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Climate Change And Fire Change

Climate Change Altering Fire Season

Fire seasons were changing, he [Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg] said, delivering a sobering assessment of the coming season. He likened conditions to those of 1994, when 800 fires ringed Sydney for three weeks after Christmas, killing four people, destroying 300 homes and reducing 800,000 hectares to ash.

... "Once upon a time fire seasons were October and November. The big-ticket fires, apart from Hobart in 1967 and Ash Wednesday in 1983, were all early.

"Twenty years ago November was the fire month and things would slow down by Christmas as the humid air came through. Now it's the other way around. If you take the drought out of the equation, where we were getting grass fires in July, then fire seasons begin to impact later.

"There is a fair chance that the whole season just shifts along, and the weather we normally get in November moves to January. The weather we get in January, we might get in March."

If Koperberg's observations are accurate, this could be very bad news. Late-season fires are typically more destructive and harder to control, because they can feed off the build-up of vegetation that grew during the summer. It also poses an ecological threat. Plants can be very sensitive to the way the seasonality of fires intersects with their seasonal reproductive cycle. It's too simple to say that later fires are bad or good for the ecology of NSW, because different plants have different optimal seasonalities. But it could definitely change the ecological balance, favoring a different mix of species.


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