Report

Dangerous summer: escalating bushfire, heat and drought risk

2 Dec 2019
Description

Against a long-term heating trend from the burning of coal, oil and gas and rising greenhouse gas emissions, many extreme weather events are worsening, putting Australian lives at risk and threatening livelihoods and well-being. The latest Bureau of Meteorology Outlook for Summer 2019/20 forecasts hot conditions for most of Australia and a dry eastern Australia. We could experience a crisis summer marked by a terrible trifecta of heatwaves, drought and bushfires.

As the climate crisis intensifies, there is no federal leadership, no vision and no effective policy.

Key findings:

Australia is being battered by extreme weather events, made worse by climate change. The summer of 2019/20 is shaping up as another terrible trifecta of heatwaves, droughts and bushfires.

  • The projections for the summer of 2019/20 are extremely concerning. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting above average maximum temperatures for most of Australia with eastern Australia – already plagued by drought – likely to be drier than average.
  • The 2019/20 bushfire season in New South Wales and southeast Queensland began in winter. Already six lives have been lost and more than 600 homes destroyed in New South Wales, mostly in remote and rural areas and small towns. It is now only the beginning of summer, which means the hottest weather and greatest danger period may still be to come.
  • The bushfires have been costly for farmers. In Cobraball, Queensland, for example, an estimated 12,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed, including 230 hectares of highvalue horticultural crops, with an estimated $20 million damage bill for farms in the region.
  • Wildlife has also been badly affected by the ongoing bushfires, with reports of at least 1,000 koala deaths in important habitats in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia and the habitats of some of the most ancient and globally iconic songbirds have either been burnt or are under threat.

Climate change is making many extreme weather events in Australia worse.

  • Climate change is now making hot days hotter, and heatwaves longer and more frequent. This has implications for bushfire weather, with fire seasons starting earlier and lasting longer.
  • Long-term heating and the reduction in cool season rainfall in mainland southern Australia are exacerbating drought conditions.
  • The period from January 2017 to October 2019 has been the driest on record for the MurrayDarling Basin as a whole. Over the same period of time, new long-term records for low soil moisture have been set, with ten of the Basin’s 26 river catchments recording the lowest soil moisture levels on record.
Publication Details
Identifiers: 
isbn: 
978-0-6486793-9-4
Language: 
English
License Type: 
CC BY
Published year only: 
2019
141
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