Fire season coming to Southern California and no clouds in sight!


Not getting any better in New Mexico either

❝ June Gloom season is upon Southern California. For as long as anyone can remember, that’s meant clouds wrapping the landscape in a milky white cocoon as cool, moist ocean air known as the marine layer moves inland. But as with everything in our world, this is now changing.

June — and summer as a whole, it turns out — is becoming less cloudy in parts of Southern California. Great for your garden perhaps, but new research shows the trend is also increasing the risk of wildfires, which are on everyone’s mind after last year’s record-setting Thomas Fire. The findings could add a key variable for firefighters and meteorologists to look at to gauge how bad fire conditions will get in a given year.

❝ The research…uses a novel approach of looking at sky observations taken continuously at airports and military airfields from San Diego to Santa Barbara since the 1970s, and linking them up with weather observations. Specifically, the researchers were looking for the occurrence of stratus clouds, which tend to hang out lower as part of the marine layer and keep things cool.

The data shows that stratus cloud cover from May-September has declined 25-50 percent across a number of sites in Southern California owing to the growing urban heat island and climate change. All this extra heat causes the clouds to dissipate or form in areas with less of a cooling impact…

❝ All that extra sunlight coming in is causing more evaporation. Figuring out how much the ground and vegetation are drying out is the key to understanding the relationship between cloud loss and fire conditions.

Interesting article whether you live in wildfire country or not. One more change to the negative side of climate equations. Ignored by flat-earthers and their ilk.

Saving the life of a creature in danger of being burned alive

❝ More than 100,000 acres in Southern California have been burned by wildfires in the last week, with some 27,000 residents being forced to flee areas like Bel Air and the Getty museum. More than 1,000 firefighters are now battling the biggest blaze, named Thomas, which is far from under control…

But as more and more people are forced to flee their homes, there are some uplifting stories coming out of the destruction. In Ventura County, as residents fled Thomas Fire on Highway 1, a passing news crew was able to capture footage of a man doing something pretty amazing at the side of the road…

AFAIK, the young men wouldn’t give his name, didn’t care to be interested by the TV crew.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

The West Is burning — How much blame goes to climate change?


Click to enlargeJohn McColgan, USDA

❝ So far this year, wildfires have scorched nearly 5 million acres in the U.S. That sounds like a lot, but compared to 2015, the season has been downright tame. Last year at this time, more than 9 million acres had already burned, and by the end of the year, that number would rise to more than 10 million — the most on record. In 2015, the Okanogan grew into the largest fire Washington had ever seen, breaking a record set just the year before. California recorded some of its most damaging fires, including the Valley Fire, which torched around 1,300 homes. More than 5 million acres burned in Alaska alone. But that’s not to say that this year has been without drama. For instance, California’s Soberanes Fire, which was sparked by an illegal campfire in July, is still smoldering. The effort it took to contain that blaze is believed to be one of the most expensive — if not the most expensive — wildfire-fighting operations ever.

❝ With wildfire, such superlatives have, paradoxically, become normal. Records are routinely smashed — for acreage burned, homes destroyed, firefighter lives lost and money spent fighting back flames. A study published earlier this year found that, between 2003 and 2012, the average area burned each year in Western national forests was 1,271 percent greater than it was in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Like the extreme hurricanes, heat waves and floods that have whipped, baked and soaked our landscape in recent years, such trends raise the question: Is this what climate change looks like?

❝ John Abatzoglou and his co-author, Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, estimate that human-caused climate change was responsible for nearly doubling the area burned in the West between 1984 and 2015. If the last few decades had been simply dry, instead of some of the hottest and driest on record, perhaps 10.4 million fewer acres would have burned, they say.

❝ Wildfire is particularly responsive to temperature increases because heat dries things out. It sucks moisture from twigs and needles in the forest the same way it does from clothes in a dryer, turning this vegetation into the kindling, or “fine fuel,” that gets wildfires going…

To shore up confidence in their estimates, they repeated the analyses in their study using eight different fuel-aridity metrics and then averaged the results. “One thing that gives me confidence is that all eight of these essentially lead to the same conclusion,” Williams said. “All eight have been increasing. All correlate well with fire.”

