Climatic Change

, Volume 139, Issue 1, pp 85–99 | Cite as

Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire

  • Jason J. SharplesEmail author
  • Geoffrey J. Cary
  • Paul Fox-Hughes
  • Scott Mooney
  • Jason P. Evans
  • Michael-Shawn Fletcher
  • Mike Fromm
  • Pauline F. Grierson
  • Rick McRae
  • Patrick Baker


Bushfires are one of the most frequent natural hazards experienced in Australia. Fires play an important role in shaping the landscape and its ecological dynamics, but may also have devastating effects that cause human injuries and fatalities, as well as broad-scale environmental damage. While there has been considerable effort to quantify changes in the occurrence of bushfire in Australia, a comprehensive assessment of the most extreme bushfire cases, which exact the greatest economic and environmental impacts, is lacking. In this paper we reflect upon recently developed understanding of bushfire dynamics to consider (i) historical changes in the occurrence of extreme bushfires, and (ii) the potential for increasing frequency in the future under climate change projections. The science of extreme bushfires is still a developing area, thus our conclusions about emerging patterns in their occurrence should be considered tentative. Nonetheless, historical information on noteworthy bushfire events suggests an increased occurrence in recent decades. Based on our best current understanding of how extreme bushfires develop, there is strong potential for them to increase in frequency in the future. As such there is a pressing need for a greater understanding of these powerful and often destructive phenomena.


Regional Climate Model Fire Regime Fire Event Large Fire Fire Occurrence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper was a result of collaboration through the ‘Trends and Extremes’ working group as part of the Australian Water and Energy Exchanges Initiative (OzEWEX). The authors are grateful to Brian Potter and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason J. Sharples
    • 1
    Email author
  • Geoffrey J. Cary
    • 2
  • Paul Fox-Hughes
    • 3
  • Scott Mooney
    • 4
  • Jason P. Evans
    • 5
  • Michael-Shawn Fletcher
    • 6
  • Mike Fromm
    • 7
  • Pauline F. Grierson
    • 8
  • Rick McRae
    • 9
  • Patrick Baker
    • 10
  1. 1.School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical SciencesUniversity of New South WalesCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityActonAustralia
  3. 3.Bureau of MeteorologyHobartAustralia
  4. 4.School of Biological Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Centre for Excellence for Climate System Science and Climate Change Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.School of GeographyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  7. 7.US Naval Research LaboratoryWashingtonUSA
  8. 8.Ecosystems Research Group, School of Plant BiologyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  9. 9.Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services AgencyCanberraAustralia
  10. 10.School of Ecosystem and Forest SciencesUniversity of MelbourneRichmondAustralia

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