Feb 272020

Large scale property damage and harm of flora and fauna have been caused by the Bush fires in Australia. More than 1000 people have been dislocated and have been killed by the fires in Australia. It is not a recent affair but happening from 1851. Bushfires are more common in the summer season and it is estimated 1.25 bn animals have lost their lives only during the 2019-2020 wildfire season in Australia.

The naming of the firestorms that cause huge loss of property and lives are identified based on the day these storms sarted such as Black Saturday and Ash Wednesday. Most of the bushfires occur during heat waves and droughts and are very widespread and strong. Example: – 2009 southeastern Australian heatwave in which around 180 people have died was named as 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires. Other bushfires that have done widespread damages are the 2006 December bushfires, 1851 Black Thursday bushfires, and ongoing 2019-2020 bushfires.

The bushfires have become so common every year that it has become part of Australia’s environment and ecology. For thousands of years, the bushfires have become interwoven in the ecology of the continent and the continent’s native flora and fauna have advanced relying on these fire events for reproduction. The aboriginal Australians over 1000s of years have cleared the grasslands by using fire to make a track in the dense grasslands during the heavy rainfall. Also, they use to clear small grasslands bordering the great desert of Australia.

With the advent of Europeans settling from the 19th century, the situation has significantly changed such as logging, farming, and fire management. The present situation due to climate global warming has increased the frequency and intensity of the bushfires, drought, and heatwaves.

Ablaze Australian bushfire 2020

The Australian bushfires in 2019 started in September 2019 in the states of New South Wales and Queensland and have progressed till January 2020. This has in turn increased and intensified the drought situation in that region. 2019-2020 around 100 bushfires have killed a minimum of 17 people and devastated Australia’s southeast coast region.

The bushfires have done extensive damages in almost all of the territory and states of Australia. However, the largest fires were reported in the eastern and southern coast of Australia where there are highest populations. This covers the areas of Adelaide and Sydney.

The fire seasons have been the phenomenon in Australia over thousands of years; however, this year’s season was the worst than the normal.

Due to the Indian Ocean Dipole phenomenon across the Australian continent has increased the hot and dry natural weather.

The main reason behind the worst weather condition in the continent of Australia has been because of the rise in the levels of CO2 resulting in global warming. There is an anticipation that this will become worst in the future.

On 18th December this year, the temperature in Australia has created the latest record of a usual maximum of 41.90C and this was the top temperature during the prolonged period of famine.

The scientists have reported that the fires will become more intense and frequent because of the hotter and drier climate in Australia.

The risk of wildfires due to higher temperatures and severe weather patterns make them spread quickly and expand further.

The bushfires in New South Wales were the most severe than the fires in other states and territories of Australia.

The fires have raged through all the wooded areas, bushland and Blue Mountains national parks. Melbourne and Sydney the most populous cities and other large cities have been affected by the blaze smoke. Thick fumes of smokes have covered the cities and other urban living areas and the fire has damaged the homes in the outer suburbs. The Air purity quality level in Sydney was recorded as 11 times more than the perilous level, in early December.

The blazes spread in the remote buildings and in some parts of the neighborhood ranging from small fires to large firestorms that occupy large areas of land. The small fires that start are controlled in a few days however the most massive ones burn for several months. For example, in New South Wales there are at least 100 fires that continue to burn as of January 2020.

The cause of the yearly bushfires in Australia

The bushfire starts and spread over large areas across Australia in the summer season every year due to hot and dry weather conditions.

The fires are caused mostly due to natural causes such as lightning strikes during the dry climate in the drought pretentious forests. For example, in the Victoria’s East Gippsland region the number of the blaze has started due to the dry lightning in late Dec and has caused widespread damage by spreading around 20 km in just about 5 hours as per the Victory Emergency department state agency.

However, in recent years the fires that arouse have to be blamed to humans who deliberately start the fires. The New South Wales police have charged more than 24 people with purposely starting the bushfires and the police have arrested 183 people and taken legal action for the fire-related crime starting from the month of November as per the police department.

