The record-breaking Australian bushfire season charred more than 20 per cent of the country's forests. The fires claimed the lives of 479 people, millions of animals, and 9,352 buildings. Between the fires and the smoke, over 80 per cent of the country's population was affected. The country's 2019-20 bushfire season came to be known as Black Summer.
The fires spanned from June 2019 to May 2020, peaking in January 2020. Aside from the fires' record-breaking size, burning approximately 18,636,079 hectares, scientists noted the immense amount of smoke that was circumnavigating the globe.
This morning, #GOESEast spied two areas of #smoke that originated from the #AustralianBushFires. The smoke is in the process of circumnavigating the #planet.
Real-time imagery: https://t.co/Ahd9xNjigO#Australia #BushFireAustralia #AustralianFires #BushFires #Fires #Earth pic.twitter.com/GkDwUPQ8xy
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) January 6, 2020
By Jan. 7, 2020, the smoke moved into South America, 12,070 km away from Australia. The smoke cloud stayed intact for three months, making its way around the world before returning close to where it originated.
Canadian researchers examined images from NASA satellites and determined that the smoke plume was three times the size of any previously recorded cloud.
The financial cost of the bushfires amounted to A$103 billion, making it Australia's costliest natural disaster to date.
Australia's devastating fires have generated spectacular pyro-clusters like the one seen in this image. These large clouds of vertical development, help inject particles and gases such as carbon dioxide at high altitudes. Source: NASA
Within the unprecedented and catastrophic year-long event, millions of people were affected, creating many substories.
On Jan. 19, 2020, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) needed to make the call if the 2020 Australian Open, which was scheduled to take place between Jan. 20 and Feb. 2, could proceed despite the poor air quality.
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) January 14, 2020
The Grand Slam tennis tournament took place at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria. At the time, the air quality in the city was the worst in the world.
Today Melbourne’s air was the most polluted in the world with AQI readings up to 758, 2x hazardous levels.
It’s so bad that tennis players are collapsing at the Australian Open. Business as usual cannot continue. We must act on climate!#AustraliaBurning #AustralianFires https://t.co/zpqYTn7DH4
— Dr. Lucky Tran (@luckytran) January 14, 2020
Some games were delayed due to poor air quality, but the tournament ultimately proceeded. Some players had to call for medical timeouts. Dalila Jakupović experienced a coughing fit due to the poor air quality, and she was forced to retire.
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and other leading players helped raise more than $3.5 million for bushfire relief.
To hear more about Australia's 2019-2020 bushfire season, and its impacts, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."
This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.
Thumbnail photo: 3-D visualization of Australia's Bushfire. Courtesy of Anthony Hearey