Australia's Largest Fire Kills At Least Millions of Animals and 24 People

Tuesday, January 7, 2020 - 11:30

A series of massive bushfires across Australia are still spreading Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought.

According to the CNN report, Australian firefighters battle what has been predicted to be the most catastrophic day yet in an already devastating bushfire season.

At least 24 people have so far been killed - including three volunteer firefighters - and more than 6.3 million hectares (63,000 sq km or 15.6 million acres) of bush, forest and parks have been burned, BBC reports.

Hot, dry weather combined with prolonged drought and strong winds have created perfect conditions for fire to spread rapidly.

Scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate will contribute to fires becoming more frequent and more intense. Many parts of Australia have been in drought conditions, some for years, which has made it easier for the fires to spread and grow.

Data shows that Australia has warmed overall by slightly more than one degree Celsius since 1910, with most of the heating occurring since 1950, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

Australia broke its all-time temperature record twice in December. An average maximum of 40.9C was recorded on 17 December, broken a day later by 41.9C, both beating 2013's record of 40.3C.

By the end of the month every state had measured temperatures above 40C - including Tasmania, which is usually much cooler than the mainland.

Andrew Watkins, head of long-range forecasts at the bureau, said the dipole was crucial to understanding the heatwave.

"The key culprit of our current and expected conditions is one of the strongest positive Indian Ocean dipole events on record," he says.

"A positive IOD means we have cooler than average water pooling off Indonesia, and this means we see less rain-bearing weather systems, and warmer than average temperatures for large parts of the country."

And meteorologists warn that, for the moment, the intense weather and elevated fire risk in Australia is set to continue.

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