The impact of bushfires on the fauna and the people – Source

The bushfires have killed more than 1 billion animals and have affected more than 1000 people with their homes blazed and more the millions of acres of land have been burnt. This summer already 20 people have already died due to the bushfires at the beginning of the summer itself.

As of Sunday 5th Jan 2020 more than 2700 firefighters were engaged in the putting off the fire out of which 3 firefighters lost their lives.

More than 3K army reserve forces with expert capabilities of the Australian Defense forces were deployed to put down the flames.

In New South Wales as of Monday 6th, Jan 2020 around 136 bushfires were burning out of those 69 were controlled as per the report by New South Wales Rule Fire Services.

The news says that about 24 have lost their life due to the razing fire this year’s fire season. Out of that 18 people died in New South Wales, 3 people passed away in Victoria and 3 in South Australia

As of 6th Jan 2020 in New South Wales 2 people are missing and about 480 mn animals died in New South Wales. According to the recent study by professor Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney reports that “The actual death amount will be certainly on the higher side than that is predicted,” The University study states.

In a recent study by the Air Quality Monitoring department, the air quality of the city of Sydney due to bushfire smoke had been the worst in a decade and measured eleven times the dangerous level.

Across the 6 states of Australia, there have been extensive damages and it is estimated that close to 14.7 million acres of the grassland and forest areas are destroyed. This can be imagined to be on the larger side when compared with Belgium and Haiti countries combined together.

Around 1,300 homes got destroyed and more than 8.9 million acres of the land area was burned leaving behind smoke and ashes in New South Wales alone.

The destruction has been very severe such that many towns were engulfed in fire and many residents across the country were left homeless. In New South Wales itself the country’s most colonized state there has been huge structural damages to the property where 650 homes have been damaged as well ruining 1,588 homes.

Across Australia’s 6 states more than 7.3 million hectares that are around 17.9 acres have been burned down by the fire, and that is more when compared with Denmark and Belgium combined.

To put in comparison, The Amazon Rainforest fires of 2019 have burned down approximately more than 17.5 million acres that are 7 million hectares as per the report by Brazilian Forest officials. In, the USA in the state of California the most known place for deadly forest fires about 404,680 hectares that are about 1 Mn acres have been burned down in 2018 and around 100,000 hectares that is 247,000 acres have been burned in 2019.

Around 27 people including the firefighters and volunteer have died till now in 2019 -2020 Australia bushfire.

How much of fauna are affected in this year’s fire season?

Over 0.5 billion animals got hurt or died by the fires across the state of New South Wales and at least a few million likely dead as per the conventional estimate. As per the recent study by the ecologists of the University of Sydney, the total number of animals affected would be around 1 billion in the continent of Australia.

The animals in New South Wales include mammals, reptiles and birds these does not include bats, frogs, and insects. The actual numbers would be still more according to the ecologists.

As per the Federal Environment minister Sussan Lev, “1/3 of koalas in New South Wales alone would have died and 1/3 would have been destroyed”.

The University ecologists say that animals such as Koalas are not in direct danger of death as they are living in almost all parts of the continent of Australia. However, there are some species of birds and frogs living in this part of the environment with the lower population are getting wiped out as a whole if the fires continue to hit the surrounding.

At present the estimates made by the scientists and researchers are way too conservative, however, the actual numbers of animals died may not be possible to estimate until these fires stop completely over all the areas of Australia

  1. The research shows hundreds of wildlife hotspots on the map across the continent of Australia on Wednesday, 1st Jan 2020. Figure 1

Australia Bush Fire Heat Map


Wildfires burn outside Sydney Figure 2

Australia Bush Fire Heat Map-Sydney


  1. Wildfires burn outside Adelaide Figure 3

Australia Bush Fire Heat Map-Adelaide


Wildfires burn in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located Figure 4

Australia Bush Fire Heat Map-Victoria


Do the Great Australian Bushfires affect the World?

