02 October 2009

Northern NSW

Multiple fires across NSW today as warm and dry weather and gusty westerly winds brought dangerous fire conditions to much of the state. Fire bans were in effect for some part of the area.

A general overview of the situation in the state is here. More detailed stats can be found at the RFS current incidents webpage (also on sidebar...). Some of these fires were noted on this site a few days ago; many additional have started since then.

The image (click to enlarge) is the Aqua overpass for this afternoon. For scale, the picture runs from about the NSW/QLD border down to Sydney, just visible at the bottom -- roughly 500 km. Most dramatic from space are those in the Clarence Valley, in the north. Activity further south near Gloucester and the Great Lakes area. An impressive smoke plume is visible from a fire near Rylstone, list as going.

Also interesting is the date: 1 October is the traditional start to bushfire season in much of NSW. Unfortunately, major fires have been observed for at least a month, and lesser activity as early as June in the southern parts of the state. That there is as much fire activity as there is testament to several factors – a long-term drought in the south, and quite low rainfall amounts across the most of the state (and especially in QLD) for the past three months. The low rain amounts are likely a result of the influence of a weak to moderate El Nino, forecast to persist through summer. Historically, this means low rainfall and long fire seasons in much of eastern Australia.

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