Global Voices

Smoke from Australia's fires reached South America

The smoke of Australia's megafires traveled 12,000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean.

Storm clouds. Photo from CC0 public domain.

Chileans have been surprised by cloudy days in the middle of January — uncommon weather for the country's summer season. The anomaly was caused by the smoke coming from Australia's “monster fires,” which reached South America last week, the BBC reports. Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil have been affected.

In Australia, nearly 6,000 km² of land has been burnt after seasonal bushfires were intensified by climate change. The fire claimed the lives of 27 people and, according to one estimate, more than a billion animals. Once the smoke of the flames reached the lower stratosphere, it managed to travel 12,000 kilometers all the way to Chile, unperturbed. The smog that reached South America is not hazardous for the population's health, unlike in Australia.

Images of Chile's meteorological center shared images showing the smoke path across the Pacific Ocean:

The image (RGB True Color of the GOES-16) shows the smoke (light brown) from the Australian wildfires. The smoke has been transported by airflow until Chile and Argentina.

According to Chilean newspaper La Tercera, the sky of the capital Santiago was covered by a cloud that caused a slight drop in temperatures.

This is how the sky looked like in Valizas, Uruguay. Journalist Alberto Siva shared this photo and explained that the smoke altered the color of the sunset, as confirmed by the Uruguayan Institute of Meteorology (INUMET).

A totally #globalized world…
The #INUMET confirms that the special color of the sunset is due to the smoke from the #fires in #Australia.
What happened in Chile and Argentina arrived to Uruguay and was captured in this photo in #Valizas above the creek bed…

And this is how it looked like from Buenos Aires and Patagonia at sunset:

Patagonic sunset!

People have also shared their thoughts on this phenomenon. Ramiro Diez tweeted on how ecological issues around the world are interconnected:

A delicate cloud of smoke covers part of Chile and Argentina.  It comes from the fires in Australia. In ecology nothing happens to “the other.” In ecology everything happens to all of us. In ecology there are no borders.

Nano Stern, a Chilean musician, tweeted about his feeling of despair at how some people deny global warming:

The smoke arrived in Chile
From the fires in Australia…
We are living the retaliation
of the planet and its consumption.
I'm overwhelmed by thinking about it:
The world is burning
and some continue to deny
that the earth is warming.
Could it be that these people are lying
until they drown?

Meanwhile, more than 30,000 people in Sidney, Australia, protested against their government handling of the fire crisis and urged for more climate action on Sunday, January 12, 2020.

Originally published in Global Voices.

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