17 January 2008

Bushfires today in SE Australia

Several bushfires have been noted in SE Australia today, Fires were noted in northern Tasmania, the Adelaide Hills and northeast Victoria.

The largest fire is the Tasmanian blaze. It has been contained as of this evening, after burning near 2500 ha. The weather isn't too bad as far as fire activity goes. Temperatures were near 20, relative humidity was high and winds weren't particularly strong. Fuel loads may be quite high though, allowing for a more intense fire. An Aqua MODIS image of the area from this afternoon is shown below.

A fire also ignited this afternoon in the Adelaide Hills, near Belair. People were evacuated and water bombers were called into to bring the blaze under control. 27 ha were burnt. Weather conditions were not too bad, allowing the fire to be quickly contained.

In northeast VIC, near Corryong, an 80-hectare fire continues to burn out of control in rugged bushland near the Murray River. The weather is hot and dry, but not especially windy. However, the fire is burning in rough terrain, and this may make the winds more erratic and dangerous. No private properties or homes are threatened. A satellite image from the same overpass as above is shown below.

15 January 2008

Australian Bushfire Activity: 1-10 Jan 2008

Below is the latest 10-day hotspot composite from the NASA Rapid Response Global fire mapping page. The dates of the composite are 1-10 January.

As noted in the previous national synopsis, fire activity as a whole is declining across Australa. The fire season for much of the north is over; the southern season is ongoing now, bit fires are more sporadic than noted in previous updates. Further, a significant portion of Australia has seen above-average rain totals over the past few months, particularly in December; the long-delayed effects of the ongoing La Nina.

Despite this, there are hotspots and fires on the maps, some of which have had serious consequences. Away from the deep monsoonal tropics of the Top End and Cape York Peninsula, some fire activity continues in the north. A large bushfire was observed in the Great Sandy Desert of WA, as well several smaller fires in the Pilbara region of the state. Many of these fires were driven by the extreme heat with temperatures in excess of 45 C over much of the region.

Further south in WA, the Goldfields fire west of Kalgoorlie raged through much of this period, with the highway only re-opening on 9 January. As of 14 January, the fire was decalred safe. In addition to claiming three lives, the fire has cost an estimated tens of millions dollars to fight.

On the 9th, lightning triggered fires in Fitzgerald River National Park near Hopetoun in southern WA. A MODIS image of the fire is also available. These fires continue to burn, having escaped containment lines in the past few days. Several blazes were also noted in the Perth suburb of Parkerville, which destroyed several houses. These fires were the result of power lines coming into contact with an overgrown tree. Another highway in southern WA was also cut off due to fires about 80 km from Hyden.

The southeastern portion of the country also saw severe fire weather conditions, with several days during this time reaching 40+ degrees across VIC. On he 2nd, multiple fires in East Gippsland were started. A man was killed when a bulldozer rolled over him while constructing firebreaks. These fire remained relatively small in size. A bushfure was also reported near Mt. Hotham . A ~400 ha fire threatened homes near Ballarat and several fires were also reported in Wimmera Mallee. In SW VIC, a fire near Portland burned 100 ha of scrub.

Tasmania has also seen significant fire activity during this period. Many of the fires here have beeen deliberately lit. Several suspcious fires were observed in NW Tassie but these were easily contained. More problematic were several fires reported near Geeveston, in the southern part of the state. Several Hobart suburbs were also threatened by bushfires.

In eastern NSW and QLD, widely scattered hotspots are seen, small-scales fires or false alarms. Abundant precipitation over much of this region has limited any fire activity.

11 January 2008

Bushfire near Ballarat, VIC

A bushfire near Ballarat, about 100 km west of Melbourne, threatens properties tonight. The fire has burnt nearly 400 ha and is spreading rapidly out of control. Properties in the town of Morrisons are under threat.

Fire weather conditions across the region were extreme today, with maximum temperatures in the low-40s. Conditions are again expected to be poor tomorrow, with very high temperatures and strong northerly winds expected ahead of a cool change later in the day.

