Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire

Jason J. Sharples*, Geoffrey J. Cary, Paul Fox-Hughes, Scott Mooney, Jason P. Evans, Michael Shawn Fletcher, Mike Fromm, Pauline F. Grierson, Rick McRae, Patrick Baker

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    182 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Bushfires are one of the most frequent natural hazards experienced in Australia. Fires play an important role in shaping the landscape and its ecological dynamics, but may also have devastating effects that cause human injuries and fatalities, as well as broad-scale environmental damage. While there has been considerable effort to quantify changes in the occurrence of bushfire in Australia, a comprehensive assessment of the most extreme bushfire cases, which exact the greatest economic and environmental impacts, is lacking. In this paper we reflect upon recently developed understanding of bushfire dynamics to consider (i) historical changes in the occurrence of extreme bushfires, and (ii) the potential for increasing frequency in the future under climate change projections. The science of extreme bushfires is still a developing area, thus our conclusions about emerging patterns in their occurrence should be considered tentative. Nonetheless, historical information on noteworthy bushfire events suggests an increased occurrence in recent decades. Based on our best current understanding of how extreme bushfires develop, there is strong potential for them to increase in frequency in the future. As such there is a pressing need for a greater understanding of these powerful and often destructive phenomena.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)85-99
    Number of pages15
    JournalClimatic Change
    Volume139
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016

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