We spent long periods shrouded in smoke due to the 2019-2020 bushfires that burned upwards of 12 million hectares. In addition to the tragic loss of life and devastation to ecosystems and infrastructure, there were significant levels of smoke exposure across Australia. The lives lost as a direct result are likely to number in the hundreds. Approximately 10 million people experienced elevated concentrations of fine particles on account of the recent fires, exposed to an air quality equivalent to smoking between 20 to 40 cigarettes. These ultrafine particles, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (a ninth of a grain of sand), are referred to as PM2.5 particles. Following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended that 5% of public land should be burned annually to reduce the risk of catastrophic bushfires. While protective against large, uncontrollable bushfires, these prescribed burns produce smoke that can have a significant impact on health.
The latest edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria is now online, featuring a new species of calcareous sponge discovered in Geelong, a spectacular new H5 meteorite in Maryborough, an account of Indigenous meteorological knowledge using stellar scintillation, a reclassification of fossil graptolites from the early Bendigonian, a case for regulated investment in a resilient electricity network, an account of the Bureau of Meteorology’s new extreme heatwave event forecasting service, and a discussion on whether a similar service might be required for cold extremes.