18 October 2007

doing without

Due to travel, no new posts until the end of October.

See you then!

17 October 2007

NSW fires: 16 Oct 07

Fire bans were in effect across much of coastal NSW today, from roughly the Newcastle area southward. Portions of the state on the inland side of the ranges were also included.

Conditions were as predicted across the region. Extreme fire dangers were observed in the Hunter regions, as well as in the Sydney metro area and further south, down in Nowra. FFDI in Sydney hit 83 today, which is quite high. In Canberra and in the north, maximum FFDI was in the very high range.

The image shows the MOIDS true color subset image of coastal region of NSW. Place names are in yellow. The orange words are the names of the fires corresponding with the NSW RFS incident reports. The dark part was captured at 0310 UTC; the remainder at 0440UTC.(It was on the edge of the swath, so the image is a bit dark)...Numerous fires are seen up and down the coast, especially in the northeast corner of the state.

The most serious fire was the Mt Kembla fire, to the west of Wollongong. It threatened houses earlier in the day, but as of the evening of the 16th, the winds have shifted and the fire is being controlled, expected to grow to ~300 ha and remain within containment lines. Some of the hotspots on the map are not identified in the RFS Current Incident reports, particularly those in the NE near Tenterfield.

Oppositely, several of the fires identified in the incident list are not apparent, particularly those in the Sydney area. The main north highway, and train servicesnear Mt Colah was closed earlier today due to a bushfire, but has since been re-opened (approximate local marked with an orange 'x'). Fires in Lithgow and Campbelltown are also not apparent as hotpsots.

Fire weather conditions are not expected to be as severe on the 17th. No fire bans are in effect.

14 October 2007

SE Australia fire weather: 15 Oct 2007

Large portions of SE Australia are expected to see dangerous fire weather conditions tomorrow.

Conditions tomorrow are forecast to be hot and windy across much of the area. A approaching frontal system is expected to bring temperature in the upper-20s and low-30s, with strong, gusty NW winds. A change to a cooler SW winds is expected in the evening. This situation is reminiscent of the classic fire weather synoptic pattern across this region.

'High' to 'Very High' dangers are expected over much of the region, and fire bans in some areas. As of 2200 Sunday night (14th), Fire weather warnings have been issued in

  • South Australia: Eastern Eyre Peninsula, West Coast

  • New South Wales: Northern Riverina, Southern Riverina, South West

In Victoria, no official fire weather warnings have been issued, but the Bureau did issue a “non-routine” outlook for fire weather due to expected conditions. At Melbourne AP, fire danger is forecast to briefly touch 'extreme'.

The most extreme weather looks to be focused on the regions near the Murray River in both NSW and VIC, and on the Eyre Peninsula in SA, although the potential for bushfires with dangerous fire behaviour exists across most of the southeast portion of the country.

13 October 2007

NT flare-up

As expected today, dangerous fire weather was observed across much of the Gulf areas of NT and QLD and into Victoria River district of the Territory. Temperatures were in the mid- to upper-30s, with relative humidities in below 20% for much of the afternoon. Winds were from the E and SE about 20km/h, with higher gusts.

As a result of this weather there was expansion of the many fires previously going, as well as many new fire starts today. Below are excerpts from the 2-km NASA MODIS “subset” image from the Aqua satellite, one from the 13th and one from 12th. Comparing the two images , a dramatic increase in the number of hotspots is seen today. Much of this new activity is observed in the “Roper McArthur” and “Barkly” BoM regions, exactly where the fire weather warnings (and the fire ban) were issued. Some of these hotspots are in the vicinity of the Stuart Highway, so driving conditions may be dangerous in some locales.

13 Oct 0420 UTC

12 Oct 0515 UTC

Comparing the days, the hotspots from today are producing more smoke, and in general the Top End is much hazier. This is consistent with the afternoon NT weather briefing, where the available 'present weather' obs indicate smoke and haze across the region. Some smoke and haze is visible on the 12th, it is just more widespread on the 13th.

The Tanami desert fires are in the southern portion of the image. They are gradually inching closer to the town of Elliott, being about 45 km away from there at this time. From NAFI, this fire looks like it may be affecting the railway.

