Monday, February 24, 2020

Burnt Australia

Australia's ABC has used historical and recent satellite imagery to explore the causes, the extent and the damage caused by this summer's bushfires, particularly in south-east Australia. How Heat and Drought Created a Tinderbox uses the scrollytelling format and satellite imagery to explore the huge effect of this season's wildfires on Australia's eastern seaboard.

ABC's account of the recent fires starts by slowly panning down a satellite image of south-eastern Australia. Infrared imagery is used to show the vast areas which have been burnt by the bushfires which have been raging across Australia since August of last year.

As you continue scrolling ABC uses historical satellite imagery to show the effect that years of drought have had on the Australian landscape, making it a potential tinderbox. Even more recent satellite imagery of the same area is then used to show it covered in smoke during this year's bushfires. The dramatic impact of the fires is further enhanced by switching to infrared satellite imagery, to show the extent of the fires.

Animated satellite imagery from Japan's Himawari weather satellite is also used by ABC to show the huge level of smoke caused by the fires in south-east Australia. The smoke and the resulting air pollution even hit this year's Australian Open, forcing some of the tennis players involved to complain about the conditions. The smoke even blew as far as New Zealand, where people were also hit by the resulting air pollution.

ABC's account of Australia's worst bush-fire season on record is expertly visualized through the use of satellite imagery. The story also includes some devastating statistics. 2019 was Australia's hottest ever year with a temperature 1.52 degrees centigrade above average. At the same time the country experienced its lowest ever rainfall. The worry is that due to global heating these extreme conditions could become the new normal.

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