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Australian Wildfire Latest

January 3, 2020
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood

We now have full annual weather data from the Australian BOM for last year, so we can update matters.

First of all, a couple of useful charts from the Telegraph. The first shows the distribution of fires, which seem to be mainly clustered along the coast in NSW and in northern Queensland:



The second chart compares the number of fatalities and hectares with historical fires.

What is immediately apparent is that death tolls were regularly much greater in the past. The current death toll, we are told, is 18.

Whilst this crop of fires seems to have affected a greater area, we cannot be certain that previous fires, particularly pre war, were accurately measured. Presumably many outback ones were just ignored and left to burn.

According to the Telegraph, the current fires have affected 5.9m hectares, or 59,000 km2. While they claim this is three times the size of Wales, we need to remember that Australia is more than 30 times the size of the UK. 59,000 km2 represents 0.77% of Australia’s area, which in UK terms would be about 1800 km2, equivalent to three times the size of the New Forest.


Now we can look at the rainfall data for Australia as a whole from BOM:


The black line is the 5-year running average.

It does not need a statistician to see that the claim that the current drought is due to, or exacerbated by, climate change is absurd. Clearly Australia as a whole has become wetter as the climate has warmed. The year just finished may be the driest on record, but statistically is an outlier.

But national figures can hide regional variations, so what about NSW, where the fires have been worst?

Again we find a similar picture. Last year is the driest on record, but the climate generally speaking has been much wetter since the 1940s.



Drought maps from BOM also suggest that, for most of NSW, this has not been a record drought:

Certainly the area either side of the Queensland border shows the lowest rainfall on record, but most of the state has seen periods before with lower rainfall.

Also note that worst fires seem to be clustered towards the Victoria border, where rainfall deficiency has been less severe.

Finally it is worth revisiting the rainfall trend map. It shows that since 1900, most of the country has been getting wetter, with the exception of a small part of Queensland, and some coastal areas of Western Australia and southern Australia along with Tasmania:


I can see absolutely no evidence in any of the above data to suggest that droughts in Australia are becoming more severe or widespread.

  1. January 3, 2020 6:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

    • nadeembutt permalink
      January 5, 2020 10:33 pm

      You do know nobody bothers clicking through ?

      • Adam Gallon permalink
        January 6, 2020 12:13 pm

        I had a look, absolutely nothing but stuff he’s “Reblogged”. A plagiarist.

  2. January 3, 2020 6:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

    • nadeembutt permalink
      January 5, 2020 10:33 pm

      Another one joins in…

  3. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 3, 2020 7:42 pm

    I don’t see what the weather stats. matter. This has been an unprecedented arson attack on Australia by a mix of malice and terrorism.

    But you won’y hear it in the MSM.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 3, 2020 8:00 pm

      Beat me to it, MrGN. I’ve been asking this question in any comments board I find: If I were a committed CC Green I would be prepared to set fires to further the cause. I might not know the possible outcomes – and I bet they are worse than anyone figured – but it’s for the cause.

      The MSM, damn their eyes, are more at home taking the easy route and blaming CC. If they ever had investigative journalist they must have made them redundant. I’d bet there are arsonists in this mix.

    • I_am_not_a_robot permalink
      January 3, 2020 8:26 pm

      As the link suggests the arson is uncoordinated by unconnected individuals but the Greens politicians very early off-the-mark blaming CC™ and the PM, together with the recent doom-laden publicity, have been a stimulus.

  4. A C Osborn permalink
    January 3, 2020 7:43 pm

    Paul, I suggest that you take a look at Wikipedia Australian Bushfires.
    It shows that although the current arson (over 100 arrests) set fires have a larger burnt area than Feb 1851 12,000,000 Acres, the other very large burn period is 1974/75 whe there were 4 large fires,
    2,760,000/3,700,000/840,000/11,000,000 Acres.
    Notice that this during that peak rainfall period in the 70s.

    Also note that the ferocity of these current fires was predicted by a bushfire scientist back in 2015.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      January 3, 2020 7:49 pm

      200+ arrests now.

    • Eyes 2C permalink
      January 4, 2020 8:07 am

      + 1. The telegraph seems to be missing the 1974/75 fire season.

  5. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 3, 2020 8:46 pm

    There has been a concerted effort to stop logging in the forests with one result that the logging trails are no longer used. Nor have the fire trails been kept clear. It is illegal in many areas to collect windfall timber from forests.
    And for a touch of irony Check out this one from the Goongerah Environment Centre:
    For the time-poor, it is headed ‘Massive Year for East Gippsland’s Forests’, and begins:
    ‘We want to say a huge THANK YOU to all the people who wrote to politicians, made submissions, donated, signed petitions, and shared our posts. Thanks to you we’ve had some important wins, and we’re gearing up for another year of campaigning for permanent protection of East Gippsland’s forests.’
    Oh, and the date is 23 December 2019.
    I don’t think that those East Gippsland forests are in good shape now.

    • dearieme permalink
      January 4, 2020 12:43 pm

      ‘I don’t think that those East Gippsland forests are in good shape now.’ On the contrary, they are in a “shape” that is part of the natural cycle for eucalyptus forest.

      If people are going to insist on living in such forests they’d better relearn how to interrupt that natural cycle. It’s neither difficult nor expensive, and you could explain it to a child. But could you explain it to a suburban Australian?

  6. January 4, 2020 12:41 am

    Reblogged this on Utopia, you are standing in it!.

  7. January 4, 2020 2:11 am

    Looks like 2019 might have been the driest year in NSW in about 100 years. If we monitor 1000 well separated locations around the globe and extreme weather events are random, then we could expect that in any given year 10 of these locations would have a 1 in 100 year extreme event, such as low precipitation. Nothing unusual here from a climate perspective. How many other locations around the globe had a 1 in 100 year low precipitation event in 2019? Probably nowhere near 10.

