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Australia on Fire
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Since the end of December 2012, hundreds of bushfires have raged throughout Australia, fueled by a record-breaking heatwave. Some of the most damaging fires struck Tasmania, a large island off the coast of Victoria. Blazes that raced through the town of Dunalley on January 4 destroyed more than 100 homes.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image (top) showing numerous fires across the island on January 6, 2013. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected the unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires.
Hundreds of uncontrolled fires also burned throughout New South Wales and Victoria, the two most populous Australian states. Three of the most intense were the Deans Gap fire, the Yarrabin fire, and the Cobbler Road fire. On January 9, 2012, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured an image (bottom) of the three fires.
Extreme heat and strong winds have fueled the spate of fires. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the national average temperature on January 7 reached 40.3°Celsius (104.6°Fahrenheit), breaking a record set in 1972. Temperatures were so extreme that Australian meteorologists were forced to add additional color bands to their forecasting maps.