Weekly Weather Event -Week of November 11November 15, 2019
Unseasonably strong wildfires raged across Australia’s East Coast this past week, destroying over three hundred homes and scorching over 1 million hectares (approximately 3,861 square miles) of land in New South Wales. Australia’s largest city, Sydney, and the surrounding areas were under a ‘catastrophic’ fire warning throughout Tuesday, marking the first time the city has been under the highest threat category. As of this writing, four people have died due to the fires.
Normally, Australia sees the most severe fire weather in the summer (the Northern Hemisphere’s winter) when dry weather and hot temperatures create a high risk for wildfire. However, above average spring temperatures and an ongoing drought have resulted in severe fire weather comparatively early in the year.
Climate change likely can be attributed to the worsening fire weather. Australia’s number of hot weather days have doubled within the last 50 years, and heat waves have become both hotter and persist for longer stretches of time. The risk of other natural disasters has also increased, likely leading to an increase in risk for severe drought. On top of the aforementioned factors, the fire season has lengthened in many parts of Australia to the point where wildfires are now a nearly year-round risk.
Wildfires are expected to continue within the coming week.