Australia's 2019-20 catastrophic bushfire season affected 80% of Australians

Randi MannDigital Reporter

Australia's unprecedented bushfire seasons burned 20 per cent of the country's forests.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


The record-breaking Australian bushfire season charred more than 20 per cent of the country's forests. The fires claimed the lives of 479 people, millions of animals, and 9,352 buildings. Between the fires and the smoke, over 80 per cent of the country's population was affected. The country's 2019-20 bushfire season came to be known as Black Summer.

House destroyed in Hillville, NSW on 12 November 2019

House destroyed in Hillville, NSW on 12 November 2019. Courtesy Raginginsanity/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

The fires spanned from June 2019 to May 2020, peaking in January 2020. Aside from the fires' record-breaking size, burning approximately 18,636,079 hectares, scientists noted the immense amount of smoke that was circumnavigating the globe.

By Jan. 7, 2020, the smoke moved into South America, 12,070 km away from Australia. The smoke cloud stayed intact for three months, making its way around the world before returning close to where it originated.

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Canadian researchers examined images from NASA satellites and determined that the smoke plume was three times the size of any previously recorded cloud.

The financial cost of the bushfires amounted to A$103 billion, making it Australia's costliest natural disaster to date.

Image 3 from mario

Australia's devastating fires have generated spectacular pyro-clusters like the one seen in this image. These large clouds of vertical development, help inject particles and gases such as carbon dioxide at high altitudes. Source: NASA

Within the unprecedented and catastrophic year-long event, millions of people were affected, creating many substories.

On Jan. 19, 2020, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) needed to make the call if the 2020 Australian Open, which was scheduled to take place between Jan. 20 and Feb. 2, could proceed despite the poor air quality.

The Grand Slam tennis tournament took place at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria. At the time, the air quality in the city was the worst in the world.

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Some games were delayed due to poor air quality, but the tournament ultimately proceeded. Some players had to call for medical timeouts. Dalila Jakupović experienced a coughing fit due to the poor air quality, and she was forced to retire.

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and other leading players helped raise more than $3.5 million for bushfire relief.

To hear more about Australia's 2019-2020 bushfire season, and its impacts, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail photo: 3-D visualization of Australia's Bushfire. Courtesy of Anthony Hearey