Australia Rain

Australia Is Finally Getting Some Much Needed Rainfall

Australia’s bushfire crisis has been ongoing for over three months now, and it’s truly been one of the most intense and devastating natural disasters in history. Over one billion animals have perished, and over 2 million hectares of land have been destroyed. However, after weeks upon weeks of waiting for a break from the flames, it began to rain over the east coast of Australia. 

Sydney, Australia, along with other cities residing on the east coast, recorded its wettest day in over 15 months this Friday (2/7/20), somewhat of a miracle for the continent. The large amount of rain has reportedly extinguished 20 of the 60 fires in the state of New South Wales (NSW), where a majority of the fires were. That’s one-third of the fires that were ravaging Australia throughout the past few months, and local meteorologists are predicting more fires will be put out as well. 

NSW in general has been dealing with a wide-spread drought for the past three years, which was a major contributing factor to how intense and fast the bushfires spread.

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“We were over the moon to see the state’s forecast for a week-long drenching finally. This is that constant, steady, decent rainfall that we’ve been praying for for so long. This isn’t just one of those scattered showers we saw a month ago. This is really helping our firefighters, and in some places, giving them a well-needed rest,” said NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) spokeswoman Angela Burford to BBC.

While NSW is receiving some much needed relief from their fires, the rest of Australia is still struggling to control the flames. Canberra, the capital city of Australia, and other cities that are more inland and southern are still dealing with some of the largest fires that the continent has experienced during this entire epidemic; at one point Canberra was completely shut down due to the extensive damage and dangerous air conditions.

While Canberra has seen a few scattered rainstorms themselves, it doesn’t even compare to what NSW has been experiencing. In an almost ironic turn of events, the amount of rainfall that’s occurring on Australia’s east coast is actually becoming an issue, as multiple flash-flooding warnings have been dealt out within the past week. 

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According to local meteorology reports for the upcoming week, there’s a severe wet weather warning for over 600 miles worth of land in Australia, all predominantly on the east coast. The warning calls for heavy rainfall, high-speed damaging winds, and “abnormally high tides.” Locals from NSW have even stated that the rainfall so far has seemed to be heavier than when they experienced a cyclone storm two years ago; both a blessing and a curse. 

As previously stated these severe wet weather warnings are being enforced through next week, so while local meteorologists are emphasizing safety over everything, it is predicted that these storms will contain a majority of NSW’s fires. 

“This has been an absolute welcome disruption to the weather pattern and a massive reprieve and relief to so many people. While hotter and drier conditions would likely return in the coming weeks, this particular period of rain is breaking the back of this fire season, no doubt,” said NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Friday.

Bushfire season traditionally lasts until April in Australia. Obviously the extreme fires that have occurred during this year’s season are nothing like what the continent normally experiences. Officials know based on past fire seasons that the worst of it is still yet to come, and they continue to prepare for new fires to start everyday.


How Virtual Reality Is Changing The Way We Train Firefighters

Climate change has certainly taken its toll on our planet within the past decade. 2019 was defined by a myriad of natural disasters and unfathomable damage to the Earth and its many inhabitants. Specifically, the Australian bushfires have kept the continent ablaze for over three months; burning over 2.3 million hectares of land, and killing over 1 billion animals. 

While climate change wasn’t the sole reason for the fires, as Australia has an annual bushfire season regardless, it definitely intensified them to a level that the continent has never experienced before. The same issue occurred in California earlier in 2019 when the results of climate change only further fueled the wildfires that ravaged the state.

Australia’s firefighters did their best to contain the fires and focus on search and rescue efforts for any and all living things. They even called on American firefighters to join the movement, creating a unified law enforcement base that would work to contain the fires as much as possible. Since these bushfires were unlike anything that most firefighters have seen in their career, some departments are developing new methods of training to better prepare them for the unexpected. 

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These new methods involve virtual reality (VR) technology that can quite literally place the firefighters in the middle of a massive bushfire without any risk of actual injury or burns. The specific VR technology that Australian and American firefighters are beginning to implement into their training programs come from an Australia-based tech company known as FLAIM Systems.

“The whole point of VR is that we can put people in a traditionally dangerous situation, let people make decisions, and let people make mistakes. The VR technology produces realistic renders of smoke, fire, water and fire-extinguishing foam in several different scenarios, such as a house fire, an aircraft fire or wildfire,” said James Mullins, founder and CEO of FLAIM Systems.

