Australia is on fire

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bjn
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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:13 pm

plodder wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:28 pm
Do we have any data / estimates on the return period of both the drought and the current temperatures?
Let me help you with that.

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bjn
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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:16 pm

purplehaze wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:34 pm
My sister is in an evacuation centre in Narooma, the second one she's been too. Brother is staying put in Mollymook. They are all safe and well considering. Sis lost her house.

Obviously, I won't get much sleep tonight.
Really sorry for your sister and her family, at least she is safe.

My brother and sister-in-law are expecting it to be very bad this weekend. They are still at home preparing for ember suppression, but packed and ready to run.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:24 pm

bjn wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:13 pm
plodder wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:28 pm
Do we have any data / estimates on the return period of both the drought and the current temperatures?
Let me help you with that.
That was unnecessarily snarky and also strong with wrong. Return periods for weather events are completely different from models about future climate scenarios, they're statistical estimates of how probable a given event is. When you hear about a 1 in 100 year drought it's based on statistics about the spacing and severity of historic droughts on record. Same with storms, floods etc.

I was wondering whether anyone had had a chance to run the numbers yet, because I don't know if this is due to a likely combination of a few highly unlikely events, or an unlikely combination of lots of likely events.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by sheldrake » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:34 pm

We will only have a couple of centuries of data for Australian weather I expect.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:12 am

That’s way more than I’d expect, likely around 50 years of decent data. You can still do useful stats with much shorter timeframes by comparing datasets with similar geographical and hydrological features.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by sheldrake » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:42 pm

plodder wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:12 am
That’s way more than I’d expect, likely around 50 years of decent data. You can still do useful stats with much shorter timeframes by comparing datasets with similar geographical and hydrological features.
I think that would be problenatic if you're trying to understand things you think may be influenced by changes in long-range atmospheric or ocean currents.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Sat Jan 04, 2020 1:51 pm

No-one said anything about cause, just likelihood in an assumed static system. However if we start getting extremely rare events far more often than we’d expect that’s a sign of something unexpected that would need answering: either our predictive tools are wrong or the system is changing, or both.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Sat Jan 04, 2020 2:15 pm

I was up half the night tracking fires, my brother and sister in law have just evacuated. The fire front jumped the Shoalhaven River and moved 15km in half an hour and is now about 2km from their house. They’ve turned on the fire suppression system, grabbed the cats and are heading for Canberra, hopefully before the Hume Highway is shut. This has included jolly japes on very smokey roads with embers raining on them.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Sat Jan 04, 2020 2:30 pm

plodder wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:24 pm
bjn wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 7:13 pm
plodder wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 3:28 pm
Do we have any data / estimates on the return period of both the drought and the current temperatures?
Let me help you with that.
That was unnecessarily snarky and also strong with wrong. Return periods for weather events are completely different from models about future climate scenarios, they're statistical estimates of how probable a given event is. When you hear about a 1 in 100 year drought it's based on statistics about the spacing and severity of historic droughts on record. Same with storms, floods etc.

I was wondering whether anyone had had a chance to run the numbers yet, because I don't know if this is due to a likely combination of a few highly unlikely events, or an unlikely combination of lots of likely events.
Here’s a past paper on the projected interaction between climate change and the increased risk of fires. Drier and hotter with more frequent fires and bigger burns as a result. From 2009, says it should be worse by 2020.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by purplehaze » Sat Jan 04, 2020 2:32 pm

bjn wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 2:15 pm
I was up half the night tracking fires, my brother and sister in law have just evacuated. The fire front jumped the Shoalhaven River and moved 15km in half an hour and is now about 2km from their house. They’ve turned on the fire suppression system, grabbed the cats and are heading for Canberra, hopefully before the Hume Highway is shut. This has included jolly japes on very smokey roads with embers raining on them.
Hope they get there safely! It's scary stuff, especially embers, and such a feeling of helplessness watching and waiting from the other side of the world. So far no news from my brother and my sister and two things I and my family take from this: No news is good news and the electricity supply is very intermittent.

