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UArizona professor warns Arizona could face fire seasons similar to the disaster in Australia

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 20:17:38-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Wildfires are raging across the continent of Australia. Dozens of people are feared dead along with half a billion animals.

Climate scientists say wildfires will be on the increase as the planet warms and a University of Arizona Professor says southern Arizona could soon be facing similar conditions to what is happening across the ocean.

“They are sitting climatologically in a very similar spot, they are getting absolutely slammed this year and we worry it may at some point be our turned,” said Oceanographer Joellen Russell.

She says parts of Australia and the Southwest United States are like mirror images of each other.

They have the Simpson desert and we have the Sonoran. Both have been generally warming and both areas depend on westerly winds for winter rains.

“The westerly jets are migrating slightly poleward which is bad for us in southern Arizona because we might get fewer storms in the winter and its bad for Australia because their jets migrating south contributing to their massive drought.”

Russell says the increase in wildfires in Australia are a product of climate change.

“It's warm! This is the anomaly in temperature, this is how much warmer everywhere in the ocean,” said Russell pointing at a graph of sea surface temperatures.

And she says our region could be heading towards a similar fate.

“Here comes the heat. It’s already here the ocean is giving us back just a little, and i think we should brace, brace, brace,” said Russell.

In addition to preparing for future fires, Russell says Arizonan’s have a good reason to lead the charge for clean energy and reducing carbon emissions.

Arizona is linked to Australia by more than similar climate challenges. 6 forest service employees from Arizona and one meteorologist from the national weather service office in Tucson have been sent to help with the efforts there.