Bushfires and Climate Change in Australia – The Facts
1. In Australia, climate change is influencing both the frequency and intensity of extreme hot days, as well as prolonged periods of low rainfall. This increases the risk of bushfires.
While Australia has always experienced bushfires, climate change is increasing the probability of extreme fire weather days.
Climate change is making hot days hotter, and heatwaves more frequent and severe. Last summer, Australia experienced the hottest summer on record, and now has just had the hottest September on record. Southeast Australia is experiencing a long-term drying trend. More intense and frequent hot weather, as well as dry conditions, increases the likelihood of extreme fire weather days.
Extreme fire weather has increased over the last 30 years in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and parts of South Australia
2. The NSW fires are being influenced by record hot, dry conditions.
While bushfires in NSW at this time of year are not unusual, the severity and scale of the fires may be unprecedented. Australia has just experienced its hottest 12 months on record. NSW has experienced the hottest September on record; days well above average in October and exceptionally dry conditions. These conditions mean that the fire risk is currently extremely high.
3. It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health services and other authorities prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions.
To deny the influence of climate change on extreme fire weather, and not take appropriate action to prepare for these changed conditions, places people and property at unnecessarily high risk.
4. In the future, southeast Australia is very likely to experience an increased number of days with extreme fire danger.
The projected increases in hot days across the country, and in consecutive dry days and droughts inthe southeast, will very likely lead to increased frequencies of days with extreme fire danger in that region.
As the fire seasons in southeast Australia become longer, the opportunity for fuel reduction burning is also decreased.
Learn more about the link between climate change and extreme weather from the previous Climate Commission’s Extreme Weather Report.
The Climate Council will be releasing a report on the link between bushfires and extreme weather in November 2013.