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The Black Summer

Sooa Hong

Bushfires in Australia are common, regular occurrences that have shaped much of the continent’s nature and land from the beginning of its existence. Due to the extremely high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds, conditions in Australia provide an ideal environment for the creation and rapid spread of fire. In fact, ever since 1851, bushfires have killed approximately 800 people and billions of animals.

Despite its destruction, bushfires have been viewed as natural causes that have been common where approximately 350 Mha is burnt globally every year. However, the most recent bushfire season of 2019 to 2020, centered in southeastern Australia and also called the “Black Summer,” has been the biggest and most catastrophic season in the history of the continent. The season has claimed 28 human lives, more than 1.25 billion wildlife, more than 3,000 homes, and an economic loss of over $110 billion (80조 원).

What made the 2019-2020 season so different from others? Beginning of 2019, the temperature of the Indian Ocean increased to 2°, reaching the second-highest global warming peak in the past few decades. 

According to scientists, the rise in temperature was the key factor in creating dramatic change where side effects such as excessive wildfires were initiated. The ocean absorbs 90% of the heat coming from the sun, and when the heat becomes abnormally high due to the effects of global warming, it creates destruction about 4 to 5 atomic bombs exploding every second. Even the smallest fires stimulated and caused by the warming of the ocean had the potential to destroy all of Australia.

"When will it be enough for climate action?"

The season went back and forth between excessive fires and rainfall. Around September 2019, the flames arrived with rising high temperatures and prolonged droughts. Despite heavy rainfall in January 2020, it could not extinguish the fires. Then during mid-February 2020, ever-increasing temperatures, droughts, and high winds exacerbated the wildfire situation and the crisis came back even stronger than before. 

Finally, after nine months of constant burning, all fires were extinguished and contained on March 4, 2020, finally through excessive amounts of rainfall of about 350 mm daily in the last two months. Nine entire months of constant destruction marked an immense scar on the island, with 120,000 km² of its area completely burned. To compare, it has destroyed land bigger than South Korea, which has around 100,000 km² in total area. Furthermore, 14% of all forests and over 20,000 farms were damaged.

The Black Summer of 2019-2020 should have been a wake-up call and a stark reminder that changes in reducing global warming and climate change should be acted upon immediately; however, people of the world are still refusing to acknowledge the devastation humanity is causing itself. The catastrophic losses of lives, animals, homes, and nature are devastating but not enough to stimulate everyone in the world to come together in helping reduce misconduct against the environment. When will it be enough for climate action? It is time for taking measures and finding solutions to these problems.

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