Megafires are becoming common!

What the US Forest Service once characterized as a four-month-long fire season starting in late summer and early autumn now stretches into six to eight months of the year. Wildfires are starting earlier, burning more intensely and scorching swaths of land larger than ever before. Risks for large, catastrophic fires like the Camp fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018 are rising…

More than half of the 20 largest fires in California history burned in just the last four years. Eight of the top 20 fires in Oregon occurred in that time frame too. Last year, Arizona saw the most acres burned in its history. California’s August Complex fire, which consumed more than 1m acres alone, became the first-ever giga-fire in 2020. The Dixie fire this year came close to becoming the second, burning through more than 963,200 acres…

The conditions that set the stage for a staggering escalation in wildfire activity in the American west are layered and complicated, but the climate emergency is a leading culprit…

There are still solutions and mitigations that could slow the shift in intensity – but researchers say that window is closing.

“The trends that are driving this increase in fire risk, fire size, fire severity over time are continuing – that’s climate change.”

Until and unless people press politicians to act upon climate change, reversing human-made trends decades in the making, the dangers to whole communities, whole states, regional disasters, will continue and increase.

Wildfire smoke stretches over the GOUSA, coast to coast

The massive Bootleg Fire in Oregon has scorched an area larger than Los Angeles, and it’s only 30% contained. The fire is so large and is burning so hot that it’s creating its own weather.

It’s just one of the many blazes raging in the West; the National Interagency Fire Center is watching 80 large fires across 13 states this week – a testament to just how destructive the US wildfire season has become…And the effects of the fires stretch all the way to the East Coast

In some areas, the smoke has reached the ground level, where it can be a health concern. Air quality alerts have been issued hundreds of miles from the flames, as far east as Pennsylvania and New York.

Never seen it this bad in New Mexico in all the years I’ve lived here.

Wildfire smoke ain’t like some family campfire, folks!


Daytime, Juniper Hills, California

The West Coast’s wildfire crisis is no longer just the West Coast’s wildfire crisis: As massive blazes continue to burn across California, Oregon, and Washington, they’re spewing smoke high into the atmosphere. Winds pick the haze up and transport it clear across the country, tainting the skies above the East Coast.

But what are you breathing, exactly, when these forests combust and waft smoke near and far? Charred trees and shrubs, of course, but also the synthetic materials from homes and other structures lost in the blazes. Along with a variety of gases, these give off tiny particles, known as PM 2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller), that weasel their way deep into human lungs. All told, the mixture of solids and gases actually transforms chemically as it crosses the country, creating different consequences for the health of humans thousands of miles apart. In other words, what you breathe in, and how hazardous it remains, may depend on how far you live from the Pacific coast…

As the smoke plume travels through the atmosphere, “the heavier particles are going to start to fall out as time moves on,” says Rebecca Buchholz, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “But then those sticky, partially burnt carbon gases are going to start to coagulate and become more particles again. So you’re losing particles out of the smoke, but you’re also gaining particles as the air processes through time.”

Another atmospheric nasty we’re all too familiar with forms as well: ozone, which inflames your airways. “Ozone requires carbon-containing gases, nitrogen-containing gases, and sunlight,” says Buchholz. “And so the more processing time you have, the more ozone is going to get created in that smoke plume.”

There are parts of the West where breathing the air has been evaluated as the equivalent of smoking 400 cigarettes! Today, wasn’t that bad in my neck of the prairie – here in northern New Mexico. But, after a morning try, I had to give up my usual regimen of exercise walking. My breathing, my eyes, just had too much of a bad thing to deal with.

There is this black cloud wandering over our planet…


Currently, drifting over the Pacific Ocean

The scientific name is cumulonimbus flammagenitus, but the more common nickname is ‘fire cloud.’ NASA calls them the “fire-breathing dragon of clouds,” according to their website.

One of the largest fire clouds ever recorded has been drifting around the Southern Hemisphere for over a month. Heat and freak thunderstorms generated by Australia’s massive wildfires sent ash and toxic materials high into the atmosphere, where they formed a massive dark cloud of debris. It’s been measured at 15 miles high at some points, and at one point it covered more than 1 million square miles — about half the size of Canada.

NASA has been tracking the massive cloud from space as it slowly drifted over to South America and then looped back toward Oceania where it hovered over New Zealand, turning glaciers brown, and perhaps hastening their melting.

As Australian firefighters get their blazes under control, the cloud has been dissipating. Health experts say toxic chemicals and debris eventually drop back to Earth, through the air or within raindrops, where they can be inhaled or ingested by humans and animals…

And that ain’t all. Click the link above and RTFA.

