Dry Lightning and the burning climate issue in Tasmania.
Once rare, large forest fires across Tasmania are now common, and they are directly related to warming temperatures.
Tasmania is the land down under the land down under, a large island-state directly south of Australia. Located at about 41 degrees south latitude (about the same latitude south as Chicago is North), this is, or was, a temperate climate .
In terms of global warming effects, the home of the Tasmanian Devil of Warner Brothers Cartoons fame is not doing well at all.
Tasmania is still engaged in a running battle with logging companies, who have rampaged this island for generations. The magnificent old growth forests have been pulped, for YHWH’s sake, to be made into toilet paper for the Chinese. Not even used as respectable building materials.
But right now, Tasmania is burning. It (early February 2019) has been burning all summer (down under!!!). The fires have sent large plumes of smoke as far away as New Zealand, 2500 km miles to the east.
According to reports (see the Guardian article) below, this year’s fires have eaten up 3% of the land area. Approximately 72,000 hectares in Western Tasmania have been consumed, some in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, a difficult to access area carved out at great cost from the grasp of the insatiable logging industry.
At this writing, there is no end in sight to the fires.
In many cases, the cause of these fires – and most likely of a catastrophic continuation of the burning season – is dry lightning. This unsettling electrical phenomenon is driven by heat driven storms, to the degree that rain evaporates before it reaches the ground. So rather than striking rain-soaked vegetation, the bolt ignites dry bushes and trees. This is how the bushfires have been starting.
There has been no serious rainfall in Tasmania since December. New records for drought duration are falling daily. And dry lightning continues to set off new fires, more than 60 in January.
Of course, wildfires are not a new thing in Tasmania. As else, they are a critical part of the natural cycle. But paleo-evidence shows that the size and intensity of the current phenomenon are something new. The “new normal” has become a cliché, but of course, we have clichés for a reason.
And the Tasmanian Devil, the real one, not the cartoon character? That’s an endangered species now.