Australia is on fire

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plodder
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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:32 pm

I think it's the severity and frequency combined with unusual rainfall patterns, consistent with the kind of predictions climate modelling makes. But that's just a guess. There's a thread for things wrongly attributed to climate change if you think this is a candidate - you can say why without derailing this thread.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by sheldrake » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:36 pm

plodder wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:32 pm
I think it's the severity and frequency combined with unusual rainfall patterns, consistent with the kind of predictions climate modelling makes. But that's just a guess. There's a thread for things wrongly attributed to climate change if you think this is a candidate - you can say why without derailing this thread.
Hang on, you yourself just posted about how some experts think 'climate change' isn't necessarily completely owning the cause here. You also said that we only had a tiny dataset available on precipitation; surely that makes it hard to judge what is 'unusual' ?
Last edited by sheldrake on Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:39 pm

Yes, then I read squeak's post relating to the rainforests.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by sheldrake » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:42 pm

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

I asked for the sources they used. You're taking things on trust because they fit your narrative.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by plodder » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:37 pm

Great - there's a thread for that. I'd really like to discuss these fires in that context if you have anything to add.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by sheldrake » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:46 pm

hmph, fine

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Tue Jan 07, 2020 2:55 am

I've added a few links to the Nerd Lab thread that should at least give shape to any discussion about why experts are linking the current fire season to climate change. I've not linked to source papers because the ones I know about are focussed on particular pieces of the puzzle and without more specific questions, it's hard to know which particular rabbit hole to jump down.

I'd be grateful if the conversation could start from the premise that bushfire patterns are highly complex. Temperature averages and extremes, rainfall distribution, vegetation patterns, land use, fire management, and human infrastructure all interact in tricky ways that don't easily lend themselves to superficial analysis. We're therefore unlikely to be able to replicate the scientific consensus here but could discuss particular pieces of it, if folk are keen.

I have training as an ecologist and I work with climate scientists, which gives me enough knowledge to respect the complexity of this field. Like most non-experts, I largely take on trust that the experts are neither stupid nor fiendishly corrupt. If anyone has actual evidence that they are either of those things (or massively mistaken for other reasons), perhaps we could discuss that evidence over in the Nerd Lab.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:45 am

plodder wrote:
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.
Apologies for snapping at you earlier, I'm somewhat stressed and shouldn't have.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by jimbob » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:54 am

Squeak wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 2:55 am
I've added a few links to the Nerd Lab thread that should at least give shape to any discussion about why experts are linking the current fire season to climate change. I've not linked to source papers because the ones I know about are focussed on particular pieces of the puzzle and without more specific questions, it's hard to know which particular rabbit hole to jump down.

I'd be grateful if the conversation could start from the premise that bushfire patterns are highly complex. Temperature averages and extremes, rainfall distribution, vegetation patterns, land use, fire management, and human infrastructure all interact in tricky ways that don't easily lend themselves to superficial analysis. We're therefore unlikely to be able to replicate the scientific consensus here but could discuss particular pieces of it, if folk are keen.

I have training as an ecologist and I work with climate scientists, which gives me enough knowledge to respect the complexity of this field. Like most non-experts, I largely take on trust that the experts are neither stupid nor fiendishly corrupt. If anyone has actual evidence that they are either of those things (or massively mistaken for other reasons), perhaps we could discuss that evidence over in the Nerd Lab.
Cool.

The obvious and simple one as far as I am concerned is that the fire risk forecasts for each day all talk about the temperature- even between 35-degrees and 40-degrees as being very important for the fire risk as far as I can understand.

If that's the case, then the temperature rise alone from global warming would increase the risk - to say nothing of additional factors like increasing droughts or the other factors in your links that I'll read later.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by purplehaze » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:24 pm

My sister is clearly distressed and suffering from PTSD. I know this because 'everything is perfect' is her new mantra. She's 'getting all the help and support she needs' mantra. Top insurance for the home mantra.

She has lost her home. Her beautiful home.

These fires are NOT usual. They are extreme.

And if anyone says they were started by some 16 year old misfits whom everyone wants to put into a detention, not evacuation, centre, then so be it. But you are deluded. This is global warming. Dream homes and lives in Australia isn't going to work.

