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Extreme bushfires and the age of violent pyroconvection

Professor Jason Sharples
School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences
UNSW (Canberra)

Over the last few decades, Australia and other fire prone parts of the world have seen an apparent increase in the occurrence of large destructive bushfires, such as those experienced during the 2019/20 Black Summer. These fires defy suppression, consistently result in the loss of life and property, and further impact the cultural, economic, social and political stability of communities. They also produce significant environmental damage with ongoing implications for the ecology and biodiversity of many species. The types of behaviours exhibited by these fires are often at odds with traditional approaches to understanding bushfire, which have primarily relied on information gathered during smaller experimental fires in particular types of vegetation. In contrast, these fires tend to manifest as violent pyroconvective events, which often share more in common with an atmospheric storm than a surface fire. In this talk I will present an overview of recent insights into the occurrence and behaviour of these extreme bushfires and discuss some of the challenges they pose for bushfire risk management.

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