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Science Bulletins: Australia's Fire Danger

In early February 2009, areas of the southern Australian state of Victoria were ablaze with bushfires that killed nearly 200 people. The fires came on the tail end of an exceptionally long and blistering heat wave. The extreme event foreshadows Australia's fire risk in a warming world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in 2007 that "heat waves and fires are virtually certain to increase in intensity and frequency" in regions of Australia as the globe warms. The IPCC report also indicated that higher-risk fire danger days could rise up to 70 percent by 2050 in southeast Australia, the most populated area of the country. Although no single extreme weather or fire event can be attributed to climate change at this point, the summer fire tragedy of 2009 sends a sober warning of future fire danger in Australia.
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