Wildfire fears grow in Australia and Europe

Wildfire fears grow in Australia and Europe

23 April 2011

published by www.aljazeera.net

Europe / Australia — The waters from the flooding in Australia have long since drained away and the dry season is just round the corner, but it seems that the problems are not quite over.

The excessive rains that struck this winter have rejuvenated the wild grasses across vast swathes of the desert interior.

The area is normally barren red sand, but the rains have caused grasses to grow unusually high and dense.

As the dry season takes hold, the ground will become parched once more, and the lush grasses will turn into dry tinder, perfect for wildfires.

Many parts of the globe see wildfires almost annually, often ignited naturally by a lightning strike.

However, they can also be set off accidentally, when a campfire or controlled burning gets out of control.

Sometimes it is just carelessness, when a cigarette butt is thrown from a car.

Whatever starts the fire, if there is plenty of dry matter to burn, then it is often very difficult to put it out.

US and Europe

Texas and Mexico are already suffering from severe wildfires this year, thanks to an unusually dry winter.

Despite the severe storms which are raging across many eastern parts of the US, precious little rain is being seen in the south, the region which needs it most.

The south coast is in a prolonged drought and is only seeing the tail-end of the country’s storm systems.

Instead of seeing heavy rain, the area is seeing increased cloud and strengthening winds.

This is very unhelpful, fanning the flames and spreading the fire, rather than helping to put it out.

Now Europe is also becoming concerned about the risk of wildfires.

Over the past week or so, people have been enjoying an early taste of summer, but meteorologists are becoming increasingly anxious.

March and April have seen significantly less rain than usual and there is the potential that this summer some parts of Europe could see the worst drought for more than a century.

In the short term, many places have restrictions in place to try to prevent wildfires starting.

The Netherlands has banned barbecues, campfires and even outdoor smoking, and traditional Easter fairs in parts of the country have been cancelled to prevent fires starting.

In the long term, unless there is a lot of rain soon, many places will have to have water restrictions in place.

The ground is very dry and in many countries the reservoirs are much lower than usual.

In the next few months, Australia and Europe will be hoping for rain to prevent the kind of fires that are already being seen in Mexico and the US.

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