Disastrous wildfires in Australia create smoke cloud larger than continental USA

Climate crisis • Wildfires are result of unusually hot and dry summer, and it does not seem to be ending soon

The apocalyptic images from Australia's wildfire crisis
The apocalyptic images from Australia's wildfire crisis

Wildfires in Australia have created a smoke cloud larger than the continental United States, that can be seen from space as it circles the hemisphere, covering over 12,000km.

As the world witnesses one of the most devastating fire seasons in Australia. The fires have gotten so intense, that the smoke cloud can be seen from space, as it is circling the South Hemisphere. The wildfires are a result of an unusually hot and dry summer, and it does not seem to be ending soon. 

The large smoke cloud from the fires has reached New Zealand, coloring the sky into yellow hues. The fires are intense enough to cumulate the smoke into a single dense cloud, which is carried east by the prevailing winds.

As the large smoke clouds move east over New Zealand, these smoke clouds carry black carbon particles which are very small and light and travel easily along with the winds, travelling across the South Pacific, and reaching South America in less than a week. The concentrations slowly reduce as it travels across the ocean, but the cloud is dense enough to survive all the way to the Atlantic ocean.

Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of massive bushfires across Australia.

The fires, burning since September, have intensified over the past week, with a number towns evacuated. High temperatures and strong winds are forecast for the weekend, creating further fire risk.

Twenty people have so far been killed - including three volunteer firefighters - and about six million hectares (60,000 sq km or 14.8 million acres) of bush, forest and parks have been burned.

In the worst-hit state, New South Wales (NSW), fire has affected more than four million hectares, destroying more than 1,300 houses and forcing thousands to seek shelter elsewhere.

Hot, dry weather combined with prolonged drought and strong winds have created perfect conditions for fire to spread rapidly.

More than 130 fires were burning across the state on Friday, in the bush, mountain forests and national parks, with about 60 still not contained by firefighters and posing a risk to lives.

The fires have been exacerbated by 40C temperatures and strong winds, creating difficult conditions for the thousands of firefighters deployed in the field.

The small town of Balmoral, south-west of Sydney, was largely destroyed and scores of homes were razed amid catastrophic conditions on 22 December. But conditions are still dangerous and a state of emergency for NSW has come into force. Parks, trails and camping grounds have been closed and holidaymakers have been told to urgently leave a 260km (160-mile) stretch of NSW coast before Saturday, 4 January, when extreme conditions are forecast.

In Victoria, more than 800,000 hectares have been burned. Fires have been burning since late November but the have caused devastation in recent days, leaving two people dead and destroying around 43 homes in East Gippsland.

In the small town of Mallacoota, residents fled to the beach on 31 December, with only a change in the wind direction keeping the fire from reaching them on the shore. Around 1,000 tourists and residents were eventually evacuated by the Australian navy and taken further down the coast. The military has sent troops, ships and aircraft to the region to help relocation and firefighting efforts.

A state of disaster has been declared for the worst-hit areas in Victoria, which allows the authorities to enforce evacuations and let emergency services take over properties

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