New Zealand sees effects of Australia bushfires burning more than 1,200 miles away
The sky in parts of New South Wales glowed bright orange on Jan. 4 as smoke from several giant bushfires in the state’s south filled the air.
Australians aren't the only ones dealing with the effects from the ferocious bushfires -- parts of New Zealand were blanketed with thick smoke which turned the sky a gloomy-looking orange in early January.
Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, was among the areas recently shrouded by an orange haze. Local Auckland resident Gala Georgette told AccuWeather during an interview that she has never seen anything like this before in her life.
“The mood in the city was eerie – it felt almost apocalyptic. It was very sobering. We have known about the Australian fires for months, but this made the reality and the severity of the situation unavoidably clear," Georgette said. "Auckland is over 2000 km away from the fires, about the distance from Houston to New York, so the extent of the smoke coverage was really shocking. We all feel a bit helpless."
Auckland, New Zealand, is more than 1,200 miles from southeastern Australia where bushfires have raged since September, sparking evacuations and killing hundreds of millions of animals thus far. (Google Maps)
Many people stayed indoors as smoke shrouded Auckland on Jan. 4, 2020, and Georgette said the city was almost empty.
“There were no cars at the gas station, none of the usual chatter that you hear on the streets, no one around. When I was at the waterfront taking photos, the apartments were lined with families looking out their windows. The seagulls flying overhead were in distress. It was an unbelievable scene,” Georgette said.
Georgette remembers the light was completely normal in the morning but around 12 p.m., the light started turning yellow and within an hour the sky darkened to a deep orange color. Georgette had to turn the lights on in her house in the middle of the afternoon to see what she was working on.
“By 3 p.m. I had to put my work down because I couldn’t focus. It felt ‘wrong’ doing usual tasks. That’s when I went for a walk and took the photos,” Gala said.
In the image below, Georgette was enjoying the clear blue skies before Australia's bushfire smoke enveloped the sky, which is shown on the right.
The before picture on the left shows a clear blue sky and the after picture on the right shows an eerie orange sky in Auckland, New Zealand. The after picture was taken on Jan. 4, 2020, just two weeks after the before photo. There are no filters applies to the images. (Twitter/GalaGeorgette)
“Social media started blowing up,” Georgette said. “Everyone was posting photos from their backyards. We were all a bit scared.”
“I was born and raised in Auckland and I have never seen anything even close to this. We have had some ‘red’ sunsets in the past due to Australian fires, but nothing like this. I also lived in Melbourne (Australia) for two years. There was a heatwave in 2013 and several rural areas around Melbourne suffered from bushfires but, even then, the city of Melbourne didn’t experience anything like what I saw in Auckland,” Georgette said.
During the event, Georgette saw that Asthma New Zealand issued a caution and asked all asthmatics to check their inhalers.
“The morning after the smoke event, my lungs felt heavier than usual and I have a cough. I was at the doctor today and she said that she has been wheezing. Auckland’s air is generally very clean considering the population of the city, so we definitely noticed a difference,” Georgette said.
Smoke from the Australian Bushfire shrouding everything in orange. (Twitter/GalaGeorgette)
AccuWeather Meteorologist Adam Douty said the sky looks orange due to different sizes of particles in the atmosphere scattering light in different ways.
"On a clear day, particles in the atmosphere scattered blue light, which is why the sky appears blue. The smoke particles in the atmosphere are a different size than what we typically see, and thus it scattered a different color," Douty said.
"In this case, it scatters orange light. In some cases, the particles of smoke can be slightly larger or smaller, or at different elevations in the atmosphere, which can scatter different colors such a red," Douty said.
The orange tint to the sky gave locals and tourists the feeling of looking through a sepia filter.
A blood-red sky has been seen in parts of Australia where locals have taken to social media to show the eerie scene.
The wind is to blame for the smoke traveling such extreme distances, which can be seen in the satellite image below.
“Once the ash from the fire is lifted high into the atmosphere, it can then be carried great distances by strong winds at that altitude,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister said.
A strong eastern wind ahead of a cold front swept the ash toward New Zealand, Douty said, adding that this was the same wind that helped to fuel the flames in Australia.
The concentration of smoke is much greater than is typically seen due to the size and intensity of the fires, Douty said.
This photo shows the smoke from southeastern Australia being transported, by the wind, to New Zealand on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (RAMMB)
"It is possible Tasmania sees some smoke around the middle of the week," Douty said.
“The main thing I want to stress is how unprecedented this was. The world has a tendency to group Australia and New Zealand, but the geographical distance between the two places is huge," Georgette said. "They need all the help they can get at the moment. If you are able to donate, please do so."
After the start of new year, precipitation, mixed with smoke and ash from the Australia fires, helped to paint the Franz Josef glacier an orange hue. The fast-moving glacier is a popular tourist destination in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, which is located on the western coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
"Carmelised" snow caused by dust from Australian bushfires is seen near Franz Josef glacier in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand, Jan. 1, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. Picture taken January 1, 2020. Social media/via REUTERS
“This is similar to how Saharan dust can be swept from Africa northward into Europe, and then can cause orange or brown snowfall,” Leister said.Report a Typo
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