The latest update from the Bureau suggests the worse fire weather has passed, and no bans or warnings have been issued for tomorrow.

at 1700 CST Saturday 13 OCTOBER 2007
for the rest of today.

Fire Danger over the Roper-McArthur, Victoria River and Barkly Districts has eased - no further warnings will be issued.

No news items regarding these fires have been noted at this time.

QLD-NT fire weather warnings: 13 Oct 07

Fire weather warnings are in effect for NT and QLD around the Gulf of Carpenteria and into central NT...There are active fires in these regions which may flare up with the extreme conditions. A fire ban has been issued for the NT regions

for the Roper-McArthur, Victoria River and Barkly districts.

at 2230 CST Friday 12 OCTOBER 2007
for the rest of tonight and Saturday.

Fire Danger over the southern Barkly, southern Victoria River, and northern
Alice Springs districts has eased. However, dry, fresh and gusty east to
southeasterly winds are expected to cause NEAR EXTREME TO EXTREME Fire Danger
over the Roper-McArthur, Victoria River and Barkly districts during Saturday.

for the Gulf Country and Northwest Districts.
Issued at 11:14pm on Friday the 12th of October 2007
for Saturday.

Dry, gusty S to SE winds will produce extreme fire dangers in grassland areas in
the Gulf Country and Northwest districts during Saturday. In the Gulf Country,
these dry winds will also be accompanied by high temperatures.

12 October 2007

Far north NSW bushfires: 11Oct 07

The bushfire that has been raging in Bundjalung National Park, south of Evans Head for several weeks now has been brought under containment in the past few days. Rain and severe storms have been present over the past several days, which aided the firefighters in containing the blaze (and preventing me from a good picture of the fires!). Mopping up operations are continuing tomorrow (12 October).

The image is culled from the 250-m “721” MODIS image 0010UTC overpass of the Terra satellite (taken from the NASA MODIS Rapid Response page). A few geographic locations are marked on the image. The fire scar with the Bundjalung blaze is apparent as a red area just to the south of Evans Head. This fire has burnt just over 6000 ha.

Temperatures in the region are expected to be in the low-mid 30s tomorrow, bring the chance of a flare-up of the fires. The Bureau predicts fire dangers of moderate to high...presumably the recent rain has moistened the fuels a bit, lowering the fire danger.

Several major fires have been observed in this general area since mid-August. In the image, several fire scars are seem just south of the Lismore area. Smaller, more faint fire scars are also noted throughout the region.

10 October 2007

Australian Bushfire Activity: 28 Sep-7Oct 2007

Below is the latest 10-day hotspot composite map for Australia taken from the NASA MODIS Rapid Response website. The dates of the composite are 28 September through 7 October 2007.

Over the last 10 days, fire activity continues to be focused in the northern reaches of the country, particularly the Northern Territory. Many of these fires were discussed in the post NT Update, right before the end of the composite period. The fires discussed there are readily visible on the composite map.

There continue to be large fires burning in the Kimberley. At this time, the largest fires are burning in the central portion of the region, with large sections of the west having previously burned out. All told, a total area of approximately 4.7 million hectares (not contiguous) has been burnt since August. The areas currently ablaze represent an upswing in activity since the previous overview.

Several medium to large areas of hotspots are noted in the Pilbara, south of Port Hedland.

Far north Queensland also continues to see some fire activity in the greater Weipa area, as well as in the vicinity of Cairns. None of these areas seem especially large, and the total area covered is roughly the same as last period.

Further west, about 230 km from Cairns, two large area have been active over the last ten days. Fires in this general vicinity were noted in the previous update. I think I over-reported the area in these fires there. A better assessment has them at roughly 50 000 ha each.

SE QLD and northern NSW still show widespread hotspot activity. This region, and indeed much of coastal NSW has been very active over the past 10 days, with several fire bans issued, one home destroyed near Salt Ash, north of Newcastle and a large,difficult-to- control bushfire nears Evan's Head.

