Summer might be more than six weeks away, but out-of-control bushfires have already torn across parts of eastern Australia in recent days, destroying homes and threatening lives. New research explains why.
As of Wednesday afternoon, up to 30 homes were feared lost or badly damaged by bushfires burning in northern New South Wales. About 40 fires burned across the state.
This did not come as a surprise to meteorologists and fire agencies. Record-breaking heat and windy conditions were forecast for parts of NSW and Queensland this week, prompting severe fire danger ratings.
We’re often told the Australian bushfire season is starting earlier. This year it began in September on the eastern seaboard. Last year and in 2013, significant spring fires hit NSW and in 2015 they affected much of the nation’s southeast.
But what lies behind this phenomenon? We examined seasonal fire weather history for 44 years at 39 weather stations to find the precise answer.
This analysis is the most comprehensive ever conducted in Australia. It confirms the strength of the relationship between climate drivers such as El Niño, climate change, and the Australian bushfire season. It also demonstrates that a few milder bushfire seasons do not mean climate change isn’t happening.