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Drought, bushfires, heat, and smoke
 

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Nick Payne
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2479
Location: Canberra, Australia

12/19/19 5:52 PM

Drought, bushfires, heat, and smoke

Persistent smoke from fires does rather bugger up training plans - I have a 200km mountain Audax in six weeks, but I've curtailed a lot of of my riding for the past month or so with a view to preserving lung function.

We seem to have been shrouded in bushfire smoke here for weeks now - some of the surrounding fires have been burning since September, and they're mostly in inaccessible terrain where the only thing that's eventually going to put them out completely is some decent rainfall, which with the drought we are also in the middle of, is not forecast to happen any time soon. The fires are to the east and north of us, with about three million hectares in all on fire. The only time we get a respite from the smoke is if a westerly wind blows for long enough, but as we usually get an easterly in the afternoon, we get blanketed with smoke again. Here's a photo I took from the top of one of the suburban hills a couple of days ago, looking across suburbia to another hill about three kilometres away. As my wife commented when we were out riding yesterday: "It's getting so that if we can actually see the outline of a hill that's ten kilometres away, we think the conditions are pretty good."

And to add to this, we've been getting some pretty extreme heat as well. The temperature here (and we're usually one of the cooler places in Australia) was 39C yesterday, and the forecast for both today and tomorrow is 41C. In fact, the average temperature yesterday across the entire continent was 41.9C, with the unfortunate people at Nullabor copping the highest reading of 49.9C (122F).

/Rant over.

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17784
Location: Portland, OR

12/19/19 6:02 PM

Sorry to hear it. 2019 was actually the first low wild fire year in many years in a row here. So I know how you feel.

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KerryIrons
Joined: 12 Jan 2004
Posts: 3061
Location: Midland, MI

12/20/19 10:13 AM

Fuel

As long as these fires have been burning, you have to wonder when the day will come that the fires themselves will have generated enough "natural fire breaks" to put an end to it. Of course by then the country will be a large lump of charcoal, but at least the fires will stop.

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dfcas
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 2654
Location: hillbilly heaven

12/20/19 11:07 AM

I've read a good bit of news coverage in the US about the fires and the heay wave. It's not covered in mainstream news but it is by the writing news.

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Nick Payne
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2479
Location: Canberra, Australia

12/20/19 2:00 PM

The Guardian published an interactive map on their website that allows the area consumed to be superimposed on various cities. If you choose New York, the superimposed rectangle stretches almost from Philadelphia in one direction to Hartford in the other:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/ng-interactive/2019/dec/07/how-big-are-the-fires-burning-on-the-east-coast-of-australia-interactive-map

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Nick Payne
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2479
Location: Canberra, Australia

1/1/20 8:36 PM

On Tuesday a NW wind from the day before managed to blow the persistent smoke away, so I decided to see the decade out by doing an ~140km ride that we have traditionally done at this time of year. The forecast was for the NW winds to get up to 50kph, and the temperature to 38C, but as I would be heading in an NW direction to start with, and the last 60km would be heading SE, I figured an early start would mean I could avoid most of the headwind and heat.

Even though I started at sunrise around 05:45, it didn't quite work as I expected. Between the 60km and 80km point, the route turned for about 20km so that I was heading NE and had a cross-wind, and it turned out to be about the most unpleasant 20km I can remember in over 40 years of cycling. It was already pretty hot, the wind picked up to the expected 50kph (with gusts up to 70kph according to our local weather bureau), and I got hit by the worst dust storm I've ever encountered while riding - at the peak of it, with the wind stripping the soil from the overgrazed paddocks in the middle of a drought, visibility was down to only a few metres, and when I finally got home, both myself and the bike had a liberal coating of dust.

Along the route I took a photo of the Murrumbidgee River where the Taemas Bridge crosses it. This is Australia's second-longest river, and at the moment it's just a mere trickle:



Compare this with a photo I took on the same ride exactly nine years ago:

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Steve B.
Joined: 19 Jan 2004
Posts: 756
Location: Long Island, NY

1/2/20 8:26 AM

Thank you fro the update, glad you got some riding in.

The devastation from the fires is in the news every day here in the US, but like many Americans, it's hard to grasp the size and/or severity or the impact on populated areas. Like many, I (having never been to Australia) am unfamiliar with the region where the fires are occuring. My nephew helps put into perspective as he lived in Melbourne for 7 years.

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Nick Payne
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2479
Location: Canberra, Australia

1/3/20 12:52 AM

I went to an exhibition of Australian political cartoons a couple of days ago, and thought that this one was both the best and also bitingly appropriate in our current circumstances:

<img src="http://www.users.on.net/~njpayne/images/DSC_0128.JPG" height="662" width="1042">

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Nick Payne
Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2479
Location: Canberra, Australia

2/16/20 11:36 PM

This is as close as the fires got - a friend's son took this photo about a fortnight ago, looking out over Canberra's southern suburbs to the hills on fire behind:



Fortunately, we've had about 100mm of rain since then - some parts of the state have had more than 400mm - and that has pretty much extinguished all the fires.

Our national broadcaster put together a pretty good documentary, interspersing video shot by people involved in the fires (firefighters, people defending their properties, people just caught up in it), and interviews with the people themselves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdGqTQkRVwE .

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 4650
Location: Nashua, NH

2/17/20 7:26 AM

Well, I'm glad you're safe and things are under control now. Everything we've seen over here looks pretty horrific. I can't even imagine what it must be like to live it.

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