  1. As per the analysis by the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and AHDB the bushfires in Australia could affect the global meat, dairy and sheep meat markets.
  2. The significant impact has been on the national cattle herd up to 9 % and another 11% have been partially affected.
  3. 13% of the sheep rearing in these regions have been considerably affected and another 17% are partially affected.
  4. As per the government figures, dairy has been the country’s 4th largest rural industry and is worth AUD 3.3 billion that is USD 2.3 billion. Australia is the world’s 7th largest dairy exporter and exports fresh milk, milk powder, cheese, and butter mainly to Asian markets.
  5. As per the UN world Metrological Organization, the smoke from the bushfires in Australia would have affected the Great Antarctic and parts of South America.

The rise in temperature in Australia during the seasonal Wildfire

The weather and climatic changes due to Global warming have significantly affected the world and due to this extreme weather conditions has increased the bushfires of Australia.

“There are four ingredients for Wildfires,” expressed Professor Nerilie Abram, he is the climate scientist and the part of the Australian National University.

  • The Availability of the fuel
  • Fuel dryness
  • The weather conditions such as dry wind flow that aids the swift spread of fire
  • Ignition such as dry lightening

Climate change is one of the many causes because it makes the bushfires more frequent and larger due to its impact on the fire weather and dryness.

Even though the wildfires have been a naturally occurring phenomenon as per the scientists the drier and hotter climatic changes will add to fires becoming intense, widespread and more frequent.

As per the ABC News, the fires are produced at the end of the year and 2019 -2020 summer has been one of the driest and hottest years on record. The analysis of the statistics from the Australian Gov Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says that this year’s average temp annually “was 1.52C more when compared to 1961-90 which had an average of 21.8C” making it “well above” the preceding hottest year in 2013 (1.33C above average).

The climatic changes in Australia have been explained by the scientist Dr. Kate Marvel and are presented in the below image. Figure 5

The ABC News reported that the avg temp was not just the record to be broken in 2019, but in 2013 there was a record of 30.19C which was broken by this year’s average max temp of 30.69C on a daily basis which was above 2C which is the long-term average. The average nationwide rainfall was very much less than the earlier records of 314mm which was recorded in 1902 as 277mm.

The Forest Fire Danger Index, the risk was released which measures the risk of forest fire by combining humidity, temperature, wind speed and availability of fuel. The 1950 record was broken in the Australian spring during 2019 for the wildfire risk.

As per Australia’s CBS, the climatic fluctuations that have occurred on large scale has added to the intense conditions of the large ongoing drought and is typical because of the weather conditions called Indian Ocean Dipole the IOD said.

The uncommon occurrence which is called SSW – Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) took place in Antarctica. This was reported by Times. In September this year, there was a reverse effect of the wind spinning the south pole about 30 km elevated in the stratosphere, which causes the stratospheric temp to rise to 40C.”

Further, ABC News said that this westerly wind fueled the hot and dry conditions, which normally flow over the southern ocean above the continent.

The future of wildfire

The wildfires of today were predicted by Economist Ross Garnaut way back in 2008 approximately a decade and more (12 years) before.

The climate change effect which would worsen the bushfires worst in Australia by 2020 was reviewed by Professor Garnaut who carried out a review for the then-Labour government in the year 2008.

Around 300 percent increase in weather conditions for the blaze fires has been predicted for 2067. It predicted that as many as +100-300 days of extreme weather conditions in 2067 when compared to +5-25 in the year 2013.

Around 478 extreme wildfire conditions were identified between the years 2002-2013 by studying the 23 million fire events globally by the internationally renowned researchers. The researchers concluded that the towns and cities with extreme weather conditions need to take drastic steps to prevent fires or must face heavy destruction. They added that the number of fire days prone to extreme bushfires will increase by 20 – 50 percent.

History of bushfire in Australia, why it happens, and what damages it has caused

The wildfires are a common phenomenon in the Australian continent. It goes back millions of years behind and has been prominent in shaping the landscape of the region. These fires were caused by lightning.

