chapter  8
Pages 8

As this book comes to a close, Australia is yet again licking fresh burn wounds after a summer in which one hundred and twenty-three weather records were broken in ninety days (Climate Commission 2013). In January 2013 Sydney recorded a staggering 45.8 degrees Celsius (114.4 degrees Fahrenheit) breaking its previous heat record from 1939-the year of “Black Friday”. Mirroring 1939, strong winds and fl ames accompanied the heat. More than one hundred bushfi re incidents were reported on 8 January across the state of New South Wales. These incidents were preceded by forty bushfi res that ignited under severe to extreme fi re danger conditions on 4 January in Tasmania. Many other bushfi res fanned out across Australia during the fi rst quarter of 2013 blackening thousands of hectares, destroying hundreds of homes, sheds and agricultural machinery, and killing thousands of livestock. True to form, one extreme weather event replaced another, causing the emergency services in New South Wales and Queensland to shift their eff orts from fi re fi ghting to the maintenance of fl ood levies in a matter of days. The situation has been much the same in the USA of late. The western half of the USA, in particular, experienced wildfi res of higher fi re intensity in 2012 and 2013, with Colorado, Arizona and Oregon recording their most destructive wildfi res ever (Rice 2012; Pyne 2013). The total area burned (>9.3 million acres) by wildfi res in 2012 was the third highest on record since 1960 (NIFC 2013). The total number of signifi cant wildfi res (67,774) is one of the lowest on record, however, resulting in the net average wildfi re size for 2012 being amongst the highest on record (Haynes 2012). On 20 April 2013, the front and back pages of the Los Angeles Times reported on the “girding of fi refi ghters for battle” as Southern California headed for its fourth-driest year since 1877. It is clear that the troubling climate trends, outlined at the beginning of this book, towards an increasing number of hot and extreme fi re danger days are continuing in both Australia and the USA (Flannery et al. 2012).