Beyond the visual element, Mullins states that the technology also pairs with a heat suit that can replicate temperature levels based on each VR fire scenario. The suits themselves can heat up to 100 degrees Celsius, and also pairs with a FLAIM extinguisher that has sensory elements to replicate the force one would feel if they were actually extinguishing a fire, or putting it out with a fire hose. The suits also are able to measure the trainee’s heart and breathing rate, to ensure that they remain calm and steady during the simulation. 

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The technology is especially beneficial to volunteer firefighter trainees who don’t get as much exposure to real world fires; it also is much more environmentally friendly. Typical firefighter immersion training involves setting contained fires on designated plots of land, which not only releases unnecessary smoke/pollutants into the air, but also requires massive amounts of water; which is problematic for environments like California and Australia that have both found themselves dealing with severe droughts within the past few years. 

After California’s devastating 2019 wildfires, the Cosumnes Fire Department in Sacramento decided to test using VR technology to train 20 new recruits for future emergencies (this was October 2019, right before Australia’s bushfire epidemic). The trial period with the new recruits, and some more experienced firefighters as well, was hugely successful, to the point that they continue to use the VR training program now, as well as other departments in the state. 

“It allows them [trainees] to experience first hand the unique challenges with communication, limited visibility and come face to face with the flames in fire situations that they most certainly will encounter during their firefighting career. I could feel my heart rate climb as I looked around the room, seeing where the fire started, watching the rapid rate of fire spread. It was amazing to experience the inherent risk, extreme danger and fire intensity without feeling any of the dangerous effects from the fire,” said Cosumnes Fire Department Captain Julie Rider


2019 Was One Of The Hottest Years In History

2019 was officially the second-hottest year in world history, following 2016 as the hottest. In general, this past decade, and the past five years specifically (2015-now) were the hottest ever recorded by man. The data comes from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an online climate change resource that, according to their website, provides “authoritative information about the past, present and future climate, as well as tools to enable climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies by policy makers and businesses.”

2016 overall was only 32 degrees fahrenheit (.04 degrees Celsius) warmer than 2019, and within the past five years the global average has reached about 35 degrees fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) more than what it averaged pre-industrial revolution. Scientists have claimed in the past that once the global average reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius more than what it was pre-industrialization, the planet will have reached a critical threshold for maintaining life on Earth. This means if the average increases by .3 degrees Celsius, we’re all in trouble. 

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The planetary destruction that scientists warned about if global temperatures rise are already occurring. A major increase in extreme wildfires, floods, and food shortages impacting millions are all current problems that we’ve been warned about for decades. Greenhouse gas emissions, plastic in our oceans, single-use plastic product distribution in general, and more are all worldwide problems that continue to plague our planet and raise our climate. The impact has been extremely devastating. 

Currently over half a billion animals are thought to be dead as a result of the deadly bushfires engulfing Australia. These fires have been the worst of hundreds of other wildfires that the planet has endured this past year, the Amazon rainforest and California being other notable ones. Additionally, the planet has seen an increase in flooding and starvation, as predicted, in Venice, which is currently still recovering from massive flooding throughout the city, and Yemen, which has been in the midst of a major famine since 2016. 

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According to Copernicus’ report, Europe, Australia, and the Arctic were hit the hardest with above average temperatures in 2019, but the entirety of the planet also experienced increases in temperatures throughout the year. 

Europe especially broke records this past summer. In June and July of 2019 Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all broke their summer heat records with average daily temperatures reaching 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported at the end of 2019 that the nation had never experienced a drier or hotter climate in a given year. The average temperatures reported to be 35 degrees (fahrenheit) warmer than their yearly average, and they saw the worst of it during December, which only worked to further fuel the already devastating bushfires that have been taking over the continent for the past month. 

Finally, the report stated that both the Arctic and Alaska experienced the largest increase in temperature in 2019. This is a major red flag for scientists, as the Arctic itself is critical for regulating temperatures around the entire planet, meaning when the Arctic heats, so will the rest of the world, as the data is clearly showing. 

Scientists claim that the biggest contributor to global warming is greenhouse gas emissions that get trapped within our atmosphere, deplete our ozone layer, and thus leave the Earth exposed to increased levels of UV radiation. Systematic change is the solution, and living a greener life individually can help, but for now we must wait and continue to raise awareness for the massive levels of devastation occurring across the globe.

