The hand of man shows through once again in a major weather catastrophe.

 by Larry Powell
The Green Wattle Creek bushfire moves toward the Southern Highlands township of 
Yanderra, Australia as police evacuate. Dec. 2019.
Photo by Helitak 430.

A new study finds, manmade climate change did, indeed, worsen the bushfires which ravaged much of southeastern Australia late last year and early this year. An international team of seventeen scientists has just concluded, the probability of conditions developing like the ones which kindled the catastrophic blazes “has increased by at least 30% since 1900 as a result of anthropogenic climate change.” 
And that figure could be much higher considering that extreme heat, one of the main factors behind this increase, is underestimated in the models used. The heating of the planet, largely due to human extraction and burning of fossil fuels, has, for some time been shown to be the main factor behind the development of storms that are more intense and frequent than before.

Looking to the future, the study predicts, if the temperature rises 2 ºC over 1900 levels, the kind of fire risk which existed during the recent bushfires "will be at least four times more likely." 

Last year was both the hottest and driest in Australia since records began around 1900. Not only were the fires more frequent and intense, they started earlier than usual. They claimed the lives of more than a billion wild animals, thousands of livestock and 34 humans. Almost six thousand buildings were destroyed. And the smoke - which produced air quality hazards some 20 times beyond what were considered levels safe for humans - lingered for months over much of the country.

To quote from the report, "It is well-established that wildfire smoke exposure is associated with respiratory morbidity. Additionally, fine particulate matter in smoke may act as a triggering factor for acute coronary events (such as heart attack-related deaths) as found for previous fires in southeast Australia. Increased bushfire-related risks in a warming climate have significant implications for the health sector."

The research was done by the scientific group, “World Weather Attribution” (WWA). It's a relatively new, international effort to analyze and communicate the possible influences of climate change on extreme weather events.


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