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Woman rescues burnt koala amidst Aussie bushfires and fire tornadoes fueled by climate change

11/19/2019 9:35 am ET Dara Brewton

Woman rescues burnt koala amidst Aussie bushfires and fire tornadoes fueled by climate change

An Australian woman plucked a struggling koala from the flames wrapping the animal in the shirt off of her own back. The koala was caught up in the bushfires currently ravaging the country, which are being fueled by climate change.

A new analysis shows climate change, El Niño, and other climate drivers are affecting the Australian bushfire season. The data from 39 weather stations and the fire history of 44 years were collected and examined to find this relationship.

With bushfires starting earlier and earlier each year, rescuing koalas, other animals, and even people will become increasingly necessary. New South Wales and Queensland have been in the throes of record-breaking heatwaves and windy conditions that are ripe for fire danger. This year, there have already been two deaths and at least 30 homes lost or severely damaged.

A woman rescued a badly burnt and wailing koala from an Australian bushfire on Tuesday.The koala was spotted crossing…

Posted by NBC News on Tuesday, November 19, 2019

 

The rescued koala, although badly injured, was one of the lucky ones. The bushfires have burned through colonies at an alarming rate this bushfire season including the Lake Innes Nature Reserve which was home to 600 koalas. There are worries that the animal may end up on the endangered species list before it is all over.

“We are very, very concerned,” Koala Conservation Australia President Sue Ashton said.

Bushfires have always been a reality on the continent, however, changed climate conditions have increased the severity of the fires as well as pushing the start date of the season ever earlier. Climate change has caused surface temperatures in Australia to creep up while the amount of rainfall in the cool season has been decreasing for decades.

Climate change is also increasing the frequency of pyrocumulonimbus wildfires or firestorms. The firestorms are fast-moving and so giant they create a weather system much like a thunderstorm without any rain. Instead of raindrops falling from the clouds, there are burning embers being flung about which further spreads the fire. They can even create their own lightning and turn into fire tornadoes.

In the long run, protecting the animals, people, and properties in Australia will require attempts to combat the effects of climate change, like the steps already being taken in New Zealand.

Those looking for more immediate action can make a donation to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. The hospital has a gofundme set up to help raise money for the care of injured koalas.

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