Australia last month raised the fire danger alert to "catastrophic" for the first time ever, as devastating bushfires tore through the states of New South Wales and Queensland. The crisis has killed at least six people, destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched more than two million hectares of land. Nearly 200 wildfires are still burning with at least 40 of them out of control leaving scientists to warn the Australian public Novembers record-breaking fires are just a glimpse of what's to come.
The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison of Australia, however, denies there is climate change happening. 2019 has been a disastrous year for Australia, in February, record-breaking floods dumped nearly two years worth of rainfall on Queensland in just seven days. Farmers were faced with hundreds of thousands of dead cows after devastating floods left them starving, in what was described as a once in a century event and historic. However, flooding didn't kill just cows, sheep, kangaroos, wild pigs, all died and suffered from it. Full Story Nearly a year later hundreds of dead carcasses of dead cows lay in fields, killed by the floods or by the devasting drought which followed.
Since the floods, farmers have been battling with droughts across huge swatches of Queensland and the Northern Territory as well as record-breaking wildfires. Currently, droughts have been declared in 66.1 per cent of the land area of Queensland. Droughts are also worsening the effects of disease and parasites.
Before the "historic" flooding in February, January 2019 was declared the warmest month in Australia since records began. The mean temperature for January averaged across the country exceeded 30 degrees, the first time this has occurred in any month. At least five January days were among the 10 warmest on record, with daily national temperature highs of 40C. Australia has increasingly endured hotter summer temperatures. Last year, Sydney sweltered at 47.3C - its hottest day since 1939. Officials have confirmed that 2018 and 2017 were Australia's third and fourth hottest years on record respectively.
The heatwave killed millions of fish due to low water, low-oxygen levels and toxic algae in the Darling River. Record high temperatures devastated bat colonies across South Australia's state capital, Adelaide, where thousands of flying foxes died. Thousands of birds died at one of Western Australia's most important inland wetlands. Lake Gregory where the birds died is a permanent freshwater lake located between the Great Sandy Desert and the Tanami Desert and was previously described by the department as the most important inland wetland in Australia. Its ecosystem helps support about 650,000 waterbirds and is a major breeding ground for up to 80 species and a major migration stopover area for shorebirds. Blue-green algae can be present in water sources and levels are influenced by environmental factors including warm water temperatures, sunny days and nutrients. In addition, the water level at the lake was reported to be very low, coupled with the recent very high temperatures in the area, which may well have contributed to the deaths of the birds.
Also in January, the deaths of many horses were discovered near Santa Teresa which was blamed on the extreme weather conditions. Nearly fifty wild horses were found dead at a dry waterhole in central Australia in what is believed to a mass death caused by extreme weather. The feral horses were found at the Apwerte Uyerreme waterhole and another 50 were found in poor health and had to be culled by the Central Land Council. Full Story
Photo A mass wild horse death was discovered in a remote location near Santa Teresa in the Northern Territory. Photograph: Ralph Turner.
Meanwhile, Jellyfish stung more than 50,000 beachgoers on Australia's Gold and Sunshine coasts, prompting officials to issue warnings and close beaches.
Safety authority Surf Life Saving Queensland said the bluebottle jellyfish -- also known as Pacific man-of-war -- have been blown in by recent winds. The surge in jellyfish numbers coincided with the record-breaking heatwave.
Earlier this year, the Australian Koala Foundation claimed koala bears have been declared “functionally extinct,” The tree-dwelling species has been ravaged by the effects of rising temperatures, wildfires, drought, disease and heatwaves, which have caused widespread deforestation and fatal dehydration in koalas, according to the AKF. Only 41 of the koala’s 128 known habitats in federal environments have any of the animals left. If a new disease or genetic pathogen of any kind is introduced, surviving koalas will die off rapidly. This report came before the record-busting wildfires came in November. Full Story
In October, before the wildfires, yet another mass fish kill event was spotted in far western NSW, nine months after millions of fish were found dead on the nearby banks of the Darling River. New aerial footage appeared to show hundreds of thousands of dead fish at Lake Pamamaroo in the Menindee Lakes System, near Broken Hill. Full Story
Yet another mass fish kill event
Experts say the current drought could be the worst Australia has ever experienced. According to the Bureau of Meteorology's (BOM) summer outlook, the drought plaguing Australia could be the worst ever experienced, as the parched land continues to suffer water shortages and bush fires. BOM is expecting a hotter summer than usual. November 2019 has already broken many heat records as well as its worst bushfire season ever and all this happened before the official summer season started.
The forecast offered no relief to Australia’s devastated farming sector, with the country’s largest and most lucrative crop, wheat, facing the worst damage in the third straight year of drought. The outlook also means with the risk of heatwaves is increasing, Australia’s shaky power grid has suffered blackouts over the past two summers as ageing coal-fired plants crashed in the heat, with demand for airconditioners soared.
The drought is affecting water supply in Australia’s capital cities too. The level of water stored by Australia’s capital cities has steadily fallen over the last six years. They are now collectively at 54.6% of capacity – a decline of 30% from 2013. We’re going into a hot summer and Sydney has just announced level 2 restrictions, the toughest for any capital. Data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows other capital cities facing mixed results. Full Story
Dead cattle left in fields
And then came the wildfires, it was called, "an unprecedented bushfire event," New South Wales had ever seen with more than 80 fires raging out of control. People trapped in their homes, as the fires appeared to arrive overnight from nowhere. The fires were to be Australia's worst bushfire season and summer had hardly started and was expected to escalate with many parts of the country suffering the devastating drought. The forecast for the balance of the season continues to be driven by above-normal temperatures (and) below-average rainfall to dominate over the coming months. Full Story