A firefighter manages a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, in January. (Associated Press)
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Wildfires plague Australia

The wildfires in Australia rampaged through many bushland areas, border states and even major cities of the country. Fires have occurred in every state of Australia, hitting New South Wales the hardest, and even seen in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, according to CNN.

According to USA Today, people evacuated in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. However, this is only the start, as fires continue to spread, more evacuations have been predicted to take place.

Causes

The fires are mostly caused by natural causes. According to state agency Victoria Emergency, dry lightning is one of the major causes of starting these fires. Dry lightning is defined as lighting from thunderstorms in which there is no rain.

According to the Telegraph, Australia’s fires were a result of prolonged drought, extreme heat and strong winds.

The average temperature in Australia has been gradually rising, which in turn has been magnifying the dryness of the region. Supplementing this, the high-speed winds that occur in Australia are further spreading the fires as they blow them to new regions, according to the L.A. Times.

Although most of the causes seem to be natural, Australia is not without its share of fire-starters. According to a police statement for the NSW police, at least 24 people have been charged with intentionally causing bushfires and, over 183 people have been recorded to have performed fire-related offenses.

Effects

The fires in Australia have had an effect on a multitude of factors ranging from the decay of the environment to high rates of homelessness to even global repercussions. 

Land

According to CNN, over 17.9 million acres were burned across Australia’s six states — the worst of these being in NSW with a predicted 12.1 million acres burned.

This has had many ramifications especially in terms of changes in the habitats of many animals who live there as well as what has been regrowing in these regions.

“The diversity of our natural environments is going to change,” Nigel Andrew, an entomologist at the University of New England told Wired.

Invasive species could dominate landscapes previously forested, according to Wired.

This could drastically change the habitats that many animals are accustomed to, and can even affect farming in the region. Invasive species could lead to a major change in the power dynamic of the food chain and the endangerment of animals.

Animals

In addition the destroying of their habitats, animals have been facing a myriad of problems as a result of the fires. Many tree-bound animals have had little chance to escape as the fires spread at high speeds, many animals have sustained heavy damage due to the smoke and extreme heat. Even birds have found difficulty in escaping as many have been disoriented due to the smoke.

According to Science News, some endangered animals that scientists fear may become extinct include Western Grounds parrot, Wollemi pine, Regent Honeyeater, Mountain Pygmy Possum, and Northern long-nosed Potoroo.

More than 1 billion animals have been killed so far and over 100 species are threatened by fires and are being pushed to endangerment or extinction.

Even marine life is taking a hit as National Geographic reports that particles of ash can lodge itself into the gills of marine animals and prevent them from breathing. The media on the issue shows footage of animals damaged greatly with lung issues and severe burns.

Air quality 

As the fires continue to rage on, the air quality has taken a blow. The smoke from the fires has spread to many regions in Australia threatening animals and humans alike.

It has been reported to cause lung and vision problems as people inhale toxic air. The AQI as of Jan. 26 was recorded to be 267, which is very unhealthy. However, according to CNN, back in December of last year the air quality measured to be 12 times the hazardous level. 

Water

Fire debris can threaten water supply and quality, as ash and soot can clog dams, beaches and upstreams leading to algal blooms, according to National Geographic.

This has been seen in action in Warragamba Dam. This dam provides water to many of the residents of Sydney but after the fires, much of it has been burned. This has threatened the water supply for not only residents but also wild animals.

People

The bushfires have led to 29 deaths in Australia as well as the injury of many more. People have been reported to have many health issues relating to the lungs and burns from the fire.

In addition, people have been evacuated from certain areas, having to leave behind their homes and their belongings. Overall, over 2,500 homes have been lost leaving many people homeless.  

Predicted global implications

Many scientists have predicted that the smoke produced from the fires will gradually envelop the globe as they spread to different continents.

Australia also carries many of the world’s endangered animals, and the fires have caused many of these animals to go extinct.

According to NASA, the Ultraviolet aerosol values are at some of the highest ever recorded. These fires have emitted and an incredibly large amount of Carbon Di-Oxide and this greenhouse gas has been proven to intensify climate change and therefore can drastically affect the entire world.

The soot from the fires has been speeding up the melting of New Zealand’s glaciers which can have further global implications, according to NASA.

What is being done?

The Australian government has received criticism for their actions as critics state that their reply to the crisis was slow and insufficient, according to NPR. Critics say that there were several indications of the beginning of climate change that had been ignored by the administration. Due to this backlash, the actions against these fires have increased.

According to BBC News, in recent months, thousands of firefighters have been battling these fires and they are joined by 3,000 armies, navy and air force reservists.  Both land-based equipment, as well as aerial equipment, have been used during this campaign. Australia has also received help from other countries in terms of resources as well as donations. 

Although these efforts have bettered the situation, the effects of the fires are extremely hard to battle, and its implications take effect in almost every aspect of Australian life.