Archive for February, 2009


Myth-busting: Victoria’s bushfires caused by global warming?

Historian, Jonathon King, writing for The Age, hysterically suggests that Victoria has a “new world order” (repeated four times!) for bushfires that is caused by climate change.

If you have time, read the department’s quick history of bushfires in Victoria.

Some interesting historical points:

  • 1851 – 6 February ‘Black Thursday’ – Fires cover a quarter of what is now Victoria (approximately 5 million hectares). Temperatures of 47 degrees alleged but Bureau of Meteorology not formed until 8 years later.
  • 1939 – 13 January ‘Black Friday’ – Fires burnt 1.5 to 2 million hectares. The fires destroyed the township of Narbethong. The fires affected almost every section of Victoria. Temperatures reached 45.6 °C in Melbourne. “Black Friday was the culmination of a long, dry and hot summer that followed a drought that had lasted several years.”
  • 2009 – 7th February ‘Black Saturday’ – 450,000 hectares – Temperature reached 46.4 degrees in Melbourne.

Severe bushfires occur  here. The time between major catastrophes seems to be long enough so that we can’t test and ratify our fire plans. We also have enough time to become complacent.

Even the heatwave was not the worst on record. Melbourne’s most sustained heatwave occurred in January 1908 when temperatures reached 39.9 (15th January), 42.8 (16th), 44.2 (17th), 40.0 (18th), 41.1 (19th) and 42.7 (20th). This year we had 43.4 followed by 44.3 follwed by 45.1 degrees – hotter, but not as long.

Were Victoria’s 2009 bushfires and extreme weather days caused, even partially, by global warming? Absolutely no proof.


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