Australia's Black Summer a climate wake-up call

A photograph of a small hill covered in burnt trees.
11 January 2021

The 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires are a "wake up call" demonstrating the extreme effects of climate change in Australia, according to a group of experts who've published a new study examining the factors that caused the disaster.

The study concludes that improving the methods used to adapt to the now inevitable increase in fire risk here in Australia, while also pursuing urgent global climate change mitigation efforts is the best strategy for limiting further increases in fire risk.

The authors warn fire disasters like the Black Summer are made worse by human-caused climate change in multiple ways; some of which are very well understood and some where more research is needed. These combined climate change impacts mean that bushfires are expected to rapidly become even more severe in southeast Australia.

Lead author Professor Nerilie Abram from The Australian National University (ANU) said the Black Summer fires were unprecedented in their scale and power, as well as the number of fires that transitioned into extreme pyrocumulonimbus events -- extremely dangerous fires that generate their own thunderstorms.

"In the lead up to the summer of 2019/2020 many parts of southeast Australia were three years into severe drought," Professor Abram said.

Read the full article on the ANU College of Science website, featuring Prof Nerilie Abram