NEWS
08/01/2020 8:47 AM AEDT | Updated 08/01/2020 8:48 AM AEDT

Australian Bushfire Smoke Drifts To South America

Skies as far away as over central Chile have now gone grey and the sunset in Buenos Aires has turned red.

REUTERS
Bushfire smoke has reached South America.

Smoke from bushfires in Australia has drifted across the Pacific and affected cities in South America, and may have reached the Antarctic, the UN World Meteorological Organisation said on Tuesday.

Smoke from the fires had already turned skies bright orange over Auckland in New Zealand.

But skies as far away as over central Chile have now gone grey because of the smoke and the WMO cited reports that the sunset in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, had turned red. 

“The fires have led to hazardous air quality, which has affected human health, in major cities in Australia, spreading to New Zealand and sent smoke drifting thousands of kilometres across the Pacific to South America,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

Smoke had “probably” reached the Antarctic, she said.

The fires, which have raged for months in Australia, have already emitted 400 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and produced harmful pollutants, the EU’s Copernicus monitoring program said on Monday. 

SAEED KHAN via Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A military helicopter flies above a burning woodchip mill in Eden, in Australia's New South Wales state on January 6, 2020. - January 5 brought milder conditions, including some rainfall in New South Wales and neighbouring Victoria state, but some communities were still under threat from out-of-control blazes, particularly in and around the town of Eden in New South Wales near the Victorian border. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Tracey Nearmy / Reuters
Locals use phone apps to get updates on the fire and to anticipate its movements as high winds push smoke and ash from the Currowan Fire towards Nowra, New South Wales, Australia January 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy

Brown sooty deposits have already been reported on glaciers in New Zealand, potentially accelerating the rate at which they are melting, the program said.

The 2019/2020 bushfire season death toll stands at 25, 5.25 million hectares of land has been burnt, a billion animals are feared to have perished,thousands of people have been evacuated from holiday beaches, and more than 1900 homes have been destroyed.

Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay.