“Hotter across the board” is how University of Melbourne climate scientist Linden Ashcroft describes the overheated and dried-out climate that has given rise to Australia’s ravaging bush fires over the past several months.
The prolonged lack of rainfall that has characterized both Australia and the American Southwest over recent years “isn’t like a drought of yore,” University of Michigan scientist Jonathan Overpeck says in a brief new video produced for Yale Climate Connections. “It’s actually an aridification,” Overpeck says, as the warming atmosphere is leading to atmospheric circulation patterns that “are drying up in a way that is changing some of these drier regions.”
Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe explains that with increasing temperatures, evaporation speeds up: “So you need more water to provide the same amount of irrigation.”
One troubling manifestation of the stressful heat and drought patterns is that rampant bush fires are occurring in unexpected places. “What we’re seeing is places burning that aren’t supposed to burn,” Ashcroft says. She points to fires in high-country places that had burned just two years earlier. Overpeck and meteorologist Jeff Masters agree, Masters pointing to a 2018 fire in an Australia World Heritage rainforest.
The new video was produced as part of a monthly YCC “This Is Not Cool” video series by independent videographer Peter Sinclair of Midland, Michigan.