Best wishes.

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bjn
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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Sat Jan 04, 2020 6:40 pm

purplehaze wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 2:32 pm
bjn wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 2:15 pm
I was up half the night tracking fires, my brother and sister in law have just evacuated. The fire front jumped the Shoalhaven River and moved 15km in half an hour and is now about 2km from their house. They’ve turned on the fire suppression system, grabbed the cats and are heading for Canberra, hopefully before the Hume Highway is shut. This has included jolly japes on very smokey roads with embers raining on them.
Hope they get there safely! It's scary stuff, especially embers, and such a feeling of helplessness watching and waiting from the other side of the world. So far no news from my brother and my sister and two things I and my family take from this: No news is good news and the electricity supply is very intermittent.

Best wishes.
Thanks.

They’ve made it to Canberra safely. The latest news I can find says the fire is sweeping through their part of town. Bugger.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Chris Preston » Sat Jan 04, 2020 11:48 pm

There is heavy rain here this morning. Gippsland is forecast to have 20 mm, which should help with the fires there. Not so much rain elsewhere. Some for Kangaroo Island fires. There will be heat again laterthis week.

Cabramurra in the Snowy Mountains recorded an official temperature of 69.8 C yesterday. Apparently caused by a pyro-cumulonimbus cloud.
Here grows much rhubarb.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by jimbob » Sat Jan 04, 2020 11:53 pm

69.8 C

Is that a typo?
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Chris Preston
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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Chris Preston » Sun Jan 05, 2020 12:11 am

Latest observations here.

Look for 4.30 p.m. yesterday.
Here grows much rhubarb.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Pedantica » Sun Jan 05, 2020 12:35 am

I mean not to be flippant but presumably some weather stations are at 300C they're just not taking measurements any more.
The maximum recorded temperature is going to come from the weather station that's nearest to the fires but survives.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by dyqik » Sun Jan 05, 2020 2:02 am

Pedantica wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 12:35 am
I mean not to be flippant but presumably some weather stations are at 300C they're just not taking measurements any more.
The maximum recorded temperature is going to come from the weather station that's nearest to the fires but survives.
A normal temperature sensor will output either a high negative or very high positive temperature if it is short or open. 300C is a bit low for an end of range for many sensors, though.

But for that temperature to get to the database, the transmitting station has to be alive. Otherwise no-data gets recorded in any sensible system.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:32 pm

Bjn and purplehaze, my thoughts are with both your families this week.

On recovery times, it depends on what you're looking for. In a couple of years, things will be green again in most forest environments. In five years, you'll have a thicket of acacias, teatrees, and other lovely burnable trees (up to 10m high, depending on the environment), in 20 years, they'll have mostly died and the eucalypts will be growing in. By 80 years, they'll be big proper trees with a nice canopy and a few nest hollows. Give them 150 years without fire, and the wetter forests will start getting rainforest understorey species growing in. Give them a few hundred years without fire and the rainforest species will take over entirely. Dry euc forests follow a different succession path but the first stages are fairly similar throughout eastern Australia. The more frequently a patch of land burns, the more its species mix shifts to fire obligate species.

Australia does have lots of issues and also lots of research around land use change but research in agricultural regions of WA has limited relevance to the forests of eastern Australia. They're such very different systems that I wouldn't even begin to know how to translate those results into something meaningful.

I'm also slightly at a loss to understand where plodder is pulling this idea from. All the Australian fire ecologists and bushfire managers that I've been reading comments from are blaming climate change and the drought. The right wing culture warriors are blaming unnamed greenies for allegedly preventing hazard reduction burns. I haven't seen anyone in the Australian media blaming changes in land use for the severity and extent of these fires. What am I missing?

