Australia has always dealt with wildfires in what it calls "bushfire seasons." These fires can start small—such as a harmless-seeming cigarette butt that wasn't stubbed—and grow into infernos due to fierce winds, droughts, etc. This year, the fires are unexpectedly bad, owing to record-breaking heat.
Half a billion animals already estimated dead
The impact on fauna was much greater with Professor Chris Dickman, University of Sydney, estimating that 480 million animals have died in worst-affected New South Wales (NSW), where 136 fires were burning as of Monday.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley extrapolated that since a third of Koala's habitat was wiped out, a third of their population may have also been killed in the fires.
What are the authorities doing?
Reportedly, around 2,700 firefighters were attempting to douse the flames as of Sunday. Three firefighters also lost their lives in the bushfires.
The United States and Canada have sent crews of firefighters to Australia to help local authorities contain the blaze, which is hot enough to cause thunder and lightning.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged 2 billion Australian dollars for recovery efforts.
How can you help the victims of Australia fires?
You can donate to firefighting efforts in NSW here, in Victoria here, in South Australia here, and in Queensland here.
There are several other online fundraisers, but be wary of scams.
Why should you care?
If not out of basic concern for life, wherever it may be, the Australian fires are massive enough to possibly alter weather elsewhere.
Meteorologist Marshall Shepherd noted in Forbes that the possibility of the wildfires impacting global weather is "not surprising" since human activities such as emission of greenhouse gases and land-use change (deforestation, agriculture, etc.) have come to dominate natural climate drivers recently.