When it comes to our world’s natural environment, everything is connected. Whether it be fires in Africa helping put out fires in the Amazon rain forest, or lab grown coral in Florida that will help rebuild the Great Barrier Reef, different pieces of the Earth and its inhabitants can help or hinder other parts on the complete opposite side of the world. Antarctica and Australia are two parts of the world that couldn’t be more opposite, and yet, they also couldn’t be more connected; now more than ever. According to Science Alert Magazine (SA), record high temperatures in Antarctica, that will be occurring throughout the next few weeks, are predicted to bring abnormally high spring temperatures and abnormally low amounts of rainfall to New South Wales and southern Queensland in Australia.
Temperatures in the Southern Pole areas of the world began warming the last week of August, specifically in the stratosphere above the Pole (SA). The stratosphere is the second layer, out of five, in the Earth’s atmosphere. It begins about 32 miles above the Earth’s surface, and contains an abundance of ozone. Ozone is an oxygen like molecule that absorbs UV radiation from the sun and uses that to heat this layer of the Earth, along with the level below it, according to soft schools online definition. This quick heating was reported as a “sudden stratospheric warming” meaning that as the weeks progress temperatures will continue to warm and intensify and eventually extend down onto the actual surface of the Earth and move to affect areas of Eastern Australia (SA).
“Every winter, westerly winds – often up to 120 miles per hour – develop in the stratosphere high above the South Pole and circle the polar region. The winds develop as a result of the difference in temperature over the pole and the Southern Ocean. As the sun shifts southward during spring, the polar region starts to warm. Waves of air from the lower atmosphere warm the stratosphere above the South Pole, and weaken or “mix” the high-speed westerly winds. Very rarely, if the waves are strong enough they can rapidly break down the polar vortex, actually reversing the direction of the winds so they become easterly. This is the technical definition of ‘sudden stratospheric warming’,” according to Harry Hendon of the Bureau of Meteorology.
So, more simply put, the warmer the polar regions become, the stronger the winds in the stratosphere can become, so much so that they actually can reverse their normal western direction to head East, and towards Australia. These warm and intense winds in the stratosphere above Australia is what will cause an abnormally warm spring season, and a lack of rainfall.
Bush-fire’s In Australia
This can be detrimental for both Australia and Antarctica. In Australia higher temperatures and reduced rainfall means there’s a much higher risk for wildfires or bush-fires, which are much more common in Australia. In fact, this week parts of Australia including New South Wales and Sydney have declared a seven day state of emergency in response to a catastrophic fire warning, according to CNN. Currently 70 large bush-fires are occurring in New South Wales alone, Australian authorities haven’t witnessed this much damage and increased safety risk since the creation of Sydney’s updated fire regulation system in 2009.
Additionally, an increase in heated wind in the stratosphere can lead to a depletion of ozone, creating more holes in our Earth’s ozone layer, which means less protection from harmful UV radiation being absorbed from the sun. We need these protective layers to keep Antarctica cold, sea levels low, Australia cool and without fires. The process of Antarctic winds affecting Australia and other areas of the world is not surprising, but it is threatening. This is just one piece of the larger puzzle that is climate change. If the world’s powers don’t start taking more immediate action in response to cataclysmic natural events such as this, some bush-fires in Australia will be the least of our worries.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.