The original inhabitants of Australia used fire for 1000s of years to take care of their country. The fire helped them for their hunting foods and skins, reduced the usage of the other fuels and helped them to clear unwanted vegetation from overgrowth and to help in keeping trail of their journey across the continent.

There are few instances of record keeping before the European settlements of 1851, the below table describes the Bushfires that have occurred after 1851

The above chronology describes the Australian bushfires for a significant season if they caused widespread damage, destroy houses and burnt 100 thousand hectares that are around 250 thousand acres of land. The season of the wildfires begins in the month of June which is the winter start for Australians and follows through the month of May ending Australian autumn season.

Year Why it happened Where Damages Caused / Loss Occurred
1851 Fire black Thursday Victoria, Portland, Dandenong 12 life, 1 million sheet and 1000s of cattles
1898 Fire red Tuesday South Gippsland 112 life, 2000 buildings destroyed due to fire in 260,000 hectares
1914 Fire Otway range 100,000 hectares burned
1926 Forest fire Gippsland, Warburton 60 lives, farms, homes, and forest were burned
1932 Fire due to heat and summer Victoria, Gippsland 9 lives were lost and large forest burned
1939 Fires, black Friday Victoria, Noojee, Otway ranges 2 million hectares burned, 71 people killed, 650 buildings destroyed
1942 Fires South Gippsland 1 killed, 20 homes lost, and 2 farms destroyed
1943 Summer fire Wangaratta Killed 10 people, 100s of hectares grassland burned
1944 Grassfire Hamilton, Skipton, Dunkeld 440,000 hectares burned, 500 houses damaged, 20 dies
1952 Fire Hume Highway, Benalla 100,000 hectares burned
1962 Fire Dandenong ranges, Melbourne outskirts 32 killed, 450 houses destroyed
1965 Grassfire Northern Victoria 7 killed, 6 houses burned
1969 280 fires in one day Lara, Dulgana, Kangaroo flat 23 dies, 230 house burned and 21 other buildings destroyed
1972 Fire for 12 days Mount buffalo 7400 hectares of state forest burned, 4520 hectares of the national park
1977 Grassfire Victoria 4 killed, 116 houses burned and 34 buildings lost
1980 Fire due to a lightning strike Sunset Country, Big desert 119000 hectares
1983 Forest fire Cann River 250000 hectares burned
1985 111 fires due to lightning Central Victoria 3 killed, 180 houses and 500 farms destroyed
1997 Five fires Dandenong Ranges 41 houses burned, 3 lives killed
1998 Campfire Carey River 32000 hectares burned in 10 days
2002 Lightning Big desert wilderness park, Wyperfield National Park 400 hectare of private property was burned
2003 87 fires due to lightning Victoria – Omeo, Dinner plain 41 homes lost, 9000 livestock
2006 500 fires Yea, Moondarra, Grampians, Kinglake, Anakie 4 killed, 57 houses destroyed, 359 farms lost
2007 1000 fires – Gap fire, and creek track fire Great divide north and south 1 death, 51 houses burned
2009 Bushfire 173 killed, 2000 properties burned, 70 national parks destroyed
2013 Bushfire Victoria 5 killed, 46 houses destroyed
2015 Sampson Flat bushfire South Australia 32 houses lost, 125 buildings destroyed
2016 – 17 Bushfire 46 houses lost
2017 – 18 Bushfire South 94 buildings lost
2018 -19 Bushfire East 35 houses and 1 killed
2019-20 Bushfire South East 2400 houses lost, 29 deaths


  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/01/australia/australia-fires-explainer-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
  2. https://time.com/5753584/bushfires-australia-catastrophic-fire-alert/
  3. https://www.carbonbrief.org/media-reaction-australias-bushfires-and-climate-change
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170206111908.htm
  5. Angel News
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Australian_bushfire_seasons
  7. https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/history-and-incidents/past-bushfires

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