FIRE SCIENTISTS ARE CONFIDENT: THIS WILL GET WORSE

❝ As of July 31, more than 25,000 firefighters are committed to 140 wildfires across the United States—over a million acres aflame. Eight people are dead in California, tens of thousands evacuated, smoke and pyroclastic clouds are visible from space. And all any fire scientist knows for sure is, it only gets worse from here. How much worse? Where? For whom? Experience can’t tell them. The scientists actually are uncertain.

❝ Scientists who help policymakers plan for the future used to make an assumption. They called it stationarity, and the idea was that the extremes of environmental systems—rainfall, river levels, hurricane strength, wildfire damage—obeyed prior constraints. The past was prologue. Climate change has turned that assumption to ash…

❝ Wildfires were always part of a complex system. Climate change—carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases raising the overall temperature of the planet—added to the complexity. The implications of that will play out for millennia. “On top of that is interaction between the climate system, the ecosystem, and how we manage our land use,” Westerling says. “That intersection is very complex, and even more difficult to predict. When I say there’s no new normal, I mean it. The climate will be changing with probably an accelerating pace for the rest of the lives of everyone who is alive today.”

Fools who voted for Trump not only fooled themselves – they have condemned their children, grandchildren and generations to come to the new holocaust.

Fighting wildfires is becoming more and more expensive

❝ Just six months after the devastating Thomas Fire – the largest blaze in California’s history – was fully contained, the 2018 fire season is well under way. As of mid-July, large wildfires had already burned over 1 million acres in a dozen states. Through October, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts above-average wildfire activity in many regions, including the Northwest, Interior West and California.

Rising fire suppression costs over the past three decades have nearly destroyed the U.S. Forest Service’s budget. Overall funding for the agency, which does most federal firefighting, has been flat for decades, while fire suppression costs have grown dramatically.

❝ Earlier this year Congress passed a “fire funding fix” that changes the way in which the federal government will pay for large fires during expensive fire seasons. This is vital for helping to restore the Forest Service budget. But the funding fix doesn’t affect the factors that drive costs, such as climate trends and more people living in fire prone landscapes…

Why are costs increasing so dramatically? Many factors have come together to create a perfect storm. Climate change, past forest and fire management practices, housing development, increased focus on community protection and the professionalization of wildfire management are all driving up costs.

What can we expect as a response from a Congress that as presently constituted answers mostly to a base that wants fewer costs, no taxes and, of course, no responsibility for any environment?

California utility PG&E faces billion$ in fines, lawsuits for wildfire death and damages


Click to enlargeDavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg

❝ Late Friday, California confirmed what many across the state’s devastated wine country had suspected for months: Equipment owned by utility giant PG&E Corp. ignited some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires that tore through their homes in October.

The most unexpected and crucial part of the findings, though, was at the very bottom of California’s end-of-day statement: The state had found evidence of alleged violations of law by PG&E in connection with eight of the blazes…

❝ That evidence — which California’s fire agency has now sent to county prosecutors — could make or break PG&E in the dozens of lawsuits over the Northern California fires that altogether killed 44 people, consumed thousands of homes and racked up an estimated $10 billion in damages. The alleged violations could also expose PG&E to criminal charges only two years after the San Francisco company was convicted of breaking safety rules that led to a deadly gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California.

I have no idea what portion of American corporations are dumb enough to think that skipping safety requirements to save a buck or two ever pays off over time. PG&E has to be as short-sighted as derivative investors in 2007 – or Trump voters.

Climate change a major issue for forestry planning


Ho/The Canadian Press

❝ Canada loses 20 times more forested land to fires and invasive bugs each year than it does to harvesting wood for industry — and Canada’s lumber association says climate change is making it worse.

❝ Derek Nighbor, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, says he believes developing plans to address the impacts a warming planet is having on Canada’s forests needs to be a priority.

“We spend a lot of time looking back at history and trends but we (have) got to be looking forward and doing some modelling in terms of the warming climate and how do we stay ahead of this so we can ensure healthy forests for the future,”…

❝ Nighbor said Canadians have to take time to figure out what the forest looks like in the future.

How can we ensure a healthy forest, one that balances ecological imperatives, social imperatives, economic opportunities for the country…”

Or they could follow the American model and put a government in charge that couldn’t care less about environmental causes and effects. Especially if that consideration negatively affected profits – short-term – for corporate owners.

What do you think 102 million dead trees mean for wildfire danger in California?


Click to enlarge

The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.

Officials said they were alarmed by the increase in dead trees, which they estimated to have risen by 36 million since the government’s last survey in May. The U.S. Forest Service, which performs such surveys of forest land, said Friday that 62 million trees have died this year alone….

Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation…

Although California enjoyed a wet start to the water year in Northern California, the central and southern parts of the state remain locked in what federal officials classify as “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.

Sooner or later – hopefully, the former – folks will realize that climate change means more than a couple paragraphs about global warming. Distorted climates produce untypical environments, often ending in disaster.