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Fishnut » Sun Jan 05, 2020 2:06 pm

This piece from yesterday's Guardian gives a good summary of the ecological impacts. A couple of things it notes are that these fires are homogenising the landscape - normal fires leave areas unburned which act as refuges for wildlife and also allow habitats of different ages to coexist. These fires are so extensive that these refuges are few and far between. The other thing is that the fires are in places so intense that the seed banks will have been destroyed, which will mean recovery takes an awful lot longer. Entire ecosystems have been destroyed,
Prof Richard Kingsford, director of the University of New South Wales Centre for Ecosystem Science, said the fires would rob many bird species of vital old-growth trees they need to breed. Fire had taken away the invertebrate bugs the birds feed on, and that food source would not return until there was significant rain.
The final thing, which is arguably the most important, is what Prof. Kingsford said at the end of the piece,
These fires are not, in the scheme of things, natural.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Sun Jan 05, 2020 2:44 pm

Squeak wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:32 pm
Bjn and purplehaze, my thoughts are with both your families this week.
Thanks. Some houses have been burnt down in their town, from my scraping of local twitter feeds, the fire did go through their street. They are still in Canberra hoping they still have a home.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:23 am

My brother and SIL still have a house! Phew. The fire burned to within about 10m of their house, but the fire suppression system (basically sprinklers) did their job. No damage apart from to vegetation.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:03 am

That's fantastic news! They must be feeling relieved (though perhaps a little guilty that they were spared). I hope they sleep well tonight, in the knowledge that they have a home to go back to.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:10 am

Squeak wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:32 pm
Bjn and purplehaze, my thoughts are with both your families this week.

On recovery times, it depends on what you're looking for. In a couple of years, things will be green again in most forest environments. In five years, you'll have a thicket of acacias, teatrees, and other lovely burnable trees (up to 10m high, depending on the environment), in 20 years, they'll have mostly died and the eucalypts will be growing in. By 80 years, they'll be big proper trees with a nice canopy and a few nest hollows. Give them 150 years without fire, and the wetter forests will start getting rainforest understorey species growing in. Give them a few hundred years without fire and the rainforest species will take over entirely. Dry euc forests follow a different succession path but the first stages are fairly similar throughout eastern Australia. The more frequently a patch of land burns, the more its species mix shifts to fire obligate species.

Australia does have lots of issues and also lots of research around land use change but research in agricultural regions of WA has limited relevance to the forests of eastern Australia. They're such very different systems that I wouldn't even begin to know how to translate those results into something meaningful.

I'm also slightly at a loss to understand where plodder is pulling this idea from. All the Australian fire ecologists and bushfire managers that I've been reading comments from are blaming climate change and the drought. The right wing culture warriors are blaming unnamed greenies for allegedly preventing hazard reduction burns. I haven't seen anyone in the Australian media blaming changes in land use for the severity and extent of these fires. What am I missing?
Thanks squeak - I'm just prodding away at a complex problem I don't know much about - thanks for clarifying.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:31 am

It's a fiendishly hard problem, made worse by a mix of wilful misinformation, a public debate that makes it difficult to spend money on anything perceived as tree-hugging, and a lot of armchair experts second-guessing everything.

If you're interested in understanding the fire ecology of eastern Australia, Prof David Bowman is all over the media at the moment trying to mythbust. He supervised my friend's PhD in fire ecology and dendrochronology and seems pretty sensible. Importantly, he's done work in several environments within Australia so he's got a good grasp of the variation among different ecosystems and climate zones.

(Not that he's saying anything much different from the fire chiefs, national parks folk, weather bureau, or other experts. They seem to be in fairly strong agreement about the causation and what should have been done to prepare months and years and decades ago. His name is just an easy place to start.)

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:16 pm


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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by sheldrake » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:28 pm

"All the Australian fire ecologists and bushfire managers that I've been reading comments from are blaming climate change and the drought."

What are the tools and data they're using to attribute this to climate change ? That's more important than their job titles.

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