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NASA data reveals rise in bushfire numbers

The number of bushfires in Australia increased by about 40% in the six-year period to 2013, according to a computer model developed by CSIRO Data61 scientists.

Using NASA satellite data providing fire latitude, longitude and intensity, the research team determined weekly numbers of bushfires with more than 90% accuracy.

“The NASA data we used is called wildfire hotspot data,” scientist Ritaban Dutta told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “We looked at the Australian part they provided… and calculated the frequency based on that.

”We compared the frequency from 2007 until 2013, and we found that it has increased.”

The study was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

The findings are based on more than 336 weeks of fire frequency profiles, and show there were 4595 bushfires per week in 2013, up from 3284 in 2007.

“This shows that weekly bushfire frequencies for the Australian major climatic zones have increased by 40% since 2007,” the study says.

“From the recent history of Australian bushfires, the most effective methodology to save life is believed to be early planned evacuation and early societal awareness and alerting.”

It is estimated summer catastrophes since November, including bushfires along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and WA’s southwest, have cost insurers more than $500 million.

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