Bushfire in Australia

Australia’s Bushfires Shut Down Capital City of Canberra

The bushfires in Australia have now claimed the lives of half a billion animals, 24 people, and caused extensive damage that’s almost unfathomable to imagine. These fires have been taking over the continent for a month now, and currently are burning over 13 million acres of land. Countless celebrities and individuals with high social media followings have been calling on everyone to donate what they can to relief efforts, as conditions are progressively getting worse every day. 

Recently, Canberra, the capital of Australia, was forced to shut down the Australian federal government department that is responsible for management of nationwide emergencies due to poor air quality conditions. Canberra had a rating of 340 on the Air Quality Index; for comparison, “good” air quality is considered anywhere from 0 to 50 on the Index scale. 

The Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Health branches that are located in Canberra have been closed and all non-essential staff have been told to evacuate. In general, the city has shut down most services due to the poor environmental conditions. This includes all childcare services, galleries, retail locations, schools, etc. Safety and health have now become the main priority for all living things nationwide.  

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There’s approximately up to 200 active fires still burning in Australia, almost half remain uncontained. Australia is used to having a “fire season” alongside the winter months (January and February) however, the fires have already been blazing for over a month now, making this one of the worst fire seasons to date. Typically, fire season in Australia doesn’t affect residential areas and refreshes certain plots of land to grow new crops through the burning. Now, it’s uncertain what results will come following the containment of all the fires. 

“The crisis is not over, there are months to go. [I’m] establishing a $2 billion (1.39 billion American dollars) National Bushfire Recovery Agency to help people hit by the unprecedented bushfires get the support they needed. It’s a long road ahead and we will be with these communities every step of the way as they rebuild. The funds will be used to help get communities back on their feet by rebuilding roads, mental health support, and helping restore the local environment,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a release

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Along with Prime Minister Morrison’s announcement, the New South Wales (NSW) police department also made a statement in which they claimed that they’re already taking legal action against 183 people for “bushfire-related offences.” The charges began in November, when the fires initially started, and the NSW police have stated 24 individuals have specifically been charged over “deliberately-lit fires” that spread out of control.  

The Australian Defence Force also made a statement this past weekend in which they said they would be increasing overall fire support and bringing in over 3,000 army reservists to help contain the natural disaster. One of the biggest Australian Navy vessels, HMAS Adelaide, is being used to evacuate up to 5,000 australians.

The conditions are growing worse. The photos online depict the entire continent to look like that of another planet. The sky is an amber red hue, smoke makes it impossible to see more than 100 feet in front of you, and citizens are constantly taking to the street to evacuate. There are countless resources that anyone from anywhere can use to help with relief efforts and all the sites are linked right here. As the fires continue to blaze and destroy the continent, more awareness is being brought to the devastation. Hopefully those with platforms continue to speak up, and those actually there remain safe and sound until this is completely contained.


New Technology Could Help Plant Over 1 Billion Trees By 2030

Canadian scientists are planning on planting 1 billion trees within the next eight years. Flash Forest is the “reforestation company” that will be responsible for the massive project. Their method involves drones, pods of seeds, and some math. According to their website, the company uses their drone technology to map out areas that would benefit the most from an increase in vegetation and carbon dioxide (which the trees would provide). 

Flash Forest has a Kickstarter page to help with the rising costs of the technology they require. The process of planting trees by distributing seeds via drones is a lot more complex than one might imagine. 

“[Our] company uses a pneumatic machine attached to a drone to plant the pods. Each vessel contains three germinated seeds as well as other species which support the area, a fungus called mycorrhizae which helps plants to develop, fertilizers, and other ‘secret’ ingredients. After planting, a spray drone will cover the area with nutrients such as nitrogen to help the seedlings grow. A mapping drone is later sent out to monitor their progress,” according to Flash Forest’s Kickstarter page

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It would only take one drone operator to plant up to 100,000 seed pods per day, according to their website, and with that type of growth rate Flash Forest could provide some serious healing to our dying planet within the next decade. 

According to Bryce Jones, Andrew Lauder, and Joshua Calafato, the three graduate students who created Flash forest, their drone-planting method is ten times faster and 20% cheaper than traditional tree planting/reforestation techniques, which are typically much more labor intensive and time consuming. 

