Australia bushfires: Smoke drifts as far as South America | World News

A 3D visualisation of the fires in Australia. Pic: Anthony Hearsey

Smoke from wildfires in Australia is drifting across the Pacific to cities in South America, and may have reached the Antarctic, the UN World Meteorological Organisation has said.

At the weekend, skies turned “apocalyptic” bright orange 1,300 miles away in Auckland, New Zealand, as bushfires continue to wreak destruction in Australia, where so far 24 people have been killed.

Now, skies as far as 7,000 miles away in Chile have gone grey in the thick smoke, with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) citing reports that the sunset in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, had turned red.

“The fires have led to hazardous air quality, which has affected human health, in major cities in Australia, spreading to New Zealand and sent smoke drifting thousands of kilometres across the Pacific to South America,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

The Australian bushfires, which have raged for months, have already emitted 400 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and produced harmful pollutants, according to the EU’s Copernicus monitoring programme.

Brown sooty deposits have also been spotted on glaciers in New Zealand – potentially accelerating the rate at which they melt.

The sky above Auckland in New Zealand turned orange with haze from Australia’s raging bushfires over 1,000 miles away

NASA said the recent satellite images taken of Australia is “just a reminder that smoke does not stay in one place”.

The US space agency added it is evident that the smoke plumes coming from the fires are “travelling on wind currents” and drifting to other countries.

NASA satellite data shows smoke and aerosols generated by the massive fires in Australia. Pic: NASA

A Suomi-NPP satellite image from 4 January shows the aerosols within the smoke plumes from the fires in Australia

Meanwhile, the raging fires are taking a big toll on tourism, reducing some resorts to ghost towns in New South Wales when tourists would usually be jostling for space on its popular beaches.

Authorities have blocked access to Hyams Beach amid a severe drought, record high temperatures and winds fanning blazes as close as 15km (nine miles) away.

According to official data, an area the size of South Korea has now been destroyed by the bushfires.

NASA’s Aqua satellite took this image using the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument on 5 January

More than 10.3 million hectares of land has been razed by the flames so far this summer, turning the skies a hellish orange across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand.

Thousands of people in Australia have been left homeless. Some have spent days without electricity, telecommunications and drinking water.

A kangaroo escapes the flames in Colo Heights

Animals seen in Cobargo, New South Wales

Chris Dickman, a biodiversity expert at the University of Sydney, estimates that almost half a billion animals have perished in the bushfires, which are among the worst the country has ever seen – with the WWF telling Sky News the figure is likely to end up at a billion.

The flames have been exacerbated by a three-year drought and the impact of climate change, although the Australian prime minister has refuted that link.

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Scott Morrison said last month it was “not credible” to say climate change had made a difference and has since been criticised for his response to the fires, notably from residents of a ravaged town he visited.

He has now pledged $2bn Aus (£1.05bn) to a newly-created National Bushfire Recovery Agency, and acknowledged that the ongoing crisis would have a significant impact on the Australian economy.

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