Climate Change & The Australian Bushfire Threat

Over the past year, record-breaking temperatures have been experienced across the country. More than 120 weather records were broken last summer, including the hottest summer, the hottest January, and the hottest day. 2013 is on track to become Australia’s warmest year on record. These trends, together with below-average rainfall in many parts of the country including the southeast, indicated that the coming summer fire season was likely to be a serious one. We thus made the decision in September to focus our first report on bushfires and their link to climate change. This decision was, unfortunately, borne out by the events in NSW in early October, where intense and uncontrolled fires raged across parts of the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains.

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Six Key Findings

  1. Climate change is already increasing the risk of bushfires.
  2. In southeast Australia the fire season is becoming longer, reducing the opportunities for hazard reduction burning.
  3. Recent severe fires have been influenced by record hot, dry conditions.
  4. In the future, Australia is very likely to experience an increased number of days with extreme fire danger.
  5. It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health services and other authorities prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions.
  6. This is the critical decade

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