Black Summer: Why Australia had to change how it fought bushfires

A photograph of Sydney Harbour Bridge, shrouded in orange bushfire smoke
31 December 2020

A year ago Australians couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Sydney Harbour shrouded in smoke, red apocalyptic skies, footage of fires rising up and “crowning” among the trees, a firenado in Queensland and burned koalas being rescued from the ashes of their once-safe homes.

Australians were seen fleeing to beaches in tourist towns and had to be evacuated by helicopters and Navy ships as the flames came dangerous close.

It almost seems unbelievable that these scenes were playing out across Australia just one year ago.

By this time in 2019 the blazes were already well underway, with the first fires having started in August. On November 8 for example, there were already an unprecedented 17 fires in NSW for which emergency warnings had been issued.

By the time they were done the Black Summer bushfires had ripped through 24 to 40 million hectares of bushland across multiple states and territories — nearly double the area of any previous major bushfire in a fire season.

Read the full article on the website, featuring a program by The Australian National University's Institute for Space