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World Firenadoes, ember attacks and megafires: Australia is seeing sci-fi weather

12:51  14 january  2020
12:51  14 january  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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The Dunn Road fire in Mount Adrah, Australia , last week. “ Ember attacks ” occur when violent winds around wildfires pick up burning pieces of debris and carry A weather station in New South Wales recorded an air temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit as pyrocumulonimbus clouds advanced.

camel killers, on one side crying for burnet animals and on other side killing camels because they drink a lot of water, if such step was taken by any muslim country all would be pointing them. What difference does it make whether fire or bullet.

Virginia Young knew the fires were coming. As an Australian forest expert, she had contributed to research predicting longer and more-severe bush-fire seasons as the world warms.

a close up of clouds in the dark: MOUNT ADRAH, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: General view of the Dunn Road fire on January 10, 2020 in Mount Adrah, Australia.  At least 27 people have died in the bushfires across Australia in recent weeks, including several volunteer firefighters. About 2000 homes have been destroyed.© Sam Mooy/AFP/Getty Images MOUNT ADRAH, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10: General view of the Dunn Road fire on January 10, 2020 in Mount Adrah, Australia. At least 27 people have died in the bushfires across Australia in recent weeks, including several volunteer firefighters. About 2000 homes have been destroyed.

But even she was taken aback by the sheer scale of the blazes that have imperiled much of the country — including her own home.

Now she worries Australia is on the brink of a “major ecological shift.” Climate change has pushed natural phenomena, such as wildfires, to mutate into more disastrous and deadly versions of themselves.

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Sci - fi weather may just be a vision of our future. Australia 's blazes are so big they generate their own hellish weather . Firenados, ember attacks and megafires have been covering Australia . From the west, a see - saw circulation pattern known as the Indian Ocean Dipole caused air to sink over

The deadly fires show no signs of slowing, with temperatures expected to reach well over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and "extreme" fire danger predicted for South Australia . The blaze is expected to consume the entirety of a national park in that province's Kangaroo Island, and an

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Temperatures are soaring to heights scientists did not expect to see for decades. Landscapes that are usually resistant to fire — including rainforests home to rare, vulnerable species — are going up in flames.

The blazes are so big they generate their own hellish weather.

Fire tornadoes, formed when spinning winds generate a massive rotating column of fire, ash, vapor and debris, are impossible to control. A volunteer firefighter in New South Wales was killed on Dec. 30 when one of these twisters overturned his truck.

“Ember attacks” occur when violent winds around wildfires pick up burning pieces of debris and carry them aloft, dropping them in a flammable spot where they start another blaze.

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Australia fires live: 'If you are told to leave, leave,' Daniel Andrews warns as Victoria, SA and NSW brace for bushfires danger – latest updates. “If we do come under ember attack , the sky goes black, you can’t hear very well, you can’t see very well … It looks like a sci - fi movie gone wrong,” Roper said.

The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season is a series of bushfires, also known around the world as wildfires, that are currently burning across Australia , predominantly in the south-east.

Fire whirls — short-lived, swirling vortices of ash, dust and flame that are generated when updrafts of hot air become twisted as they rise along the leading edge of a forest fire, have been reported by witnesses. These whirls behave unpredictably — so much so they are sometimes called “devils” — and they can contribute to ember attacks, said Janice Coen, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

The heat from Australia’s blazes has fueled fire-generated thunderstorms from what are known as pyrocumulonimbus clouds. These mushroom-shaped clouds act like chimneys, venting heat and sucking in surrounding air to intensify fires, making their behavior more unpredictable and unstoppable.

Neil Lareau, a meteorologist at the University of Nevada at Reno, said he has never seen pyrocumulonimbus clouds on such a large-scale.

A weather station in New South Wales recorded an air temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit as pyrocumulonimbus clouds advanced. That is roughly as hot as most saunas, though the number cannot be verified, since the instruments were not designed to work at such high temperatures.

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He is studying fire whirls to see if they can be used to burn off oil slicks in the ocean, since whirls burn the oil faster and more cleanly than a nonrotating He uses weather information like the ground-based radar he used to track the Carr firenado , as well as satellites that can map the fire perimeter by

Australia - English. Footage of the firenado can be seen below. "Although the source of energy for a fire whirl is very different than for a tornado - the tornado gets it from storm cloud above, while the fire whirl's energy comes from the fire below - they form in roughly the same way," says The Weather

In some spots, fires have restarted in areas that have already burned, said William Moomaw, a climate scientist at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “Basically you’ve created a lot of charcoal” in burned forests, he said.

Megafires, where two wildfires converge into one massive inferno, have also been reported.

And they are nowhere close to dying out.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it: A handout photo from NASA Earth Observatory of a satellite image showing burned land and thick smoke over Kangaroo Island, Australia, Jan. 9, 2020.  The island includes protected nature reserves which are home to sea lions, koalas and diverse and endangered bird species, including glossy black-cockatoos which have been brought back from the brink of extinction over the last two decades.© Nasa Earth Observatory Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A handout photo from NASA Earth Observatory of a satellite image showing burned land and thick smoke over Kangaroo Island, Australia, Jan. 9, 2020. The island includes protected nature reserves which are home to sea lions, koalas and diverse and endangered bird species, including glossy black-cockatoos which have been brought back from the brink of extinction over the last two decades.

“This is a real wake-up call,” not just for Australia, but for the world, said Nerilie Abram, a climate scientist at Australia National University in Canberra. “We need to be looking at this and saying, ‘How much worse do we want to let this get?’ ”

The scale of this fire season is unprecedented, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said last week. Across the continent, 15 million acres of forest and farmland have been scorched. At least 25 people have been killed and a billion animals harmed. The fires in New South Wales are the largest in state history and have burned more area than has been ever been documented in eastern Australia.

