Western Wildfires

In late July of 2018, massive wildfires blazed across Northern California. At the same time in Colorado, weather alerts went out warning of heavy thunderstorms and baseball-sized hail.

The two disasters were separated by a thousand miles, but scientists are now finding they’re connected.

The massive clouds of smoke and heat that rise out of Western wildfires are having far-reaching effects across the country, even beyond hazy skies. That summer, the smoke blew to the Central U.S., where it ran headlong into summertime thunderstorms that were already forming.

The collision made those storms even more extreme, boosting the rainfall and hail by more than 30 percent, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Scientists are showing that things are really connected to each other,” says Danielle Touma, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in the study. “And we can’t just think about where we live, but we have to think about what’s happening in other parts of the world.”

Mother Nature often is more of dialectician than your local Weatherman. Fortunately, the folks doing the analysis are still closer to science – than the popular publication side of the process.

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