In addition to their goal of 1 billion trees by 2028, Flash Forest really wants to focus their attention and mission on the areas of the planet that have been devastated by the recent wildfires. Australia specifically is currently dealing with one of the most dangerous environmental disasters it’s ever seen; bushfires have engulfed over 27 million acres of land and killed up to 480 million wild animals in the process, and the fires have yet to be controlled.

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 According to the International Panel of Climate Change, we have “10 years to reverse climate change and prevent catastrophic run-away effects on our species and civilization. The amount of carbon dioxide released by humans has been increasing since the pre-industrial era, hitting 34 billion tons in 2018, and is more than can be naturally absorbed.”

Additionally, the Earth loses approximately 13 billion trees every year and regains less than half from conservationist efforts.  This is why Flash Forest believes so heavily in their mission and method. The reason their technology hasn’t been completely picked up and distributed throughout the world is a lack of funding and mainstream popularity; no one really knows about them. However, with the help of their Kickstarter and mission based website, they hope that will change, they also are only a few months old (the company was founded in August 2019). 

So far, they have planted “469 White Spruce, 344 White Pine, around 327 Blue Spruce, 225 Red Maple, 790 White Birch, 621 Sugar Maple, 131 Douglas Fir, and 199 Balsam Fir,” according to their website.

When they first began, they were able to distribute over 2,000 tree seeds, derived from seven different tree species, throughout Southern Ontario, and amongst the other trial areas, Flash Forest has reported the areas of land where the pods were planted are already sprouting.


Sydney’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks Will Go On Despite Bushfire Concerns

Sydney, Australia is known for its annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display. However, this year over a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to cancel the show in response to the massive wild/bush fires that have been affecting the area recently. The petition was made through and currently has just over 276,000 signatures with a goal of 300,000. In the description the petition states that the funds that would typically be spent on the extravagant display should be redistributed in order to help with recovery efforts from the devastating fires, as well as preventative measures for the future. 

“I’ve been moved by the outpouring of support and care for the community but the event will continue as planned. Our fireworks are planned 15 months in advance and most of the budget — which is largely allocated to crowd safety and cleaning measures — has already been spent.” Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a statement

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It’s likely that with this statement from the mayor and with there only being one day until New Year’s Eve, the fireworks show will still go on, however, the message Australia’s citizens are attempting to spread should still be heard, so their fight is continuing. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales (NSW), where a majority of these fires have been taking place. 

Linda McCormich is the NSW resident who started the online petition and is leading the fight against the display. She wants the money to go to “farmers and firefighters to save Australia’s wildlife. The fireworks could traumatise some people as there is enough smoke in the air.” Additionally, the petition states that in 2018, Sydney spent close to $5.8 million on the display alone, which McCormich and her supporters believe would be more than enough to rebuild and refurbish some of the major damage done across the country. 

Within the past two months NSW has lost over 900 homes and an estimated 10 individuals to the devastating bushfires, according the the NSW Fire Services. The fires have also sent Australia as a whole into one of the driest and most vast droughts of the decade, with an average daily maximum of 107 degrees fahrenheit. The fires have been so tragic that the Australian capital Canberra has cancelled all future fireworks displays and enforced a total fire ban, a political move that also worked as a motivator for this particular petition. 

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“(Canceling) the event would seriously hurt Sydney businesses. It would also ruin plans for tens of thousands of people from across the country and overseas who have booked flights, hotels and restaurants for New Year’s Eve. $433,000 has already been donated to support communities and wildlife impacted by bushfire and drought, and offered our trucks and staff to help emergency services with cleanup and recovery efforts. The display will also be greener this year using fireworks that are carbon offset,” said organizers from the City Council of Sydney in a statement

New South Wales has also made a public statement that all Rural Fire Service volunteers are being paid a maximum of $6,000 each for their extreme relief efforts. A majority of firefighters in the country have still yet to be paid for their bush-fire work, due to the frequent occurrences of them, and damages done in general.

While efforts to cancel the display have been strong, council members stated that the amount of money local businesses earn during the New Year’s Eve rush is imperative to the survival of most of them. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people make commitments to come to Sydney specifically for New Year’s, and they book the trips so far in advance, cancelling now would cause complete chaos around the world. So while the 275,000+ individuals will be disappointed, city council members as well as environmentalists are still working together to rebuild and recover from an otherwise devastating year.