❝ In the end, they found that more than half of the observed increase in the dryness of fuels could be attributed to climate change. Fuel aridity, in turn, correlated very closely with fire activity for the time period they looked at — it explained about 75 percent of the variability in acreage burned from year to year. “That means that it is a top dog,” Williams said. “Correlation is not causation, but the correlation is so strong that it’s very hard to get a relationship like this if it’s not real.”

Williams added that as aridity increased, wildfire activity increased exponentially. “This isn’t a gradual process. Every few years we’re kind of entering a new epoch, where the potential for new fires is quite a bit bigger than it was a few years back.”

RTFA for more detail. Once again, science and maths point the finger at responsibility. Not only for cause; but, for the refusal to offer any constructive solutions. Congressional conservatives are so set in their commitment to stopping any change brought by our nation’s first Black president they’re willing to burn in a hell of their own creation.

Yes, of course, they won’t. Neither will the contributors to their demented campaign. The voters who keep them in office? That may be a different story.

Utah law lets authorities take down drones at wildfires


Click to enlarge

Utah’s governor has signed into law a measure that makes the state the first to let authorities jam drone signals and crash the devices specifically for flying too close to wildfires.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office announced Monday that he signed the law over the weekend, just days after lawmakers met in a special session to pass it and a handful of other bills.

State Sen. Evan Vickers, who co-sponsored the law, says it technically allows firefighters and law enforcement to shoot down drones, but they probably won’t do that because it’s too difficult. Instead, authorities are expected to use technology that jams signals and crashes drones.

Utah passed the law after a drone recently was sighted five times over one wildfire, causing firefighters to ground their aircraft and slow their work.

But, but, but…some idjit was seriously getting some dynamite images and video for his YouTube account. Might’ve gone viral and got him a real job.

Oilfield workers on their way back to Alberta to resume oil sands production


This part of the disaster will waitRCMP photo

Workers for one of the largest oil sands companies affected by a massive wildfire in northern Canada will begin returning to the shuttered facilities on Thursday…

Meanwhile, the premier of the province of Alberta and the head of the Canadian Red Cross announced that residents of Fort McMurray, the oil-boom town that was evacuated last week because of the fire, would be offered direct financial aid.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau established a new ad hoc cabinet committee to coordinate federal relief efforts. Trudeau will tour the fire zone on Friday.

Ken Smith, President of Unifor Local 707, a union that represents 3,400 Suncor Energy Inc workers, said the company was starting to fly employees back to its oil sands base plant from Thursday.

“It will take a few days to get the plant up and in condition to start handling feed. The mine can get going as soon as the trucks and shovels are ready, but it will take the plant a bit longer to become functional,” Smith said…

Late Wednesday, Enbridge Inc said it had restarted its 550,000 barrel per day Line 18 pipeline after it was shut as a precaution. The line carries crude from Enbridge’s Cheecham terminal 380 kilometers south to the regional crude trading hub of Edmonton. Enbridge also said crews were on site at its facilities in the Fort McMurray region and confirmed its terminals were not damaged by the wildfire.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc was the first company to resume operations in the area, restarting its Albian Sands mines at a reduced rate. The facility can produce up to 255,000 bpd.

Syncrude, controlled by Suncor, restarted power generation at its oil sands mine in Aurora, north of the city, on Tuesday as it began planning to resume operations. The site has a total capacity of around 315,000 bpd.

I’m not surprised at the priorities established after this disaster. Dare I ask what percentage of profits will be allocated to rebuilding home and lives in Fort McMurray. Or will they continue to flow – like the oil – to benefit shareholders, first and foremost?

Wildfire reconnaissance drone flies test flight over Paradise fire

The National Park Service announced on its Facebook page on Friday than an unmanned aircraft system, otherwise known as a drone, took a test flight over the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park to gather infrared data…

Here’s the park’s statement from the Facebook page:

For the past week an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was utilized on the Paradise Fire. The system was demonstrating possible applications in wildland fire management and suppression. UAS’s can supplement manned aircraft, especially at times of reduced visibility due to smoky conditions and at night when manned firefighting aircraft may be limited in flying.