Much of this region has been subject to rain and severe weather (after the time of the composite) which initially hampered fire-fighting efforts, but has since brought the Evan's Head fire under control.

Several hotspots are noted in the wheatbelt regions of WA. These are likely fuel reduction burns. There are also a few hotspots noted in Victoria recently. These are fuel reductions burns, as well.

Some widely-scattered wildfire activity in the desert regions of southeastern WA.

06 October 2007

NT update

While much focus has been placed on events in NSW over the past few days, large regions of northern Australia, particularly in the NT continue to burn. Most of these fires have been noted previously on Australia Bushfire Monitor, most recently here.

Both images here are extracted from the Terra satellite overpass on 6 Oct 2007 at 0125 UTC (about 1100 NT time...). The original resolution is 500 m, although the image quality has been degraded. Red squares are hotspots detected by the MODIS instrument onboard the satellite. All noted locations are approximate.

The first image is from the central portion of the territory. Three large area either burning or recently burnt (the dark charred looking bits...) are apparent. (For a sense of scale, the distance between Daly Waters and Elliott is roughly 145 km.).

The two areas east of Daly Waters have been burning for about a week or so, and were noted in their incipient stages in this post. The western most fire has affected about 245 000 ha. Only a few small areas of hotspots remain. The more eastern fire is quite large and quite active. The area it is affecting is approaching 900 000 ha. Thick plumes of smoke are noted from the numerous hotspots on the southern and eastern flanks. These two areas are east of what was previously reported as the QLD/NT border fires, which affected about 1.4 million ha in the NT alone.

The third area, to the south and west of Elliott is the Tanami desert fires. It has been burning for approximately a month at this time. A quite broad and active fire front is apparent on the image. The length of the front is over 200 km. A large cluster of hotspots is apparent on the eastern end of the flank. There is currently not too much with this fire, although a few pyrocumulus are noted on the western side of the line.

The second image was extracted from a bit further north, in the southern and southeastern portions of the Top End. For scale, the distance between Katherine and Ngukurr is about 250 km. The fires which were previous reported in the Katherine area have been put out. A few small burn scars can be seen.

The eastern most fires, with the exception of the one east and south of Ngukurr, are all part of a loosely associated cluster of fires in that many of the burnt areas of the individsual events are contiguous. In all, over 1 million ha has been affected, though not with the same intensity from looking at the patchiness of color in the general area/ This is further supported by NAFI, which shows very splotchy automated burn scars.

To the northeast of Katherine are two main areas of fire. While there areas are currently active with a fair number of hotspots, NAFI suggests that much of the region was burnt earlier in the season, suggesting that these fires may not burn for too much longer. The first area of hotspots southeast of Katherine is burning near the Stuart highway, and may have or will affect traffic on the road.

NSW fire ban: 6Oct07

From the Bureau of Meteorology

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
New South Wales
Issued at 1605 on Friday the 5th of October 2007
for Saturday 6th October

Hot, dry and windy conditions are expected to cause VERY HIGH TO EXTREME FIRE
DANGER in the following NSW Fire Areas:

Greater Hunter,
Northern Slopes, Northwestern,
Upper Central West Plains, Greater Sydney Region,


The Commissioner, NSW Rural Fire Service will TOTALLY BAN THE LIGHTING OF FIRES
from midnight tonight [Friday 5th October] until midnight tomorrow night
[Saturday 6th October] in the following NSW Fire Areas:

Greater Hunter,
Northern Slopes, Northwestern,
Upper Central West Plains,
Greater Sydney Region,

The image is the so-called Banda Banda fire, captured 4 Oct at 1005 AEST. This image has 250 m resolution and is taken from the NASA MODIS Rapid Response Real Time site. In it, a thick plume of smoke is visible from the region of fire. A pyrocumulus cloud is also visible.

Several other nearby, but separate hotspots are also apparent in the image. The fire is burning in a large area of forest (Kumbatine, Willi Willi and Boonanghi National Parks) and wouldn't seem to be an immediate threat to property.

As of 5 Oct 1710 local time, this fire is listed as 'Going' and has burnt just over 4700 ha.

