Climate warning at bushfire inquiry

Climate warning at bushfire inquiry

02 November 2016

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Australia—  Tasmania could see major transformations in its landscape as climate change-caused fires impact vulnerable species, an expert has warned a Senate inquiry.

Evidence showed pencil pine trees burnt thousands of years ago never recovered, University of Tasmania environmental change biologist Professor David Bowman told the inquiry into responses to recent bushfires in remote Tasmanian wilderness.

Professor Bowman said he didn’t make the decision lightly to identify last summer’s Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area fires as a symptom of climate change.

However he wanted to warn the community that such unprecedented events occurred with a rapidly warming climate, he said.

The summer’s bushfires took fire managers to “the limit of their imaginations let alone their capacities” after lightning struck in vast and unusual quantities throughout remote wilderness areas, Professor Bowman said.

While rapid attack firefighting and fire detection would save some vulnerable systems in the TWWHA, he warned against expectations that all fires could be extinguished.

These expectations were unfair to fire managers, Professor Bowman said.

“This is a very challenging environment, particularly given the soil can burn.”

“Even detecting the wretched things is difficult, let alone putting them out.”

There was a need for a “robust scientific investigation” of why the fires behaved as they did, Professor Bowman said.

“We’re all being challenged by surprises. Having this evidence-based conversation is really critical.

“It is challenging for fire managers who have seen this vegetation being threatened burning to actively predict how the fire will behave.”

Research into the TWWHA lacked a “central organising principle” and, for the university sector, a reliable income stream.

The Wilderness Society urged the committee to recommend that the management plan for the TWWHA prioritised protection of irreplaceable values over built infrastructure.

State environment minister Matthew Groom is expected to finalise the plan by the end of the year.

Fires impacted about 20,100 hectares, or 1.3 per cent, of the TWWHA last summer. About 2,700 hectares of fire-sensitive areas with vegetation not adapted to recover from bushfire were damaged.

Winters have started approaching the northern region of India that also includes Delhi-NCR along with Punjab and Haryana. Due to this, minimums have also started dropping in many parts of North India including Delhi and NCR. In fact, as per the temperatures recorded on October 15 and October 17, the minimums ofDelhi and NCR went down to 17°C.

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As per experts, an increase in the pollution level normally occurs during the winter months. However, there are a few reasons that could enhance the pollution level in Delhi and the adjoining areas. The very first reason that can be attributed to an increase in pollution level in the national capital is crop fires in the neighboring state ofHaryana andPunjab.

These two states lie in northwest proximity of Delhi and normal pattern of winds during this season is northwesterly. These winds drag the smoke and fine particles of the burnt crop and mix them with Delhi’s atmosphere. Moreover, the temperatures also start dipping, therefore, the air near the earth’s surface tends to condense leading to formation of haze.

Whenever the winds are light or calm, these air pollutants get mixed with the haze or mist and forms a blanket of smoke haze which remains suspended for few hours in the mornings. Thereafter, the haze disappears as the sun rises and temperatures increases during the day.


But as the winter progresses in the month of December and January, the duration of haze, mist or fog gets extended and these pollutants remain suspended in the atmosphere for longer duration of time. Other factors including the smoke emitting from vehicles and factories and dust from construction sites also add to the rising pollution levels.

Sometimes this situation can continue for day’s altogether. However, relief is expected only when a strong Western Disturbance gives rain over the region. It is then that these pollutants settle down for a few days.

Another criterion which reduces the pollution levels is the strong and moderate dry winds from northwest or west which carry away these pollution particles. In a nutshell, it can be said that in October, intensity and duration of pollution remain less though increases in November as winters sets in.

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