14 March 2008

Australian Bushfire Activity: 31 Jan – 10 Mar 2008

In which I awaken from my torpor and post here...

The images below are the last 4 10-day hotspot composites, extracted from the NASA MODIS Rapid Response Fire Mapping archive. The dates on the four images are 31 Jan to 9 Feb, 10-19 Feb, 20-29 Feb and 1-10 March.

Thanks to a ripper of a monsoon burst across the north and La Nina-fortified rains across much of the east, fire activity has been quite low. Even the parts which haven't received copious rainfall (e.g. SA) have relatively quiet, with no major fires noted. This continues a trend that was noted in the previous national update.

Throughout the 40 days, the centre of action has been in southwestern WA. This is particularly true during the first two periods. In general, these fires are widespread, moderately sized and short lived. A large fire burnt at least 15 000 ha south of Coolgardie. Highway closures due to bushfire were reported in the Wheatbelt and Goldfields regions, the latter not too distant from where a tragic bushfire burned in late-December. Some deliberately lit bushfires were ignited in the Perth Hills.

During the first period, there are a few widely-scattered hotspots throughout the north. In the middle two periods -- the height of the active monsoon -- the region is almost devoid of hotspots. AS the monsoon winds down, some hotspots return.

There are a few hotspots visible in Tasmania, particularly along the northern coast. The number of hotspots is likely not representative of total fire activity – Tasmania is cloudy quite often and so the hotspots are obscured. A 270-ha fire was noted in NW TAS. A scrub fire threatened homes in Hobart.

Other states also reported major fires, particularly on the 18 February. In SA, a 2500-ha fire was started by lightning in a remote area near Minnipa. In southern NSW, a 900-ha fire was noted near Mathoura, near the VIC border. During early March, several fires have been noted in the greater Adelaide area, including at Gumeracha and Myponga.

During the last period, there has been an apparent uptick in fire activity, particularly in VIC. The lack of media coverage leads me to suspect these are controlled burning operation being carried out. [Uncontrolled bushfires in the Victoria Alps, two hours from Melbourne would make some news somewhere...Articles like this also confirm this notion]. This period has also sen hot, dry conditions build up over much of the SE, creating a widespread area of extreme fire danger and fire bans. Adelaide and SA has borne the brunt of much of this heating, setting records for most consecutive days above 35 for any capital city.