Impact of the Australian Bush Fires

The Australian bush fires have and will continue to have, a devastating effect on the environment.  Fires, floods, thunderstorms, hail and dust storms have been plaguing Australia in the last few months.  Here is one article that sheds some light on the impact of the fires.

Please follow the links to the original article to read it in it’s completion.

Impact of the Australian Bush Fires

Five Environmental Consequences of Australia’s Fires

Link – https://eos.org/articles/five-environmental-consequences-of-australias-fires

“Australia’s road to recovery may be long: Here’s a developing list of how the fires are affecting glaciers, wildlife, water supplies, and global carbon emissions.

The bushfires in Australia are a never-ending story of loss, tragedy, and record-setting moments.

The fires have claimed the lives of at least 27 people and countless animals and destroyed 2,000 homes—and bushfire season still has 2 months to go.

Even as the fires rage on, the smoke is beginning to clear around the long-lasting environmental impacts of the blazes. Here’s a (nonexhaustive) list of their short- and long-term effects on the environment.

1. Scientists fear an immediate loss of biodiversity in Australia, because many species are endemic to the continent.

The fires are proving deadly for Australian wildlife.

An estimated 1 billion animals have been killed so far, according to scientist Chris Dickman at the University of Sydney. But this number doesn’t include frogs, invertebrates, or bats. Invertebrates, which include insects, earthworms, snails, could be dying by the trillions, according to Science News.

Relief efforts have just begun after fires on Kangaroo Island, whose landscape was called “apocalyptic” by the Humane Society International. The organization said that in a particularly hard-hit portion of the island, they found one living koala among thousands of carcasses of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and birds, according to the Guardian.

Many species call Australia their only home, making the threat to their habitat particularly worrisome.

2. Debris from the fires could threaten water supplies.

Cheers broke out in Sydney last week as rain fell lightly on the capital. Rain and cooler temperatures could help tamp down the blazes.

But too much rain, falling too heavily, could spell disaster for Australia’s water supplies.

Ash, soot, and charred vegetation could clog up streams, dams, and beaches, leading to blooms of algae and threatening water quality.

Warragamba Dam outside of Sydney is one cause for concern: The dam supplies water for 3.7 million people, but 80%–90% of the catchment area has burned, National Geographic reports. If heavy rains wash off burned forests in the areas, a torrent of sooty material could choke up its waters and lead to blooms of cyanobacteria.

3. Animals are hungry and ecosystems may grow back differently.

Many animals couldn’t outrun the blazes because the wildfires moved quickly and burned hotter than normal. Drought and high temperatures fanned the flames.
The lucky animals that did survive face a new reality: Their food sources have gone up in smoke. As fire eradicated vegetation on the rocky habitat of brush-tailed rock wallabies in New South Wales, the government air-dropped thousands of carrots and sweet potatoes to supplement the marsupials’ diet.

4. Smoke from the fires is circumnavigating the planet and ratcheting up carbon dioxide emissions.

Smoke billowing from the fires is making its way around the planet, injecting aerosols in the upper atmosphere and increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Measurements of the ultraviolet aerosol index by NASA satellites last week showed aerosol values at some of the highest levels ever recorded. Larger aerosol values indicate that the smoke is sitting high up in the atmosphere in a layer called the stratosphere. Large pyrocumulonimbus storms above the fires in Australia are acting like chimneys, shooting smoke high into the air as if they were volcanic eruptions or nuclear explosions.

5. The fires are raining soot on New Zealand’s glaciers, which could speed up melt.

A view of the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand revealed another consequence of the fires: “caramelized” snow darkened by soot. One Twitter post said that the snow was white just 1 day earlier.

White snow has a high albedo and reflects sunlight at a relatively high rate. The darker the color the snow is, however, the lower the albedo will dip, and the more heat the glacier absorbs.

The Australian reported ashy snowfields in New Zealand in early December. The country is in the middle of summer, so although the high glaciers may get a new coat of snow soon, the lower glaciers might not get one until March.”

 

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