Wednesday 18 December 2019

Aussie Bushfire Update! Sydney is now almost entirely surrounded by wildfires which firefighters have claimed are impossible to put out: NSW is entering a period of grim uncertainty

NASA Worldview

"People should be under no illusions, we're not going to get these fires put out." "People should be under no illusions, we're not going to get these fires put out." Captain Peter Duff from the RFS Terrey Hills Brigade

Sydney, home to nearly six million people is now almost entirely surrounded by wildfires which firefighters have claimed are impossible to put out. A very dangerous heatwave is also moving across the country from west to east. All-time and daily records may be surpassed in parts of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria this week and temperatures may potentially soar to above 50 deg C, 122 deg F in some inland areas to the south.

The hot temperatures along with crippling droughts and high winds are providing rocket fuel for the fires. Australian authorities are particularly concerned about a “mega blaze” that formed when three major fires merged near Sydney, Australia on Dec. 6, 2019, that has now spread and is surrounding the Sydney greater area. The resulting air quality in Sydney is so bad that it has been labelled a “public health emergency” that requires urgent government action.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian is warning that NSW is entering a period of grim uncertainty as a record-breaking heatwave combines with forecast 100km/h winds, threatening to ramp up bushfires already out of control across the state. Ms Berejiklian said there would be a particular focus by fire crews on far western Sydney, south-west Sydney, the Central Coast, and South Coast, which are forecast to also have very "concerning wind conditions" combined with the heat. "We're going to have a number of wind fronts escalating the fuel, the fires burning, and the potential to have spot fires and embers travelling very long distances," she said at a briefing at Rural Fire Service headquarters in Sydney. "It's going to mean very unpredictable fire conditions." The Sydney Morning Herald

The toxic Sydney bush fire haze which has engulfed the city has now been declared a public health emergency because of the high levels of tiny particles (PM2.5) which can cause lung cancer. Sydney’s drinking water supply is at risk of the same “worst-case scenario” facing some New South Wales regional communities, where large amounts of bushfire ash have been swept into dams by heavy rainfall, a water expert has warned. 

Close to Sydney, residents faced an emergency warning for the Gospers Mountain blaze on Sunday. This huge fire is almost 400,000 hectares in size. The ABC reported flames up to 70 metres high had been seen a daunting sight for the exhausted firefighters.

The wildfires are devasting wildlife. Baby bats are being left for dead by their mothers in their thousands on the New South Wales coast in an 'abandonment event' as drought and bushfire remove crucial vegetation for the keystone species.  Key points: Baby bats are being abandoned along the NSW coast by their mothers About 1,700 bat deaths have been recorded in the Shoalhaven alone since November 20. It is believed to be caused by a reduction in habitat and feed due to drought and bushfires. ABC

Experts estimate more than 2,000 koalas have already died along the east coast. "We really do face losing koalas in New South Wales at least. It's just terrible," 69-year-old Ashton, a Koala expert said. Ashton estimates 85 per cent of the Port Macquarie region's koalas have perished in the fires, with the area home to some of the east coast's largest and most genetically diverse populations. Before the 2019 fire season, Ashton said koalas in the Port Macquarie region were labelled as "vulnerable," meaning they faced a high risk of extinction within the state in the medium-term future. Following the fires, Ashton and her team thought koalas might be reclassified as "endangered." But having seen the full extent of the still-burning blazes, she now fears their numbers and genetic diversity are so low they will be classified as "functionally extinct." "I don't know if we'll ever recover," she said. "The tragic thing is they breed very slowly. A female will have a joey once every 18 months to two years." The fires in New South Wales, which have been labelled "unprecedented" by firefighters and scientists alike, have been fueled by one of the worst droughts the state has ever seen. Kyodo News

As heatwave bakes Australia on land, an unprecedented marine heatwave causes fish kills in the ocean. The warm waters are believed to have contributed to a number of fish kills in the past month. "Particularly in the last two weeks or so the ocean temperatures have been increasing — they're about two degrees warmer than what is normal for December," University of Western Australia coastal oceanography Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi said. ABC
Bushfires are blazing out of control on three sides of the continent. Homes and lives are threatened in Sydney on the East Coast, Perth on the West Coast and several fires on the North Coast, east of Darwin.


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