Freedom of movement is once again being curtailed.

Her husband is a volunteer fire fighter.

I'm on a bit of a rant. Happy she is alive and her recount of getting out of her house before it went up in flames has a tinge of domestic violence - that as a family we are all aware of. I'm helpless to do anything about it.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by bjn » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:37 pm

I’m so sorry for your sister and her family. It’s a truly dreadful thing to have happened to them. I hope she gets all the help she needs.

It’s dreadful being so far away and not being able to do anything but stress about your loved ones. Though no where as near as bad as what they are going through. Regardless, you have my sympathy Purps.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:32 pm

I'm so sorry to hear about your sister and her family. The awfulness of having to flee and then losing her home can only have been compounded by the months of waiting and fear.

I hope her mantras give her the strength she needs to propel her through the next few days at least. And that you have the support you need to watch her go through this from afar.

I can only reiterate for people not here that Australians have a script for at least partially processing/understanding bushfires and homes being destroyed but we don't have a script for this scale of devastation or for having fires haunt a town for weeks and months on end. I don't know how people will begin to make emotional sense of this fire season.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by jimbob » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:43 pm

bjn wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:37 pm
I’m so sorry for your sister and her family. It’s a truly dreadful thing to have happened to them. I hope she gets all the help she needs.

It’s dreadful being so far away and not being able to do anything but stress about your loved ones. Though no where as near as bad as what they are going through. Regardless, you have my sympathy Purps.
Yup
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Banana » Wed Jan 08, 2020 6:20 am

purplehaze wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:24 pm

And if anyone says they were started by some 16 year old misfits whom everyone wants to put into a detention, not evacuation, centre, then so be it. But you are deluded. This is global warming.
Testify!

The beautiful island where I asked my Loved One to marry me has been devastated by these fires and killed two people known to my family, and people wonder why I go off the deep end when they have the temerity to post complete bollocks about the fires being due to arsonists and that I bit of fire prevention would have avoided the whole thing.

Ignorant f.cks

rant over, I had to get it off my chest

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Ben B » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:29 am

We've just got back from 3 weeks in Australia.

We were lucky - we only had to make one change to our itinerary (we had planned to go to Kangaroo Island) and other than that we just noticed a lot of haze and smog near Sydney. One day in Victor Harbor, you could really smell the smoke in the air.

The whole thing is awful, and the people working in the fire service and others helping are heroes.

Does anyone know of a fire service charity or similar that we could donate to?
The first ten million years were the worst.
And the second ten million, they were the worst too.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:02 am

Ben B wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:29 am
We've just got back from 3 weeks in Australia.

We were lucky - we only had to make one change to our itinerary (we had planned to go to Kangaroo Island) and other than that we just noticed a lot of haze and smog near Sydney. One day in Victor Harbor, you could really smell the smoke in the air.

The whole thing is awful, and the people working in the fire service and others helping are heroes.

Does anyone know of a fire service charity or similar that we could donate to?
There are many places that are doing good work and it depends whether you'd like to support the firies, the people whose things got burnt, or the animal welfare charities. I've got a fair bit of love for the South Australian services since I suspect they're getting less international attention than the NSW and Victorian equivalents and they have a smaller population to do the giving. But all three states need help.

This ABC article is about running a fundraiser but there are some good links about halfway down for good places to direct donations.

For the crafty minded folk of the forum, there is a Facebook group called The Animal Rescue Craft Guild that coordinates the sewing of Joey pouches and knitting/crocheting of birds nests for wildlife careers to use. They've been absolutely slammed with new members this week (~100,000 have signed up) and they're pausing for a stocktake so they can work out what things they need. But they'll likely need more crafted goods soon and there's at least some capacity to store goods for the next fire season.

We started seeing for them on the weekend and I think it's worth keeping an eye on to see if you can be helpful, while drawing down on your stash of yarn and fabric. They are being quite strict about what crafts they want and will accept so I have a lot of respect for their attempts to wrangle the kind-hearted crafters of the world to avoid the creation of things that will break joeys' toes or choke a small bird.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Ben B » Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:23 pm

Squeak wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:02 am
Ben B wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:29 am
We've just got back from 3 weeks in Australia.

