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SYDNEY: Firefighters were battling scores of wildfires raging in Australia yesterday, as a government commission warned that climate change had raised the risk of scorching heat waves becoming more frequent.
In the eastern state of New South Wales, some 1,000 firefighters were attempting to douse about 94 wildfires, about dozen uncontained, while fires were also burning in neighbouring Victoria and Queensland states.
And in the southern island state of Tasmania, known for its cooler temperatures, residents were returning to the burnt-out homes they fled a week ago when flames raced through villages on the Tasman peninsula.
No deaths have been reported from the bushfires, which have flared during extreme summer temperatures, but the unprecedented heatwave has prompted the government’s Climate Commission to issue a new report on the weather event.
It says that climate change has contributed to making the extreme heat conditions—in which record-breaking temperatures in parts of the country have topped 45 degrees Celsius — and bushfires worse. “The length, extent and severity of the current heatwave are unprecedented in the measurement record,” the report “Off the Charts: Extreme Australian summer heat” notes.
“Although Australia has always had heatwaves, hot days and bushfires, climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heatwaves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions.”
It says while many factors influence the potential for bushfires, so called “fire weather” is highly sensitive to changes in climatic conditions. And hotter temperatures, longer heatwaves, high winds and drier soils and grasses can all dramatically exacerbate fire conditions.
“Thus when fire occurs in more extreme weather conditions, there is the potential for the fire to be far more intense and difficult to control,” the report said.