August 2019 is when the devastating Australia Bush Fire began, and has been on a path of destruction ever since. On November 12, 2019, the Greater Sydney region declared the fire a “catastrophic fire danger” for the first time since the introduction of this level in 2009 and a total fire ban was in place for seven regions, including Greater Sydney. The Bush Fires has destroyed an estimated 21 million acres or 32,000 square miles, destroyed over 2,500 buildings (including over 1,900 houses) and killed 25 people as of January 5, 2020. It was estimated that close to half a billion animals in New South Wales were affected by the ongoing fires, with an estimated over one billion animals having lost their lives so far. The bushfires are regarded by the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service as the worst bushfire season in memory. In December 2019, the New South Wales Government declared a state of emergency after record-breaking temperatures and prolonged drought exacerbated the bushfires.
The main causes of the fires have been linked to record-breaking heat, record-breaking drought, lightning strike, and alleged arson. Over 180 suspects have been arrested in connection with the deadly bushfires in Australia, but no one has been charged. Thousands of people have been left homeless, with many in rural areas going days without electricity and drinking water. Record high temperatures and severe drought are making it difficult to battle the devastating fires. Firefighters from New Zealand, the United States and Canada have offered their help to fight the fires, especially in New South Wales.
In mid December 2019, a NASA analysis revealed that since August 2019, bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland had emitted 250 million tons of carbon dioxide. As of January 2, 2020, NASA estimated that 306 million tons of carbon dioxide had been emitted by the fires. In comparison, Australia's total carbon emissions were equivalent to 535 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. The prolonged drought has damaged the forests’ ability to regrow, and the excess carbon dioxide gas will cause even more issues.
On New Year's Day 2020 in New Zealand, a blanket of smoke from the Australian fires covered the whole South Island and gave the sky an orange-yellow haze. MetService, the head meteorology company of New Zealand, stated that the smoke would not have any adverse effects on the weather or temperature in the country. The smoke moved over the North Island the following day, but began breaking up and was not as intense as it was over the South Island the previous day. Wind from the Pacific Ocean has slowly helped to dissipate the smoke over the South Island.
Reporter: Myles Witte