We were lucky - we only had to make one change to our itinerary (we had planned to go to Kangaroo Island) and other than that we just noticed a lot of haze and smog near Sydney. One day in Victor Harbor, you could really smell the smoke in the air.

The whole thing is awful, and the people working in the fire service and others helping are heroes.

Does anyone know of a fire service charity or similar that we could donate to?
There are many places that are doing good work and it depends whether you'd like to support the firies, the people whose things got burnt, or the animal welfare charities. I've got a fair bit of love for the South Australian services since I suspect they're getting less international attention than the NSW and Victorian equivalents and they have a smaller population to do the giving. But all three states need help.

This ABC article is about running a fundraiser but there are some good links about halfway down for good places to direct donations.

For the crafty minded folk of the forum, there is a Facebook group called The Animal Rescue Craft Guild that coordinates the sewing of Joey pouches and knitting/crocheting of birds nests for wildlife careers to use. They've been absolutely slammed with new members this week (~100,000 have signed up) and they're pausing for a stocktake so they can work out what things they need. But they'll likely need more crafted goods soon and there's at least some capacity to store goods for the next fire season.

We started seeing for them on the weekend and I think it's worth keeping an eye on to see if you can be helpful, while drawing down on your stash of yarn and fabric. They are being quite strict about what crafts they want and will accept so I have a lot of respect for their attempts to wrangle the kind-hearted crafters of the world to avoid the creation of things that will break joeys' toes or choke a small bird.
Cool, thanks. I'll donate some hard cash I think.

On a related but entirely trivial note; there's a particularly Australian habit of putting "y" or "ie" after lots of things (as per "firies" above)
When we were in Port Douglas, there were cafes at the surf club, the old Courthouse, and the yacht club, called:
The Surfy
The Courty
The Yachty

No point to be made, just found it an interesting colloquialism.
The first ten million years were the worst.
And the second ten million, they were the worst too.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by jimbob » Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:25 pm

Ben B wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:23 pm


Cool, thanks. I'll donate some hard cash I think.

On a related but entirely trivial note; there's a particularly Australian habit of putting "y" or "ie" after lots of things (as per "firies" above)
When we were in Port Douglas, there were cafes at the surf club, the old Courthouse, and the yacht club, called:
The Surfy
The Courty
The Yachty

No point to be made, just found it an interesting colloquialism.
The one I always like, which I first came across in New Zealand, was "bikies" for what I believe Americans refer to as motorcycle "gang-bangers".

But if someone told me they were I bikie, I'm sure I'd find it *very* easy to contain my mirth at the title.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by basementer » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:47 pm

Ben B wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:29 am
We've just got back from 3 weeks in Australia.

We were lucky - we only had to make one change to our itinerary (we had planned to go to Kangaroo Island) and other than that we just noticed a lot of haze and smog near Sydney. One day in Victor Harbor, you could really smell the smoke in the air.

The whole thing is awful, and the people working in the fire service and others helping are heroes.

Does anyone know of a fire service charity or similar that we could donate to?
I donated to the Australian Red Cross.
https://www.redcross.org.au/
I'll think of something.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:21 am

jimbob wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:25 pm

The one I always like, which I first came across in New Zealand, was "bikies" for what I believe Americans refer to as motorcycle "gang-bangers".

But if someone told me they were I bikie, I'm sure I'd find it *very* easy to contain my mirth at the title.
Important language note: bikies and bikers are different things and the bikers get quite exercised about the distinction. Bikers are simply people who like big revvy motorbikes. Bikies are the ones in gangs who traffic drugs and are subject to anti-association laws. Their headquarters tend to have very thick walls, perhaps lined with railway sleepers.

My brother once worked as a bartender at a party at a bikie gang HQ. He kept his head firmly down all night and didn't make eye contact with anyone. It was remarkably easy for him to contain his mirth that night.

But yes, the -ie ending in Australia doesn't have the same diminuitive connotations as it does in the UK. It's a token of belonging/respect outside very specific circumstances.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Chris Preston » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:49 pm

jimbob wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:25 pm
Ben B wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:23 pm


Cool, thanks. I'll donate some hard cash I think.

