Sunday, January 4, 2015

Australia's Hellish Summer Week

Smoke from fires in the Adelaide Hills as
seen from downtown Adelaide. Photo from AdelaindeNow.  
We're freezing our butts off here in the United States, or if not, we're about to as a week of subzero, Arctic cold descends on much of the northern and eastern part of the country.

In Australia, it's summer, and it's not proving to be a nice one. Even before summer started there, Brisbane had one of its most destructive thunderstorms in memory back in November.

Now, depending on where you are in Australia, people are dealing with huge brushfires, floods and severe storms.

Australia is about the size of the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Just as you see in the United States, an area that large always has a wide variety of weather hazards.

It's just that right now, an unusually large area of Australia is facing some pretty extreme weather problems.

The fires around Adelaide are said to be the worst since 1983. Many homes have been destroyed and the blazes aren't out yet.

Several days of near record high temperatures and strong winds in an around Adelaide led to the fires.

No residents have died yet. Twenty-two firefighters have been injured so far, but none are in serious condition.  Adelaide is along the central south coast of Australia,

One of the saddest aspects of the fire are about 40 dogs and cats who were killed when the wildfires overtook a boarding kennel before anyone could rescue the animals.

Heat has also been a big issue especially well to the east of Adelaide in and around Melbourne.

Some towns near Melbourne reached to between 110 and 112 degrees in recent days. Melbourne itself got up to 101 degrees during this heat wave

About 40 people have been treated for heat related illnesses, according to The Age of Victoria.

This was a strong heat wave for the area around Melbourne. They get such hot weather once every couple of years, but the frequency of the intense heat waves has been going up in Australia.

The heat wave was forecast to end today, but severe thunderstorms packing high winds, large hail and flash floods were predicted for areas in and around Melbourne.

On the bright side, the storms tamped down wild fires that were burning in Victoria State which is the part of Australia Melbourne is in.

More to the north, in central Australia, in and around Alice Springs, a week of heavy thunderstorms is expected to produce significant flooding in that region.

The extreme weather in Australia will probably fuel some political tensions. Scientists have linked global warming to Australia's increased propensity for big heat waves, big bush fires and big sudden floods.

However, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been pretty hostile to the idea that global warming is an issue, and that it is causing, or potentially causing, damage and danger in Australia.

If extreme weather continues in Australia, it will be interesting to see whether it puts Abbott in the political hot seat, so to speak.

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