the last few months, an unusual pattern in the Antarctic stratosphere has weakened the pole-circling winds. That has also helped produce clear skies in Australia as well as strong westerly winds blowing dry air seaward over Victoria and New South Wales—stoking the fires."

Little Change
"...the Indian Ocean Dipole has relaxed into a neutral state in the past week, which is clearing the way for Australia's monsoon season to begin in the northern part of the country. Some areas in the south are set to see a little bit of rain soon, as well. That may help, but there's no end to the fire conditions in the forecast yet."


The Current View

Southeastern Australia

Jan 6, 2020


Sydney Morning Herald



Thick Smoke Blankets Southeastern Australia,
NASA Earth Observatory, January 3, 2020.


Prelude to Disaster
Australian Drought, Europe, & Japan during Sept 2019


Oct 2017
Melbourne and Sydney should prepare for 123 degrees F.


The Bottom Line

Our planet, in this case exemplified by Austraila, is rapidly crossing-over into a much hotter environment characterized by rapid swings between extremes of hot & wet, neither of which will support contemporary distributions of flora & fauna. The actual, physical engine of change for many parts of the world already sitting on the edge of aridity will be fires of a scale never before seen.

This trend of increasing size and intensity of megafires is just getting started...





News of Man & Nature, January 2020








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global warming, climate change, driven, Australian, Australia, 2019, early, 2020, fire, fires


Originally Published
2020-01-07 12:00:01

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