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What do the Australian bush fires mean for the planet?

I've shared the stories, I've donated to rescue missions - but I'm still feeling helpless watching the wild fires rip across Australia. So, I thought I would write a blog with some important information on the science behind them. We should all take the time to learn about the Australian wild fires and support the challenges as best we can.

Image source : Instagram @l.aurynhill

Firstly. It is complicated, but the wild fires are supercharged thanks to climate change. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, 2019 is both the hottest and driest year ever measured in Australia. Therefore what would have been a bad fire season was made worse by a background drying and warming trend resulting in one of the most devastating climate change extreme events that we have ever witnessed.

Not only have people lost their homes, their lives, millions of acres of land destroyed but the months of intense and unprecedented fires will almost certainly push several species to extinction.

Secondly, this a global issue. In short, the delayed south west monsoon in India (Northern hemisphere) was predicted to delay the monsoon season in Australia (Southern hemisphere) and it did. This is caused by an intense positive phase of something called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). I’m not a climate scientist so I asked Professor Mary Gagen to explain and she did so extremely well. ‘IOD anomalies end when the Southern hemisphere monsoon starts. But the monsoon didn't start on time. The 2019 withdrawal of the Northern hemisphere monsoon was the most delayed in its history, so the Southern hemisphere monsoon start was delayed, extending the lifetime of the positive phase IOD’.Click on the link below to read the full thread giving a clear and helpful picture of the Indian Ocean Dipoles.

For updates head to the Bureau of Meteorology Twitter page

Next, it has been suggested that these fires will most probably alter global weather and weather-climate processes far from Australia. Locally we are already seeing more thunderstorms which are created when hot air and smoke from bushfires rise and meets cool air from the atmosphere – forming pyrocumulus clouds. This is what forms thunderstorms. However on a wider scale, the plumes have blown more than a thousand miles out over the Pacific, turning the skies red over New Zealand and darkening the snow on high peaks there with ash-fall. What does this mean? Well we can’t be sure, but it has been shown that fires can significantly reduce daytime surface temperatures under smoke as seen in Eastern Europe due to wildfires in Russia. Read more theories of global impact here written by Marshall Shepherd

Finally, our oceans. We are seeing as much devastation underwater and we must not overlook this.

Western Australia's coastline is in the midst of the most widespread marine heatwave it has experienced since reliable satellite monitoring began in 1993.

As a result, 95 per cent of giant kelp - 30ft stalks serving as a habitat for some of the rarest marine creatures in the world and stretching the length of Tasmania’s rocky east coast - has now died. Read more in this devastating article

Image source : Instagram @l.aurynhill

Fire and smoke can have various impacts on our oceans too changing water quality in the short and long term. Some smoke can add nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to water however iron-rich smoke that fertilises the water, can cause a huge plankton bloom called a “red tide.” The bloom then asphyxiates marine life like coral reefs, basically choking it.

Image source : Instagram @l.aurynhill

I really hope this is useful. What is important is that every single one of us recognises the importance of these devastating events. We learn more about them. Ask important questions. It’s crucial we support this tragedy in every way we can. We must continue to support Australia and have these global conversations about the state of our planet.

If you are looking to donate here is a link to a great wildlife rescue team

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