Black Summer bushfires made worse by climate change, risk to 'rapidly intensify'

A photograph of a firetruck silhouetted against a building and surrounding landscape being engulfed in flames.
7 January 2021

Last year's Black Summer bushfires were made worse by climate change, and future risks will likely rapidly intensify for south-eastern Australia without significant efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, researchers say.

The review paper, published Thursday in the Communications Earth & Environment journal, found the warming climate contributed to elevating the threat, from drying out fuel loads to worsening bushfire weather.

"There are multiple ways where the effects of climate change are acting to increase fire risks," said Nerilie Abrams, a climate scientist at Australian National University and lead author of the paper. "What you expect to see is not just a gradual increase...but a very rapid intensification of fire risks."

In particular, the projected continued reduction in winter and spring rainfall was likely to pre-condition south-eastern Australia, particularly in Victoria, to forest fire.

Read the full article on The Sydney Morning Herald website, featuring Prof Nerilie Abram