(TMU) — As Australia’s horrific bushfire crisis continues unabated, smoke plumes believed to cover an area greater than that of Europe have been created while glaciers in neighboring New Zealand have been turned black by soot from the fires.
In the meantime, nearly 500,000,000 animals have been killed while the human death toll has climbed to at least 17. Experts have warned of a broader humanitarian crisis looming over the country, fueling anger at the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
On Wednesday, experts noted that a massive plume of smoke spanning roughly 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million sq km) had begun drifting over the Pacific Ocean toward New Zealand, which BBC reports has been blanketed in smoke and haze from the Australia fires in recent days. The Guardian reports that vacationers have described the hazy skies in New Zealand as “sepia,” “orange” and “apocalyptic.”
Antti Lipponen, a research scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, wrote in a tweet that the smoke plume is well over four times the size of Alaska, 14 times the size of Japan, and roughly equal to the distance between Iceland and Turkey.
— Antti Lipponen (@anttilip) January 2, 2020
The smoke and soot have even stained New Zealand’s iconic white glaciers, turning them black and “caramelizing” the snow in a process that could further endanger glaciers already threatened by climate change. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark wrote in a tweet that the impact of Australian ash on glaciers “is likely to accelerate melting.”
Snow and ice usually reflect the sun’s heat and slows melting while white. However, snow blackened by ash and dust rapidly absorbs heat and therefore melts at faster rates.
Huge smoke plume showing up on GOES-17 from the Australia fires.
Currently being wrapped up by a low pressure system over the Pacific. pic.twitter.com/OUwk0I4E8P
— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) January 2, 2020
The environmental calamity has been stoked by a combination of extreme winds, record-shattering heat waves, and drought-parched forests, grasslands, and brush. Australia’s bushfires have also grown so monstrous that they are generating their own weather in the form of pyro-cumulonimbus clouds—or thunderstorms that create more fires—according to Victoria’s Bureau of Meteorology.
Weather forecasts have predicted continued withering hot conditions and fierce winds across southern Australia on Friday as well as dangerous bushfire conditions in eastern Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) on Saturday. Thousand of firefighters, including huge numbers of volunteers, have been fighting the over 100 fires in NSW and over 40 in Victoria.
Near Franz Josef glacier. The “caramelised” snow is caused by dust from the bushfires. It was white yesterday pic.twitter.com/Ryqq685Ind
— Fabulousmonster (@Rachelhatesit) December 31, 2019
The nightmarish nature of the crisis took a new form over the weekend as 4,000 people in the coastal town of Mallacoota, Victoria, fled to the shore and even into the water as the blaze threatened to consume their homes.
Tourist Kai Kirschbaum told ABC Australia:
“I think that was our biggest threat in terms of what are we doing with the children if we need to go in the water to protect ourselves given the fact that they are only 1, 3 and 5.
If you’re a good swimmer it doesn’t really matter if you have to be in the water for a longer time, but doing that with three kids that would have been, I think, a nightmare.”
In the meantime, ecologists are fearing a tremendous tragedy for wildlife as nearly 500 million mammals, reptiles and birds—including 8,000 koalas—are estimated to have been killed. The massive loss of life threatens to forever tip the balance for entire species of animals and plants.
Over 300 baby flying foxes were abandoned by their mothers who were trying to survive by any means, according to experts.
Wildlife rescuer Jenny Packwood told the Sydney Morning Herald:
“Mothers are abandoning babies at two weeks after birth because there is no food for them. Last week we had 300 come in, and we’ve been flat out feeding since then.
I’ve never seen anything like this before—we’re calling it a starvation event.”
Species like bats also face the threat of local extinction from the massive obliteration of small creatures such as insects in wildfire-impacted regions, thre Independent reported.
Koala Crisis wrote on Facebook:
“Not one carer KC has spoken to has seen bees, insects, grubs, worms, snails, beetles, millipedes, for months. Nothing struggles through the dustbowls which are now covering millions of hectares in all states.
There’s no grass for the ’roos, no insects for the birds, the leaves on eucalypts are brittle, ensuring starvation for koalas, gliders, possums, birds, insects.”
The bushfires devastating Australia have been raging since September, laying waste to wildlife and private property alike. Experts are fearing that a humanitarian crisis is imminent as the country faces the worst fire season in recorded history with three more months of the summer season left.
Along with the fires, arid conditions due to a prolonged drought have wrought devastation on the livelihoods of farmers and local economies.
The Australian government, headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has been accused of denying the realities of climate change despite its belated verbal acknowledgment that changing climate conditions have played a role in the crisis. The government has been accused of obstructing global summits on climate change and skirting its obligations under the 2015 Paris accord while doing little to curtail the country’s role as the world’s number one exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas.
Australians’ anger toward the prime minister—who has derisively been nicknamed “ScoMo” or “Scummo”—was abundantly clear Thursday when he was forced to scrap a meet-and-greet with locals in a fire-scourged NSW town. As the beleaguered prime minister attempted to reassure residents, locals showered abuse on him.
The Guardian quoted residents cursing Morrison as “an idiot,” telling him that he’s “not welcome” and should “piss off” and not expect any future votes.
Scott Morrison forcing this woman to shake his hand, then ignoring her and walking away when she tells him she doesn’t want a handshake unless he gives more funding to the RFS, is f****** disgusting – even by his low standards. #bushfiresAustralia #auspol pic.twitter.com/LX6agg3S7G
— Brendan Bradford (@1bbradfo) January 2, 2020
As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists
The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.
However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.
While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.
The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.
The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes – but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.
“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.
To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.
However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.
These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.
The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.
Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever
Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.
Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.
In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.
At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.
“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.
“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”
The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.
Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.
‘Horrific’ Swarms of Spiders, Snakes Invade Australian Homes Amid Devastating Floods
In recent years, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) has faced everything from drought to brushfires, a pandemic, a recent all-consuming plague of mice and now, devastating floods and massive hordes of spiders.
In videos shared across social media, hundreds if not thousands of spiders can be seen scrambling through people’s homes and garages prior to an evacuation order being issued on early Saturday in expectation of the floods.
In one video posted to Facebook by Melanie Williams, the arachnids of all sizes can be seen scrambling about in search of shelter from the coming deluge.
“Check these spiders out, oh my god, oh my god! Look at them all,” Williams said in the video. “No! No! Oh my god.”
The Guardian reports that Kinchela resident Matt Lovenfosse was pulling up to his home on Monday morning when he witnessed what appeared to be a sea of “millions” of spiders climbing about to escape the floodwaters.
“So I went out to have a look and it was millions of spiders,” Lovenfosse said.
“It’s amazing. It’s crazy,” he continued. “The spiders all crawled up on to the house, on to fences and whatever they can get on to.”
The flooding has resulted in some 18,000 residents fleeing their homes since last week, with authorities warning that the cleanup could last until April.
The floods have also seen thousands of snakes and insects of every kind scrambling to flee from the floods, with some snakes even leaping into rescue boats to avoid being drowned.
“There were also skinks, ants, basically every insect, crickets – all just trying to get away from the flood waters,” vistor Shenae Varley told Guardian Australia.
It’s just the latest reminder that Australia isn’t just another country – it may be its own entirely different world.
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