Human-induced climate change is the most likely driver behind Australia’s earlier and longer fire seasons, according to new research by CFA and Bureau of Meteorology researchers.
CFA Manager Research and Development Sarah Harris and BoM scientist Chris Lucas co-wrote Understanding the variability of Australian fire weather between 1973 and 2017, recently published by science journal PLOS ONE.
Examining seasonal fire weather history for 44 years at 39 weather stations across Australia, it explores whether early starts to the bushfire season in different regions of eastern Australia in the recent past - including this season’s significant fires in south-east Queensland and New South Wales - are an indicator of a changing climate.
In an article published by The Conversation, Chris Lucas and Sarah Harris write that “climate change is definitely playing a role in producing the earlier start to bushfire seasons and overall more extreme seasons, particularly in south-eastern Australia”.
The researchers point out that the natural variations in climate modes continue to play a key role.
“That means we should not expect every bushfire season to be worse than the last as a result of climate change. Similarly, a few milder bushfire seasons among a string of record high seasons does not mean that climate change should be dismissed,” Drs Harris and Lucas write.
CFA CEO and Chief Officer Steve Warrington welcomed the research.
“As firefighters, we see the effects of these longer and more severe fire seasons and CFA is proud to play its part on this topic, both through its robust research program, but also through initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions, such as increasing our use of rooftop solar and the number of hybrid vehicles in the fleet,” he said.