Over 18 million acres of forests have been burnt in Australia’s recent wildfires, killing at least 23 people, and an estimated one billion animals. Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra were covered in smoke for weeks on end. The fires were caused by a mix …of arson and lightning. But climate change was the accelerant. Australia’s forests have been in the midst of a long period of drought. The wood is dry, the soil is parched, and the winds intense. A small spark can quickly lead to a fierce fire.
Controlling these fires has not been easy. One fire, in the region of East Gipsland, migrated during the night over a distance of 20 kilometers in just five hours, impelled by strong, hot and dry winds. Some fires became super-fires, or “megablazes”as they are officially known. Multiple fires combined to form one intense conflagration. Wind speeds grew close to 100 km/hour. The blazes generated weather phenomena of their own – pyro-cumulonimbus thunderclouds that extended to 16 km above the the ground, sparking new fires in far-away places. Just when the country received some relief from the fires, after the rains, came a fresh set of disasters. Flash floods swept down with intense force. Intense gusts of winds picked up the dust andchurned it in the air, creating dust storms that reached intensities approaching hurricane-level strengths. Towns were hit by hailstorms, with stones the size of golf balls bouncing off the ground.
Then came the spiders. In some parts of Australia, especially in the moist forest regions, the climate is favourable for local spiders – giant and poisonous – to thrive, some experts say, warning residents to watch out for the spiders.It saIt seems bizarre, almost too weird to be true.
The effects of Australia’s disaster spread well beyond its geographical limits. Ash was deposited on New Zealand’s glaciers, turning them brown, and accelerating their melting. The smoke from the fire made a round trip across the world, stopping off on the way in South America to pollute the air of countries like Chile and Argentina.