Cartoon tackles climate change and fire for National Science Week

A new animation on the science of bushfires and climate change is being released this weekend (August 15-16) as part of National Science Week.

The animation was developed by local community science initiative Science at the Local in collaboration with Blue Mountains-based designer David Shooter and Wollongong animation studio Rockshelf Productions.

"As much as I love textbooks and lectures, they're not the only place for learning about science," said Science at the Local co-founder, Dr Hamish Clarke, whose day job is researching bushfires at the University of Wollongong.

"This cartoon tells the story of how climate change is influencing four important drivers of fire - which we're calling the Four Friends of Fire.

"One of my influences in developing this was the terrific Climate Kelpie series, which likens drivers of rainfall like El Nino to working farm dogs.

"When the chance came to work with a top class designer and animator to develop my own animation, I jumped at it," said Dr Clarke.

The result, launched in 2019, was the Four Friends of Fire, a short video introducing the major biophysical drivers of fire as characters: Phil is fuel, Des is dryness, Iggy is an ignition and Wes is the weather.

For Science Week in 2020 a second installment in the series is being released on how the Four Friends of Fire are influenced by climate change. It's extremely topical, given the devastating fire season of 2019/20 and the reports soon to be handed down by state government inquiries and a Royal Commission.

Dr Clarke is hoping people will watch, share and comment on the video and has also developed a survey seeking feedback from people to help shape future episodes.

"The animation is partly about sharing some of the amazing bushfire science that's taken place in Australia and around the world. But let's be honest, it's also about entertainment. I think people of all ages and backgrounds are going to enjoy meeting the Four Friends of Fire."