"Australian bush fires as seen by Himawari 8" by Himawari 8 Satellite / Copyright Japan Meteorological Agency

What’s causing Australia’s devastating fire weather?

Jan 6, 2020

By Scott K. Johnson

An absolutely astonishing set of bushfires is burning around Australia currently, producing surreal images like those of evacuees fleeing to beaches—or boats—for safety. The situation has been particularly dangerous in Victoria and New South Wales, where fires have surrounded Sydney, choking the air with smoke. So much smoke, in fact, that even New Zealand has been significantly impacted by it over 2,000 kilometers away.

So far, almost 15 million acres of land have burned. For comparison, California’s nightmare 2018 fire season burned around 2 million acres.

Unfortunately, the weather has yet to turn helpful, although there are some encouraging signs for the near future. Saturday, specifically, saw worsening conditions, and Victoria activated emergency powers for the first time amidst ongoing evacuations.

So what has been driving these fires to such extremes? Obviously, it’s the trio of hot, dry, and windy, but these conditions are occurring due to a combination of long-term trends and short-term weather patterns.

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