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Fires can leap rapidly from building to building and even cause extreme weather events such as It is only the second known example, after a 2003 firestorm in Australia , of a tornado forming because of When they land, those embers can sometimes smolder in place for hours before igniting a pile of He is studying fire whirls to see if they can be used to burn off oil slicks in the ocean, since whirls burn

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: "We've really got a long way to go. You can guarantee we're not going to be able to get around all of these fires before the next wave of bad weather . "Unfortunately there's no meaningful reprieve.

The disaster is the result of climate change combined with an unlucky confluence of weather extremes. Australia has never been as hot and dry at the same time as it has been during the spring and summer of 2019 and 2020.

In December, Australia broke its high-temperature record twice in two days. A weather station in the Nullarbor, a desert region along the southeast coast, reported a high of 49.9 degrees Celsius, or 121.8 Fahrenheit, a national record for that month.

The country’s scale for measuring fire danger, known as the accumulated forest-fire danger index, was the highest on record in December. That means most of the country had turned into a tinderbox.

Without climate change, these scorching highs would not have been possible, according to Andrew King, a climate scientist at the University of Melbourne specializing in extreme events. Even with global warming, he was “astonished” to witness them.

“The temperatures we’re experiencing this summer I think many scientists didn’t expect to see for several decades yet,” he said.

By the end of December, the average temperature across the continent was 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm.

Australia’s record-setting heat and drought were caused by several factors.

From the west, a seesaw circulation pattern known as the Indian Ocean Dipole caused air to sink over Australia, heating and drying the continent.

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The Camp Fire in Northern California, which started Thursday, is the state's most destructive fire ever, scorching more than 113,000 acres north of In Southern California, officials say the Woolsey Fire , which also started Thursday, has killed at least two people and burned more than 91,000 acres.

Firenadoes are spinning columns of smoke and fire , caused by wind interacting with the blaze itself---a complex mix of fire and fluid dynamics. The Blue Cut fire is the latest conflagration burning up drought-ridden California, and it’s truly massive.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away and about 10 miles up, in the thin, frigid slice of the atmosphere on top of the South Pole, something shifted.

In an event that is unprecedented in 40 years of record-keeping, temperatures over Antarctica rose rapidly, causing the polar vortex over the Southern Hemisphere to break down and even reverse direction. This had cascading effects on weather patterns: The westerly winds that blow across the Southern Ocean shifted northward. Cold fronts moved across Australia, bringing intense wind but little rain.

These factors “all came together to create a really bad situation,” said Amy Butler, a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Colorado.

a man sitting on top of a wooden ramp: CANN RIVER, AUSTRALIA - A burnt down house is seen on a property in the Cann Valley, north of Cann River, Australia on January 06, 2020.© Darrian Traynor/AFP/Getty Images CANN RIVER, AUSTRALIA - A burnt down house is seen on a property in the Cann Valley, north of Cann River, Australia on January 06, 2020.

Scientists say the dramatic events unfolding in Australia illustrate the kinds of disasters that will soon confront the rest of the world.

“Australia: you have just experienced the future,” tweeted Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in England.

The island continent is the hottest inhabited continent, and its unique geography means it is “highly exposed” to climate change’s influence, said Brendan Mackey, a climate scientist at Griffith University in Queensland. It will not take much warming to push life there from a comfortable existence to the edge of extinction, he said, making it something of a bellwether for the warming world.

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Tag: megafire . Fires west of Sydney burn over 2 million acres. The Gospers Mountain Fire northwest of Sydney, Australia has burned 1.1 million acres. Firefighters in New South Wales, Australia had another challenging day Saturday as a weather front came through which This is not normal. Map of bushfires in New South Wales showing projected spread and ember attack , Dec.

Megafires : Australia . Authors: Zachary Williams, Hamilton Holland, Jonathan Murtaug. Many say that they are fires that have great intensity and burn hotter, larger and longer than any fires ever seen before in history. The truth is that ' megafires ' are just large fires that , because they are having a

Though the planet has experienced, on average, 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of warming since preindustrial times, Australia in 2019 was 2.7 degrees warmer than average.

And those are just averages, Australia National University’s Abram pointed out.

“We tend to have this idea that our climate is gradually warming and these types of impacts will be gradual . . . but the Earth system doesn’t work like that,” Abram said. “There’s no reason to expect that a gradual increase in temperature will contribute to a gradual increase in the types of fires we’re having to fight.”

“It’s quite scary,” she added.

By turning forests that once absorbed carbon into flaming carbon sources, the wildfires are contributing to the very problem that makes them more likely. Satellite observations suggest that emissions from the fires may be on par with what Australia produces annually by burning fossil fuels.

The weeks of living under fire’s unrelenting threat has exhausted Young, the forest expert. Like her neighbors in her coastal village of South Durras in New South Wales, she keeps an emergency kit packed and has picked out a spot on the beach, tucked under a cliff, where she and her husband might hide if the inferno overtakes them.

In early January, after forecasters predicted particularly dangerous fire weather, the couple evacuated. The fires have been advancing so quickly — often as fast as 40 mph — that waiting to see flames was not an option.

When they returned two days later, “my house was still standing,” said Young, the head of the climate program at the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society. “The luck of three wind changes, quite literally.”

But better than most people, Young knows the danger is far from over. In the past, January and February have been the hottest months in southeast Australia. The climate-changed future will probably be even worse.

“We are heading off into completely unknown territory,” Young said. “Many more extreme or catastrophic days lie ahead.”

andrew.freedman@washpost.com

sarah.kaplan@washpost.com

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