On a related but entirely trivial note; there's a particularly Australian habit of putting "y" or "ie" after lots of things (as per "firies" above)
When we were in Port Douglas, there were cafes at the surf club, the old Courthouse, and the yacht club, called:
The Surfy
The Courty
The Yachty

No point to be made, just found it an interesting colloquialism.
The one I always like, which I first came across in New Zealand, was "bikies" for what I believe Americans refer to as motorcycle "gang-bangers".

But if someone told me they were I bikie, I'm sure I'd find it *very* easy to contain my mirth at the title.
Anything that can be shortened with ie or y added to the end is done. So you get Chrissie for Christmas, etc. Even if it means increasing the length of the word, the ie and y thing is still done.

I have kind of been off the grid for the best part of 2 weeks and am only just catching up now with the news. Last I knew KI was well ablaze with parts of Vivonne Bay burnt. Even though I was getting no news, it was clear fires were continuing to burn, the sunsets and moon rises showed that.

The current season of fires is unprecedented in how early they started. Temperatures records were set in many areas in spring, which fueled the intensity of the fires. Drought provided the fuel, but temperature did the rest.
Here grows much rhubarb.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by FlammableFlower » Tue Jan 14, 2020 1:55 pm

Another thing I was reading is the long-term psychological fallout from such an extended stress-inducing situation. I wonder what reaction those politicians and groups who've been telling everyone that there's nothing to see here, it's just natural, will face in future, particularly if this is faced again in the next few years (even if not next year)?

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Squeak » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:21 am

A little speck of brighter news.

Firefighters ran a special mission to save the Wollemi pine, known generally as the dinosaur tree.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Fishnut » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:05 pm

Squeak wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:21 am
A little speck of brighter news.

Firefighters ran a special mission to save the Wollemi pine, known generally as the dinosaur tree.
That's great news, I saw tweets a week or two ago worrying about their survival so it's good to know they've been protected.

I saw this piece this morning and found it very interesting. It talks about how Aboriginal people's view of fire is very different to that of Europeans, and how the Aboriginal methods of hunting with fire helped shape and protect the environment. It seems that people are starting to appreciate the value of these traditional burning methods and hopefully it's going to lead to some improvements in practice.

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Re: Australia is on fire

Post by Chris Preston » Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:18 pm

As usual, it is quite a bit more complicated with respect to the landscapes in Australia. While the activities of the aboriginal peoples did alter the landscape significantly with regular burns in some areas of Australia, other areas were burned occasionally or hardly at all.

It is mostly the scattered woodland areas (often in the drier parts of the continent) that were subject to regular burning. It is believed the original impetus was to get new green grass to grow thereby encouraging marsupials to graze. A side effect was that regular burning also reduced tree establishment, keeping the woodlands open. It is believed that less burning occurred in areas where large land animals were less common and other foods were used more. In the rainforests, burning was rarely practiced as the aboriginal peoples had limited tools for cutting trees to allow them to dry and didn't sow crops - although they had other forms of agriculture.

The landscapes that Europeans encountered in Australia were very different from those the aboriginal peoples had first seen due to the aboriginal peoples having massively changed mny of the landscapes during their time living in Australia. There is a good book sitting on my bookshelf at home called something like: Fire and the Australian Landscape that discusses this. I can't provide the full reference due to being in the middle of almost nowhere on a dodgy internet connection.

There is no doubt that recent land management has changed, but there are numerous reasons for that. The oft complained about lower hazard reduction is true, but it is only a small part of the problem. As the population of Australia has increased as has the size of the asset base, controlled burning becomes more and more risky. Changes in weather patterns have resulted in more frequent fires in areas that traditionally burnt occasionally or hardly at all. Many of the current major fires are not in open woodland country, but in mature forests. Invasive weeds have increased the amount of understory in some areas, increasing fuel loads. Finally, land use changes have reduced tree cover in some areas and increased it in others.

It is impossible to turn the clock back and difficult to implement the aboriginal peoples burning patterns across much of the landscape. That is not to say that the Australian government's treatment of aboriginal peoples has not been appalling for most of the time and the British government was as bad, if not worse. Actions that were sometimes done for the best of (paternalistic) reasons can have undesired consequences.
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