Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Australian Smoke Does a Full Lap Around the Earth

Make no mistake, the billowing smoke from the Australian bushfires is so severe it is expected to complete a circuit of the Earth, returning to the country's skies from the west. 

The smoke has swelled, swirled and surged into the lower stratosphere, reaching 17.7 kilometers above sea level, US space agency NASA said this week. 

It comes as major Australian cities are still struggling with low air quality from bushfire smoke.

Melbourne's skyline as seen from Footscray. Image credit: Jason South

South Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Melbourne's air quality was the the poorest across the world on Monday night. Right until early on Tuesday as the rating plummeted to "hazardous" due to the influx of bushfire smoke. In fact, visibility was down to 900 meters in parts of inner Melbourne. 

Wangaratta in northeast Victoria, Australia, was the third-worst city in the world for air quality at 11 AM, and by 11:30 AM the eastern Melbourne suburb of Doncaster was in fifth place. 

And at 4 PM, according to the World Air Quality index, the Melbourne suburb of Brighton had worse air quality than Shanghai in China and Kolkata in India. 

Australia Post even announced the use of P2 face masks was compulsory for staff working outdoors "in areas where the air quality is rated as very poor or hazardous". 

An Australia Post spokesperson said staff had been informed "that if they're sensitive to poor air quality, feeling unwell, or simply don't feel safe being outdoors today, that indoor work can be provided as an alternative".
"The smoke is expected to make at least one full circuit around the globe, returning once again to the skies over Australia", NASA grimly reported. 

"Over the past week, NASA satellites have observed an extraordinary amount of smoke injected into the atmosphere from the Australian fires and its subsequent eastward dispersal". 

Bushfires have already burnt more than 5.2 million hectares in NSW and 1.3 million hectares in Victoria this fire season. 

The smoke is having a dramatic impact on nearby New Zealand, which has experienced severe air quality issues and a darkening of the color of the snow on the mountains. 

NASA satellites show smoke has traveled more than 6,500 kilometers away from Australia, with some of it reaching Chile, where hazy skies and colorful sunsets have been reported.

And Australian prime minister Scott Morrison still wants to deny climate change?

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