While this fire is not under the fire ban, fire conditions are predicted to be locally 'VERY HIGH' in the current forecast from BoM.

The Port Stephens fires, north of Newcastle, and now mostly contained are in the fire ban region. The previous days of more moderate weather have allowed fire fighters to better prepare for the current extreme period, deepening and strengthening containment lines. Water bombers will be in operation throughout the area tomorrow.

A fire ban is also in effect in the Alice Springs district in the southern part of NT.

04 October 2007

Fires still burning in NSW

The start to the NSW fire season remains ominous. Maximum temperatures in Sydney were 13 degrees above normal today. Fire danger conditions across much of reached extreme much of the state. No new major fires were started, but several pre-existing one flared up. By the afternoon, homes were under threat in the Oyster Cove/Salt Ash fires.

This image was captured by the MODIS instrument aboard the Aqua satellite at 3 Oct 2007 0340 UTC (1340 AEST). It is extracted from the larger 'browse image' available at the NASA MODIS Rapid Response Real Time Data website. This is a true color image with 250 m pixel resolution. The area north of Newcastle, NSW is shown. The red squares indicate the location of hotspots -- the bushfire – detected by satellite. The Salt Ash fires are at the south end of the squares. The Oyster cove region is at the north end. A large, thick plume of smoke is seen moving out to sea.

As of this evening, these fires have been contained and are no longer posing a threat to houses.

Cooler conditions are gradually moving up the New South Wales coast, helping firefighters contain a number of bushfires around the state.

Around Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, crews have managed to contain bushfires at Salt Ash, Oyster Cove and Swan Bay that had earlier threatened homes.

Its not really clear what is going on right now. The 5pm report on the fire from the Rural Fire Service says

More than 100 fire fighters are working on fires burning in the Tilligerry Peninsula area and any new fire outbreaks in the Port Stephens area. The fires have burnt out about 860 hectares of National Parkland, private property and Hunter Water Catchment land. One home was destroyed by fire in Salt Ash on Monday afternoon.

Around eight aircraft are currently supporting ground operations.

Strike teams will be deployed to provide property protection as required. These crews will be supported by water bombing aircraft. Other crews will continue to work to minimise spot fire activity and protect property with the onset of the predicted strong westerly winds.

Fire has broken containment lines south of Medowie, near the RAAF bombing range, and RAAF crews are working on scene.

The Oyster Cove fire has also broken containment lines to the south of the township. A temporary road closure is now in place on Lemon Tree Passage Road between Oyster Cove and Nelson Bay Roads. Local traffic is still being allowed through at this stage. Further road closures in the area may occur without warning.

Fire danger is not expected to be as high tomorrow (4 October), with no extreme fire weather expected.

Another major bushfires in NSW are reported at Evans Head in the far north, where more than 1400 hectares of national park and private property have been burnt. No imagery of these fires available due to cloud cover over the region.

02 October 2007

NSW/ACT fire ban: 3 Oct 2007

From the Bureau of Meteorology Current Warnings:

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
New South Wales
Issued at 1644 on Tuesday the 2nd of October 2007
for Wednesday 3rd of October

Hot, dry and windy conditions are expected to cause VERY HIGH TO EXTREME FIRE
DANGER in the following NSW Fire Areas:

North Coast, Greater Hunter, New England,
Central Ranges, Southern Ranges,
Northern Slopes, Northwestern,
Upper Central West Plains, Lower Central West Plains,
Southern Slopes, Northern Riverina,
Greater Sydney Region,


The Commissioner, NSW Rural Fire Service will TOTALLY BAN THE LIGHTING OF FIRES
from midnight tonight [Tuesday 2nd of October] until midnight tomorrow night
[Wednesday 3rd of October] in the following NSW Fire Areas:

Far North Coast, North Coast,
Greater Hunter, New England,
Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Far South Coast,
Central Ranges, Southern Ranges, Monaro Alpine
Northern Slopes, Northwestern,
Upper CW Plains, Lower CW Plains,
Southern Slopes, Eastern Riverina, Northern Riverina,
Greater Sydney Region,

Maximum temperatures are expected to be in the upper-20s to mid-30s across the region. More threatening is the wind, which is predicted to average up to 80 km/h in higher elevations, with even higher gusts. Further, dewpoints are currently quite low, and with the afternoon heating, relative humidities could be below 10%. There is the threat of new fires starting, as well as existing major fires at Port Stephens and Little Pittiwater Bay blowing out and expanding.

