Ten years ago on the evening of January 18 I was balancing a hose and a camera on the roof of my house as I watched huge helicopter water bombers changing course overhead.
They would scoop water from a nearby dam, drop it on flames about 2km from where I sat, then make the brief flight north to the landmark of the Curtin shops where they banked hard to the south-west to repeat the cycle.
It was 10 years ago that the much-loved fingers of bushland which had previously poked benignly into the urban folds of Canberra became thoroughfares for deadly fires. The bushfires had manoeuvred for the past week at the city’s outskirts, but on that Saturday, January 18, they swept, as if in a co-ordinated attack, down the highly combustible bushland lanes which led to the heart of many suburbs. When the battle for Canberra finally ended a week or so later, 70 per cent of those stretches of prized parklands, plantation forests, and pastures including horse paddocks had been razed or badly damaged.
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Monday was Australia’s hottest day in recorded history - the average temperature across the entire country topped 40 degrees celcius.
On Tuesday the Bureau of Meteorology added a new colour to their temperature bar so that areas set to experience temperatures in excess of 50 degrees celcius can be represented on their forecast map.
And yesterday bushfires continue to rage in regional towns across south east Australia. The question of whether climate change will cause more extreme weather has been answered by an overwhelming majority of scientists - and this summer it has again been corroborated by our experience. On Monday the Prime Minister made the connection, issuing the following statement: “we do know over time that as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events and conditions.” This is no longer the question we should be asking.
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You might not be aware of this, but the country has been going through a bit of a heatwave lately. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know - everyone’s been pretty quiet about it. I didn’t even realise myself until I opened a window the other day and felt a burst of unusually warm air. “Why has nobody mentioned this?’’ I thought.
Obviously, I’m joking. For the past week you haven’t been able to turn on a TV or radio without hearing about how it’s hot, it’s really hot, it’s probably going to get hotter and then it’s going to keep being hot for a while. And also that it’s hot.
It’s a talking point, I agree. Nothing stimulates conversation between strangers like a string of days over 35, particularly when those strangers are stuck on an overheating bus. A heatwave brings us all together (which is a bit unfortunate because everyone is sweaty and sticky and we should probably be getting as far apart as possible, and then having cold showers), and a ``mega heatwave’‘, like the one the nation is currently experiencing, is even more unifying.
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