AUSTRALIA/GLOBAL – Wildfires in Australia are producing so much smoke that their plumes are expected to travel across the world.
NASA released satellite images and models last week showing how massive amounts of smoke from Australia’s wildfires were affecting Earth’s atmosphere. The clouds of smoke, ash, and soot are so thick in regions they are forming their own thunderstorms.
“The smoke is expected to make at least one full circuit around the globe, returning once again to the skies over Australia,” said Colin Seftor and Rob Gutro of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The smoke clouds are causing environmental problems in other parts of the world. The smoke has worsened air quality in New Zealand, “causing severe air quality issues across the county and visibly darkening mountaintop snow.”
The fires have covered more than 12 million acres, killing dozens of people. Estimates of animal deaths range into the millions. University of Sydney professor Chris Dickman estimates that a half-billion animals may die as a result of the current spate of wildfires.
Australian authorities have arrested dozens of people suspected of intentionally starting brush fires across the country. The alleged arsonists may face charges of manslaughter and other crimes.