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Canberra may be hit by bushfires, on same scale as 2003 inferno, every eight years by 2050, says CSIRO climate-change study

Posted by gmarkets on 2 October, 2007

Canberra could be hit by catastrophic bushfires on the same scale as the 2003 inferno every eight years by 2050, according to a new study on the impacts of climate change, reported The Canberra Times (27/9/2007, p.3).

Dramatic predictions: The number of days of extreme fire danger each year could increase by 65 per cent by 2020 and up to 300 per cent by 2050. The dramatic predictions were made in a report prepared for the Climate Institute by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. The Australian Conservation Foundation described the report as a wake-up call on global warming. A new bushfire strategic management plan was being developed and updated with information about the increased risks. “Climate projections indicate very extreme and catastrophic fire danger levels may become much more common,” the report said. “In Canberra, if the rate of global warming is low, the number of extreme days increases around 8-10 per cent by 2020, and 17-25 per cent by 2050. If the rate of global warming is high, the number of extreme days rises 25-42 per cent by 2020 and 137-221 per cent, around double to triple.”

Destruction in 2003: The report said a catastrophic rating was comparable to the weather when the firestorm engulfed parts of Canberra on January 18, 2003, killing four people and destroying almost 500 homes. For example, the recent increase at Amberley in Queensland was eight times that projected by the most severe warming scenarios by 2020 while in Canberra and Melbourne it has been twice as large. The report considered the scenario of low global warming, with a temperature rise of 0.7 degrees, and high global warming producing a 2.9 degree rise.

Bad news for Canberra: “Climate projections indicate very extreme and catastrophic fire danger levels may become much more common,” it said. Very extreme days occur now every two to 11 years but would occur twice as often by 2020. “By 2050, high global warming scenarios indicated a four to five fold increase in frequency of very extreme fire weather across much of southern and eastern Australia,” it said. “By 2050, Canberra may experience catastrophic fire weather every eight to 17 years.”

The Canberra Times, 27/9/2007, p. 3

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