Off with a bang

October 1 traditionally marks the start of the fire season in many regions, especially in the eastern portions of NSW, around Sydney. Several stories today reported that it started with a flourish.

A bushfire is burning in the Kuring-gai National Park in northern Sydney.

The Rural Fire Service says eight crews are trying to contain the fire, which is in a fairly rugged area near West Head Road.

No properties are under threat.

Strong winds are hampering efforts to contain the fire which broke out this morning at Oyster Cove in the Port Stephens area and spread quickly, fanned by strong north-westerly winds.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) says this afternoon the fire broke containment lines and destroyed two homes and a number of sheds at Tilligerry passage.

FIREWORKS may have been used to start a fire that burned to within 500m of homes near Bundeena yesterday before being brought under control.

The fire was reported in the Royal National Park 10 minutes before the official start of the bushfire season at midnight on Sunday.

A broader story covering all these fires is in the Sydney Morning Herald. Some interesting quotes...

[NSW Fire Service spokesman Murray] Hillan said it was concerning to see such fires on the first day of the official bushfire season.

"What it shows us is a day of hot windy weather will bring on the bushfires."

"People might have thought that with the recent rain that we had that we might be in for a bit of respite.

"But I think, just one day of hot windy weather shows that bushfires are capable of starting up and moving on.

"We've had a lot of growth that has come with the rain, and with the drought the ground is dry and the moisture gets sucked up very, very quickly."

At the AWS Newcastle Nobbys, northwesterly winds with sustained speeds of 40-50 km/h were observed for much of the day. Temperatures were in the upper-20s, topping out at 30oC and relatively humidities dipped down below 20% in the afternoon. A 'very high' fire danger day at the least...

Not a particularly auspicious start to the season...

Australian Bushfire Activity: 18-27 Sep 2007

Below is the latest 10-day hotspot composite from the NASA MODIS Rapid Response website. The dates of the composite are 18-27 September 2007.

The NT continues to experience large amounts of wildfire. A recent update on the activity in the Territory can be found here. The Gulf Country fires, the Tanami Desert fires and the eastern Arnhem Land fires noted previously are readily apparent on the hotspot composite. The growth of the fires over the 10-day period is also visible. The newer fires noted in the NT update are not present (or very small) in the composite image.

The fires in the Kimberley region are beginning to die down a bit, although four to five considerable areas of active fire remain throughout the Kimberley.

As in the previous composite, there is a region of hotspots in the Greater Weipa area of the Cape York Peninsula. These are more or less the same size as seen previously, suggesting that controlled burning in the area earlier has played an important role in containing these blazes.

Out to the west of Cairns and Mossman are two large bushfires, each on the order of 150 000 ha burnt. These seem to be diminishing in magnitude at this time. Some fires are also seen closer to Cairns over the last 10 days. A sugar mill was reported damaged in a fire south of Cairns, near Mulgrave. Other, smaller fires are noted in the near coastal areas up and down the north QLD coast.

In SE QLD and northern NSW, a broad area of widely scattered hotspots is seen. While most of these are generally small fires, perhaps agricultural burn-offs, some more concerted areas of wildfire have been noted in the Northern Tablelands of NSW. A fire ban was issued for the region on 19 September. Later in the 10-day period, lightning lit several fires in the Tenterfield area. There were nine active fires at one point. Most of these fires were a few thousand hectares or less. They have since been contained. There was also a report of a bushfire burning south of Brisbane which required water bombers and helicopters to contain. It burnt of the order of 100 ha.

Finally, a region of fire is noted in SE WA. This region is about 200 km ENE of Laverton, WA. It was noted as starting on the previous update. It is in a very remote region, and no information about it is readily avialable.

A few isolated hotspots are seen in other regions of the country.