Massive wildfires have been raging in every state of Australia. Since September 2019, between 500 million and 1 billion animal deaths have been estimated.
Twenty-eight people have died and 3000 homes have been destroyed, despite firefighting assistance from other countries-- including the United States. Over 100 fires are burning in New South Wales alone, and a total of 17.9 million acres have been torched, an area larger than Belgium and Denmark combined. The devastation is immense. But what exactly is causing this wildfire to be worse than earlier ones, and why?
One of the big reasons is increasing temperatures. This decade was the hottest on record according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Graphs containing recent data concerning the rising temperatures match with graphs displaying the rising greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide. A heatwave has broken the record for the highest average temperature in Australia. Last year was the second hottest year on record for the planet’s oceans and atmosphere. It was 1.7 degrees above the long-term average. This seems like a tiny difference. But this change can impact the ecosystem all around. From salmon eggs dying to glaciers rapidly melting, this global warming is certainly bringing a huge change to the earth. With all of these combined effects, it is little wonder that the annual wildfires in Australia are so bad.
Other major factors to the decimating fires in Australia are dryness and strong winds. Australia is in one of the worst droughts in decades. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, last spring was the driest ever. Strong winds have also impacted the environment as well as the firefighters. A firefighter was killed when his truck rolled over in the high winds. All of these tragic effects pile up to cause the devastating bushfires in Australia.
The result of these fires is striking. A third of the total number of koalas in Australia have died and a third of their environment decimated. But still, the koalas aren’t the ones in the most danger, experts say. They claim that other creatures are more at risk due to their specific habitats. Similar to the wildlife, much property has been destroyed. 3000 homes have been lost and twenty-eight people have died, many of them firefighters. The smoke has also been very bad; 11 times over the “hazardous” level (National Geographic).
This wildfire is unpredictable due to its constantly-changing winds. It is clear evidence of global warmings. It is also certainly costly, both in land and resources. And as the earth heats up, places like Oregon could also increase in wildfire risk. California and Australia burn due to their heat and lack of water and Oregon could turn hotter and lose water too. There is a way to prevent this, however, and it is at hand. We all simply must conserve our fuel usage, our electricity consumption, and strive together to fight global warming.
Photo Credit: New York Times 12/2019