  8. OldCynic permalink
    January 4, 2020 4:16 am

    In the 35 years I have lived in Australia there has been a steady reduction in the amount of Hazard Reduction Burning each year. This is due to:
    a) State governments trying to save money, by doing less work.
    b) Green activists campaigning against State governments burning off; because all that leaf litter and dead trees etc represents a huge carbon sink and if we burn it we will release all that CO2 into the air. [Obviously Australian Greens have never heard of Drax].
    c) Reputedly (ie I have no direct evidence) farmers are being forbidden from burning off on their properties for the same reasons.

    A pal of mine has lived 45 years in the same house. It backs on to the bush. When she moved in the fire trails were kept clear and the bush round her was kept under control. For the last twenty years there has been no Hazard Reduction Burning carried out for reasons a) and b). Direct evidence of a) and b).

    The problem in Australia this year is nothing to do with Climate Change – anthropogenic or otherwise. It’s down to FUEL LOAD. Nothing more complicated than that.

  9. January 4, 2020 7:23 am

    Dellers nails it when he says why greens are so keen on blaming their disastrous forest management policy on climate change:

    “As I demonstrate pretty comprehensively here, the Australian bush fires have nothing to do with climate change. The reason they are so widespread and intense, rather, is the result of misguided green policy. (So you can see why the greenies might be wanting to distract from this by pointing the blame elsewhere).”

    This follows on from his previous article about the Australian fires:

  10. January 4, 2020 9:58 am

    Where I live, in the south west of Western Australia, there is an obvious greening of the countryside over the last eight years. I’m comparing google maps today as compared to photos taken eight years ago as part of an application to build a dam. This is a winter rainfall, summer drought area where the rainfall trend is down.

    Rainfall this last winter has been well down. Nevertheless, the country is faring well. There is the usual loss of leaves in summer. One tree of NSW origin that expects summer rainfall has died. This happens in forests of Tasmanian Blue Gums the favourite tree for wood chips.Leaf stomata don’t shut down in an appropriate fashion when the drought hits, or so I am told.

    That leaf loss becomes mulch building the protective layer on the surface from which all plants derive nutrients. The geology is Archean. The soils are leached of all soluble nutrients.
    So, the organic matter is not within the soil, its on the top, and thats where all the feeder roots are, As the mulch layer builds in a CO2 enriched environment, plants need less water because stomata can close, conserving moisture while still accessing the CO2 they need. The mulch layer conserves the little moisture that comes out of the sky. As the vegetation thrives, the mulch layer increases, the woodland climates support more under-story and more of the arid zone shrubbery that can cover the surface. This country has a built in accelerator to increase biomass, living and dead.

    So, the fuel load on the soil surface and that which is alive and well is increasing apace. The understory will burn allowing flame to climb the trunks and the eucalyptus tops just explode. The wind that is generated is horrific if you are nearby to witness it.and as a person who gets active with preventative burning in Autumn I see it.

    There is a good reason why the areas involved in fires is increasing. The fuel load is increasing. Its harder to control these fires. They jump over the so called control points. You have trouble fighting them from the ground. You have to get into the air with planes. But you haven’t invested in planes, you’ve invested in ground control. You don’t need drought to aggravate this problem when every summer is a drought.

    Fortunately there is enough common sense in WA to perceive that fuel reduction and strategic burning is the adaptation needed to survive in this country. I don’t think that there is that awareness on the east coast where summer rainfall is the rule. The people we have made responsible for putting out the fires are not aware of why they are failing. The tendency is to blame ‘climate change’. The media is silly enough to back that claim. Fortunately, I think the PM can see that prevention is better than trying to respond to a situation that is out of control as soon as it is evident.

    The screaming greens are not helping.

  11. Eoin Mc permalink
    January 4, 2020 10:22 am

    Hi Paul. Can you double check your stat on the percentage of Australia being affected by bush fires as you may be overstating it. The continent has approx 8.5 million square kilometres. That being the case should the percentage of the bush being affected not be 0.07%? Thanks. Eoin

    • January 4, 2020 10:43 am

      The Telegraph say 5.9m hectare, which = 59000 km2 (100 hectare = 1 km2)

  12. Mike Arthur permalink
    January 4, 2020 4:42 pm

    It’s interesting to compare the 0.7% of Australia currently burned, and that might be managed by controlled burning, to controlled heather burning in Scotland. Quick web searches give area of Scotland as 20 million acres, of which 5 million heather, of which about 10% burned each year (apparently with Scottish Government grants!), so 2.5% of entire Scottish area deliberately burned annually.

  13. January 4, 2020 9:52 pm

    A balanced analysis, Paul.

    Here in Australia, the (obvious) problems with increased fuel load over the years, plus the statistical nature of the whole thing just aren’t getting traction.

    I fear that these fires are climate science’s Fukushima: no one here will be able to debate this topic rationally for the next decade !

  14. Bob MacLean permalink
    January 4, 2020 10:12 pm

    Another local explains the Greens are the real reason for the fires

  15. David virgo permalink
    January 4, 2020 10:54 pm

    It seems to me that the combination of increased temperatures, as illustrated in the Telegraph article, and apparently increased rainfall since the middle of the last century, as shown in the BOM records, together with increased carbon dioxide in the air, will have caused increased growth in the bush adding fuel for the fires. Add to this the exceptional drought last year and it does not seem too surprising that the fires raging now are more extensive than in the past. The IPCC have identified increased rainfall as associated with climate change, at least in the northern hemisphere. I don’t doubt that green policies are a factor but I do not think that climate change can be wholly excluded.

  16. January 6, 2020 1:30 am

    Brilliant. Thanks. Good analysis. Good information.

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