Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas to all

Christmas starts early this year at Moyhu, so I'll take this opportunity to wish readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hopefully bushfire-free. In the spirit of recent examinations of past wildfires (Eli has more), I'll tell the story behind the picture above. The newspaper version is here.

In 2003 and 2006/7, alpine and upland Victoria were swept by long running and very damaging bushfires. The area concerned was rugged terrain and sparsely inhabited. Much was not so far below the snowline, so the trees there were not very tall, and the fuel somewhat less than for our wilder lowland fires. They were in summer, but not exceptionally hot weather, and of course cooler there. Consequently they burnt relatively slowly, with a fair chance of defending critical areas. Some were fought with great energy and danger to crews; this could not be expended everywhere, so they burnt for weeks and did much damage to mountain forests that take a long time to regrow.

In December, 2006, our most popular ski resort, Mt Buller, was surrounded by fires, again burning over long periods. Although as said the conditions did not make for extreme wildfire, any eucalypt fire is dangerous when it runs up a hill slope. The many buildings of Mt Buller sit near the peak at about 1500 m altitude, and there is a single winding road out, which became impassable on 22nd December. So the fire crews who had assembled were on their own. Fortunately, the resort had a large water storage used for snow-making. But there was a long perimeter to defend.

By the 23rd, flames were at that perimeter. I was at Buller the following winter, and saw that it had come right up to a northern edge road, with major buildings just on the other side. And it was pretty close on all sides. Fortunately, some rain came that evening, but still, there were more flareups on Christmas Eve.

At last, later on the Eve, more serious rain came with another change in the weather, and somewhat amazingly for our summer solstice, it turned to snow. That indeed marked the end of the danger to the mountaintop. In the morning, when they awoke to a very welcome white Christmas, this photo was taken.

Again, may your Christmas be as merry. With special hopes for those in the region of the Thomas fire.


  1. A wonderful and long Christmas holiday to you and yours and all and theirs.

    1. Thanks Eli, and best wishes for your coming year, and bunny-world.

  2. Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a wonderful year in 2018, Nick. May the north east be bushfire free this summer.

    Thank you for the fabulous work you do here and at that other place (and elsewhere).

    1. Thanks Sou, and my best wishes for your year, and also the work you do, and the community you create.

      And echoing you hopes for no bushfires.

  3. To Nick & alii here at moyhu

    Joyeux Noël
    Frohe Weihnachten
    Merry Xmas

    J.-P. near Berlin

  4. Merry Christmas to Nick and all the moyhu folks.

  5. Large fires are certainly unwelcome by most humans, but part of nature. We humans are part of nature. We do have some influence, but the issues with large fires are very complex and fires have been an integral part of nature since well before any humans came around. I don't believe we have yet fully mastered the situation.

    My grandparents built a nice cabin high in the mountains of southwestern Colorado that is now a family time share. Back in 2013 after several severe drought years a wind storm fanned the flames of a huge fire that approached the cabin, but thankfully the winds subsided when the fire was only a few miles away and it was brought under control and died out. In 2015 I visited the cabin area and saw some of the burned areas as well as huge forests killed by a severe beetle infestation exacerbated by the drought. We humans need to learn more from nature.

    As I was walking through my new neighborhood recently, I noticed a sign in one of the yards that said "Merry everything and happy forever". Sounds good to me and these are my sentiments for this blog and readers as well. Keep up the good analytical work and may true science prevail.

    1. Thanks, Bryan,
      Yes, fires are part of nature, and these, mostly started by lightning and not obviously weather-forced, seem to belong. The big worry for us are the infernos that come on exceptionally hot days. We had our hottest day on record in Feb 2009, and the fires took two towns. Getting even hotter would be a worry.
      All the best with your own analyses, and for the new Year.

  6. Merry Christmas Nick. Thank you for another very informative year. i find myself wrong about so many things, but you show me how.