2006-2007 Bush Fire Season
Link to Aussie Hot Spots Map
The Australian Bush fire Hot Spots map is updated every 12 hours using source data obtained from the NASA Earth Observation Satellites Terra and Aqua and is processed by Geoscience Australia. The satellites orbit the Earth collecting data in a path 2330 km wide. They pass over Australia up to three times a day.
Satellite photo of smoke from bush fires
Satellite image of smoke from the fires in Southeastern Australia, taken by NASA satellite on December 8, 2006
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Eastern and south-eastern Australia has been suffering below average rainfall for a number of years and the winter and spring rains of 2006 were some of the lowest on record. It's no surprise then that the 2006-07 Australian bush fire season had an early start with fires in spring time.

The season opened in late September as bush fires began burning in the Southern Highlands, Shoalhaven, Hawkesbury River and Hunter Valley regions of New South Wales, Australia. A series of lightening strikes in the Blue Mountains left Sydney covered in smoke in November, and by early December bush fire was breaking out in Victoria, covering Melbourne with heavy smoke.

Melbourne covered by bushfire smoky haze
The city of Melbourne is covered with a smoky haze during the 2006-2007 bush fire season.

Fires ravaged through the Gippsland region of Victoria throughout December and January, causing loss of homes, livestock, property and one life. By the end of January, an estimated one million hectares had been burned throughout Victoria, destroying 41 homes.

As of March 17th, there have been 1,008 fires on public lands, making this only the second fire season in Victoria's history with more than 1,000 fires recorded. At the height of the summer fires, more than 4,300 firefighters, 600 tankers,1 80 bulldozers and 60 aircraft were fighting fires over a 69-day period. And bush fire season isn't over yet.

Blame El Niño?
A weak to moderate El Niño event developed in mid-2006, which may explain the severity of the 2006-2007 fire season in Eastern Australia. When the surface of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean warms up under the tropical sun, it causes heavy rainfall in South America, but severe droughts in eastern Australia. The more intense the El Niño, the more intense the Australian drought.

According to the data, 2006 was the eleventh warmest year in Australia 1910, which is when temperatures began to be recorded for future scientific comparisons. And while rainfall was close to normal when averaged over the whole country, it was well below normal in the southeast and far southwest.

Scientists announced on February 22nd that this El Niño event was over, and declared that there is a higher-than-average chance of the El Niño being followed by a La Nina weather pattern. La Nina events are generally associated with wetter-than-normal conditions across much of the eastern half of Australia from about autumn, offering hope of drought-breaking rains and a quieter bush fire season for 2007-2008.


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