Weather

Fires blazing across eastern Australia

Ben Domensino, 8 November 2019

Dry, hot and windy weather caused a number of large and dangerous fires to burn uncontrollably in eastern Australia on Friday.

At 4pm EDT, more than a dozen fires were burning at Emergency Warning level in NSW, with close to 100 active fires across the state, according to the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Satellite images showed plumes of thick smoke being blown across the Tasman Sea by strong westerly winds, with gusts exceeding 80 km/h in some areas. This wind combined with temperatures in the high thirties and low forties, causing severe and extreme fire danger ratings in parts of northeast NSW and southeast Queensland on Friday afternoon.

Image: Thick smoke blowing from NSW across the Tasman Sea on Friday afternoon.

Visible satellite imagery also revealed that the thick plumes of smoke were causing pyrocumulus clouds to develop. These clouds, which are caused when heat and smoke from fires rise into the atmosphere, are capable of creating their own wind and sometimes thunderstorms. 

Image: Satellite image showing pyrocumulus clouds (white areas within smoke) forming in bushfire smoke over northeast NSW on Friday afternoon.  

These are the latest fires in what has already been an active season for NSW and southern Queensland. According to the Rural Fire Service, more land in NSW has been burnt this season than the last two years combined, and that was prior to this week's fires.

Fortunately, cooler air and lighter winds will return to eastern Australia this weekend, although Very High fire danger ratings are still likely in parts of NSW and Queensland.