Media releaseFrom: Springer Nature
Australia needs a dedicated bushfire monitoring agency to provide the coherent information necessary to manage and mitigate fires in a cost-effective and evidence-based way, argue David Bowman and colleagues in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. The 2019–20 Australian bushfires destroyed thousands of homes and millions of hectares of vegetation. The crisis exposed the nation’s fire monitoring system as being unfit for purpose. Precise real-time information about the area burnt and the intensity of the fires was not available when it was needed, the authors write.
Currently, individual states and territories record bushfires in different ways. This results in data gaps and inconsistencies that make it difficult to accurately assess the fires’ scale and environmental impacts. Through an analysis of satellite data related to the burning that was set in the context of historical fire records, the authors find that the area engulfed was 24% smaller than estimates compiled from government fire records. Even so, they contend, nothing like these bushfires has been seen since the mid-nineteenth century. The fires eclipsed the worst-case scenarios designed to prepare agencies and communities.
“We’re navigating uncharted territory without a compass,” the authors write. “The 2019–20 fires marked a historic crossroads. A national crisis of this magnitude, which will probably happen again, requires a national solution”, they conclude