Wednesday 1 January 2020

Aussie Bushfire Update No 16: Thousands of people taking refuge on the beaches: Fires generate tornadoes and supercell thunderstorms: Science behind the fire-whirls a mystery

Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog: New Paper on Australian Bushfires

  • Death toll rises as thousands seek shelter from Australian bush fires
  • Thousands of people up and down the coast, taking refuge on the beaches
  • The number of lives lost will climb
  • A volunteer firefighter died on Monday when an event which can only be described as a fire tornado rolled a fire truck
  • Nine dead and hundreds of properties destroyed, with worse to come

  • nine dead and hundreds of properties destroyed, with worse to come Fires are generating tornadoes and supercell thunderstorms. A volunteer firefighter died on Monday when an event "which could only be described as a tornado" picked up and rolled the truck carrying him and two other crew members. With so few examples, the science behind these rotating fire systems is still being worked out, but there is no denying they are incredibly dangerous. "We know fire-whirls exist, they can be up to a few hundred metres high," said Nick McCarthy, who studies the interaction of bushfires and thunderstorms at the University of Queensland. "But they don't cause quite the same amount of concern as when the whole fire plume, and potentially thunderstorm, start to rotate." Many Australians will be familiar with supercell thunderstorms; the technical term is mesocyclonic (medium-scale rotating storms). Basically, they are really big thunderstorms that do huge amounts of damage. "The worst thunderstorms that happen are the ones that spin," Mr McCarthy said. "What happens with a spinning thunderstorm is that the updraft and downdraft can get set up in just the right way where they can survive for really long periods of time. ABC

    Here is the latest tally from the state of New South Wales

    The south coast has been devastated by bushfires. 15 lives lost, four in the past 24 hours Two people remain missing More than 100 bushfires burning 3.6 million hectares burned, greater than the size of Belgium 1087 homes confirmed destroyed. The fires started on the 7th of September, 2019.

    In Mallacoota, Victoria - where thousands fled to the beach on Tuesday - police boats arrived with 1.6 tonnes of water for residents. They also brought food, a paramedic and medical supplies. At the same time, police warned people in Sunbury, Victoria - around 40km (25 miles) north-west of Melbourne - to leave the area, as an emergency fire warning was in place. Earlier, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said workers would take advantage of the milder weather on Wednesday to clear roads and restore power. But she said temperatures were expected to rise again on Saturday. "At the very least, weather conditions will be at least as bad as what they were yesterday," she said. BBC

    Nine people are confirmed dead, with four still missing, and more than 200 properties have been lost since Christmas Day in Australia’s catastrophic bushfires. Smoke still hung thick over the south-east of the country on Wednesday evening, even as weather conditions offered a reprieve to take stock of the destruction. On Wednesday afternoon, authorities in New South Wales and Victoria said another five people were confirmed dead, and another man presumed dead. They warned the death toll was likely to continue to rise.

    Malua Bay fire: survivors tell how 1,000 people lived through a night of flames on an NSW beach, survivors spoke of how 1,000 people spent the night on the beach in a bid to seek shelter from the flames. “Everyone was on the beach, just covered in ash and smoke,” Al Baxter, told Guardian Australia. “There was a strange calmness. People were as close to the water’s edge as they could [be]. People were literally just lying on the beach trying to keep out of the smoke and ash. In Victoria, Mick Roberts from Buchan in the East Gippsland region had been unaccounted for since Monday. He was found dead in his home on Wednesday. Guardian

    Half a billion animals perish in Australian bushfires 

    There are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been lost since September. That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the NSW South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded. NZH

    Wildfires 2020

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