DATE: December 7, 2018
SNIP: In the face of an unimaginable bushfire threat, emergency agencies delivered a dire warning: evacuate now or burn to death.
For many, it was a signal that last week’s unfolding emergency would be unlike any fire Queensland had faced in recent memory.
In a perfect storm of extreme heat and fierce winds, fires erupted across a huge stretch of Queensland.
Properties were razed and entire towns were almost wiped off the map.
The fires were so intense they even penetrated rainforests — a phenomenal occurrence which has astounded and alarmed fire scientists.
“Rainforests are non-burnable. That’s one of their distinguishing features. So if a rainforest is burning, that’s really significant,” said David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science at the University of Tasmania.
But it’s hard to get a sense of just how massive the unfolding disaster was. That is, until you see it from the sky.
Satellite imagery and data captured over Queensland in recent weeks gives us a different perspective of the bushfires. It highlights not only the unprecedented nature of this natural disaster, but also the incredible role firefighters played in protecting vast numbers of properties.
To get a better sense of just how extraordinary the fire conditions were, David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science at the University of Tasmania, and his colleague Grant Williamson analysed the fire danger rating of the past two weeks and compared that to the same period over more than a century.
The results were remarkable.
In the three areas he examined — Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone — the fire danger was above anything ever recorded in the previous 110 years.
Andrew Sturgess of QFES said the events of the last couple of weeks are evidence that the warnings of more frequent and more extreme fires caused by climate change had arrived.
“From a fire perspective, Queensland has changed. Australia has changed.”