Below is the MODIS image from the Aqua satellite, captured this afternoon showing the smoke plume from this fire.

Australian Bushfire Activity: 27 Nov - 31 Dec 2007

I have been a bit remiss in my (self-imposed) blogging duties, failing to keep up with my regular overview posts. I blame the holidays...

Anyway, below are 4 images extracted from the MODIS Rapid Response Global Fire Mapping site. The first three are 10-day composites, the dates are 27 Nov-6 Dec, 7-16 Dec and 17-26 Dec. The last image makes up the remainder of the year (i.e. 27-31 Dec).

I will vary from the usual format, and only very briefly discuss the imagery and provide links. It works out OK anyway, as it can be seen from the images that general bushfire activity across Australia, particularly the north, has been in decline over the period. With the onset of the summer monsoon across the north, the major part of the fire season is over for that region. For the south, the season is gearing up, but is (in general) far more sporadic than the north.

The previous National Update (17-26 Nov) can be found here.

27 Nov–6 Dec

A large amount of fire activity is the seen throughout WA during this period, ranging from the Kimberley down into the Gibson Desert. FESA were tracking fires in the southwest of the state, near Lake Johnston and Lake Tay. As in the previous update, fires continued in QLD on the Cape York Peninsula and points south, near Hughenden, although the QLD Rural Fire Service declared the official fire season 'over' in early December. Fires also continued across much of the Top End, and several regions of clustered hotspots are seen in southern and central NT. Although not especially visible as hotspots (there were a lot of clouds over Tassie during this time...), the South West Conservation Area fire was still being monitored at the end of this period. Finally, the early stages of widespread bushfires in SA, including the KI fires, are also visible.

7–16 Dec

During this period, the fires across WA greatly diminished in extent. Many deliberately-lit fires in the Perth region kept fire crews busy during this time. Bushfires were also seen in NT and Cape York. No reports of these fires were noted. Most striking on the map are the Kangaroo Island fires, which burnt about 1/5 of the island over the course of 9 days. Interstate firefighters were required to help put out the blazes. One firefighter was killed. Hotspots are also noted in western Victoria, where a large fire burnt about 2000 ha of the Little Desert National Park.

17-26 Dec

Bushfire activity was relatively low during this period. The main focus of activity was Eastern Cape York Peninsulsa. Most of the fires in WA and NT have been extinguished. A few bushfires linger in the Pilbara, and Perth saw several (deliberately lit) bushfires over the Xmas period. The remainder of the country has been quiet, with no major fires reported.

27-31 Dec

In general, an extremely quiet period as far as bushfires go. A monsoon burst in the north has finished off the fire season for much of that region. The exception is the WA Goldfields fire, which claimed three lives and closed the Perth-Kalgoorlie highway (it re-opened on the 9 Jan). At this writing, the fire is still burning, having escaped containment several times.

04 January 2008

Perth Hills bushfire, WA Goldfields update

Dangerous fire weather conditions were observed across much of central and southern WA today, with maximum temperatures in the upper 30s to low 40s, low relative humidities (particularly inland) and moderate but gusty winds. AS a result, new bushfires started in the Perth Hills regions while firefighters continued to battle the WA Goldfields fire noted a few days before.

The main highway between Perth and Kalgoorlie has been closed since the tragedy on Sunday, and is expected to remain so for another two days (reopens on Saturday?). The closure has resulted in food and beer shortages in Kalgoorlie. Meanwhile, firefighters continue to brave the harsh conditions to battle the blaze, which has now consumed more than 32 000 ha of Boorabbin National Park.

Bushfires have also started in the Perth suburb of Parkerville, about 25 km WNW of the city. Two homes have been destroyed, two damaged (picture from The West) and 30 others remain under threat. The fire was reported around 1330 this afternoon and has burnt out 650 ha as of this evening.