Dry weather patterns are largely to blame for Australia’s historic fires. 2019 was both the hottest and driest year on record for the already heat-prone continent which have created perfect conditions for explosive fires. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reported that temperatures in 2019 averaged 1.5 C higher than the normal – and this is likely the new normal. More than 10 million hectares have burnt since September 2019 and the season won’t end for a few months in some regions (Nature, 2020).
aWhere’s daily-updated weather data offers both a near real-time look at current conditions as well as observed data to monitor the progression of rain and heat. Using data from the Government of Western Australia’s FireWatch site which provides real-time updates on locations of fires across the continent, aWhere’s localized weather can reveal patterns that contribute to higher fire risk in the select locations. The maps below reveal the dry conditions experienced from December 2019 to January 2020. The weekly rainfall charts below and on the following page show the rainfall (blue bars) compared to the expected (dark orange line) – these locations show prolonged dry periods in early 2019 that led to drought conditions and a fire hazard for Australia.
Why has it been so hot in Australia? The positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has been causing hot air to descend over Australia and is also shifting weather patterns over eastern Africa. Weekly rainfall charts below for a few locations show the rainfall (blue bars) compared to the expected (dark orange line) showed prolonged dry periods that led to drought conditions and a fire hazard for Australia. aWhere’s gridded weather enables authorities to see where fire risk is highest to prioritize risk reduction strategies.
The drier than normal conditions across Australia have created the ideal conditions for the current situation of large-scale fires. This is causing high levels of air pollution due to smoke and endangering animal habitats throughout the national parks. In-time information and insight is imperative to deliver economic and ecological resilience to climate change.