Australia’s Wildfires

Connor Casne-Jones, Head Editor

Australia is straight up on fire! Over 70 percent of the country is covered in haze. The fires started in early September and there are now over 200 fires burning throughout the country. The fires have burned around 46 million acres with 12 million acres, and are devastating the wildlife. As of January 14, 2020, over a billion animals have been killed. The fires were caused by a lethal combination of record breaking heat, record breaking drought, lightning strikes, and an Indian Ocean Dipole (a weather effect similar to El Nino that coincides with Australian droughts.)

In order to give some context to the size of these fires in Australia, compared to these fires, the California fires were small potatoes. According to the California department of forestry and fire protection, “The deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record in the state burned an area of less than 2 million acres.” Making the Australian fires roughly 20 times larger. 

The fires in Australia are so massive they are creating their own weather systems. The hot air created from the fires rises and meets the cool air in the atmosphere and turns into a pyrocumulus cloud, or “fire cloud.” The fire cloud moves quickly and creates immense winds and thunderstorms, making wildfires even more unpredictable and harder to fight.

With Australia ablaze, America sent over 100 qualified wildland firefighters (including 5 Montanans) to help fight the fires. We’re returning the favor, as Australia sent 130 firefighters to help in the California fires. These brave Americans join thousands of Australians fighting the fires. Twenty-seven people have died, including four firefighters, and more than 2000 homes have been lost.

The loss to Australia’s animal kingdom has been even more devastating. Entire populations of insects, some not even discovered yet, have been eradicated. Some endangered species have become extinct. People throughout the world are sending aid to the animals that are so unique to this part of the world. The Australian government has dropped over 4000 pounds of food to starving wallabies in recent days.

While Australia’s unique landscape is being devastated by some of the worst fires ever seen, politicians continue to bicker about whether climate change is real. It is obvious that these fires are far from normal. Australia is one of the worst ranked countries in the world in terms of climate change policy.  Their prime minister, Scott Morrison, is an avid climate change denyer. Forest fires have become increasingly large and frequent in today’s world, and it is a direct result of climate change. The only question is, will we make a change or watch as the world goes up in flames?