A satellite clue to extreme bushfire threat

The extreme weather conditions that can turn an already dangerous bushfire into an explosive firestorm can now be better predicted, thanks to the work of a 30-year veteran of the Bureau of Meteorology.

Researcher Dr. Graham Mills has found that weather satellite images provide an early warning of high-altitude, super-dry air that, if it descends to the ground, may contribute to radically increasing fire activity. Graham’s theory is that turbulence in the lower atmosphere taps into the dry air, four to five kilometres aboveground and brings it to earth, rapidly reducing the humidity and further drying the fuel load.

Dr. Mills said that pinpointing bands of super-dry air on satellite images, and identifying areas of strong atmospheric mixing through the use of computer models, could provide hours of notice of potentially severe fire risk.

For further information: Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology,

Rob Morton, Tel: +61 3 9669 4188,