The primary goal of the UAS on the Paradise Fire was to gather infrared information. This information assisted fire officials in pinpointing the fires perimeter and identifying areas of intense heat. The extremely large old growth trees in the area of the Paradise Fire create a thick canopy that makes mapping the perimeter and observing hotspots from the air very difficult without infrared capabilities.

This was an operational demonstration provided by Insitu, Inc. with no direct cost to the government. The demonstration was one of a series of ongoing missions to further UAS use on wildland fire in national parks and is part of an interagency strategy for UAS integration into wildland fire support. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowed the use of their land for the aircraft launch and recovery site. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capabilities and effectiveness of unmanned aircraft technology on wildland fires. The ultimate goal for UAS use on wildland fire is to supply incident management teams (IMT) with real-time data products, and information regarding fire size and growth, fire behavior, fuels, and areas of heat concentration. Additional applications, such as search and rescue and animal surveys, may be explored…

The ScanEagle UAS that was flown on the Paradise Fire weighed approximately 50 lbs with a wingspan of 10.2 feet. The UAS was only operated within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporary flight restriction (TFR) area. The TFR has been lifted.

Sensible, productive use. I hope our politicians can differentiate between this sort of test/work and go-pro joy rides by ego-smitten basement dwellers who hope to be the next YouTube hit.

In a few more days, I hope the data and analysis from a similar weeklong test in Idaho is released.

Track wildfires around the U.S.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 5.47.02 PM

Monitor wildfires with our interactive wildfires map. The flame icons represent wildfires currently active in the lower 48 states and Alaska. Hover over a given fire to see its name, and if you zoom in you’ll be able to see the outline of the area that’s burning — the so-called fire perimeter. If you click within the perimeter, a window pops up showing the fire’s size in acres, the amount by which the perimeter has grown or shrunk over the past 24 hours, the fraction of the fire that has been contained and other data. There’s also a link to an even more detailed report.

As temperatures warm and large parts of the U.S. become drier, wildfires are becoming more common and widespread — a trend likely to worsen thanks to climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, as well as land use change and population growth. At the same time, population growth in and around lands that typically see wildfires may be responsible for increased losses from these blazes.

Worth checking out. Especially if you live – as I do – within a chunk of the prairie often threatened by wildfire.

Bipartisan group in Congress tries for wildfire preparedness – again


Ain’t enough water here to make tea — much less put out a fire

Efforts to address the upcoming wildfire season are already under way in Congress and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

On Jan. 8, Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., reintroduced H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. The bill aims to fund activities to suppress large fires so that the Forest Service and BLM do not have to draw money from fire-prevention programs. A spokesman for the office of Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said Crapo and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., plan to reintroduce their identical bill in the Senate early next month.

Last year, the bills were co-sponsored by nearly 150 members of Congress and supported by a broad coalition of more than 300 organizations, but did not make it out of committee to be voted on by the full House or Senate…

The bill would budget for catastrophic wildfires in the same way that responses to other natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes are funded. Routine wildland firefighting costs, which make up about 70 percent of the cost of wildfire suppression, would be funded through the normal budgeting and appropriations process. Very large fires, which represent about 1 percent of wildland fires but make up 30 percent of costs, would be funded under existing disaster programs.

The question that remains for Congressional Republicans is will they join Democrats to protect the lives and homes of Americans in regions threatened by wildfire? Comparing the threat to hurricanes and earthquakes means nothing to the idjit votes in Congress. Tea Party and other rightwing nutballs have already demonstrated their willingness to screw over Americans who suffer from natural disasters.

They have refused to support funds either for preparedness or post-disaster remedies. The usual proposal from the Congressional conservative clown show is that funds be taken away from food stamps, unemployment insurance, programs to implement healthcare, education and the general welfare of anyone below the rank of corporate official in our national hierarchy of importance – in order to fund aid to ordinary citizens whose lives have been uprooted by disaster.

Think this will change with Republicans in charge of legislation?