Showing posts with label Wildfires. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wildfires. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Declining Arctic sea ice may increase wildfires in the western US - & Canada?


Declining sea ice in the Arctic may contribute to increased wildfire activity in the western United States, suggests a modelling study published in Nature Communications. The finding demonstrates the influence that human-induced climate change can have on extreme weather events in the region.

Wildfires in the western US (& Canada) have become more frequent and severe in recent years. Although there is some evidence that Arctic sea ice declines can influence extreme weather conditions in temperate and subtropical regions, the impact on wildfires has been unclear.

Yufei Zou, Hailong Wang and colleagues combined data on wildfire incidence, sea ice concentrations and weather conditions over the past 40 years and conducted model simulations to investigate the relationship between these factors. 

The authors identified an association between declining Arctic sea ice concentrations from July to October and the increasing probability of large wildfires in the western US during the following September to December. The model simulations indicate that declines in Arctic sea ice are linked to air circulation changes that cause hotter and dryer weather conditions, which increase the likelihood of wildfires.

The authors conclude that the influence of Arctic sea ice concentrations on wildfires is of similar magnitude to that of the tropical El Niño Southern Oscillation, which can also modulate regional wildfire conditions. As Arctic sea ice is projected to continuously decline, this could further increase the susceptibility of the western US to wildfires in the future, they suggest.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Australian bushfires triggered prolific phytoplankton blooms vast distances away


Bushfire East of Lake Dundas, Western Australia. Photo by Pierre Markuse

The 2019–2020 Australian wildfires released more than twice as much CO2 as previously reported on the basis of different fire inventories, reports a Nature paper. 

An independent study also published in Nature, suggests that aerosol emissions from these wildfires are likely to have fuelled vast plankton blooms thousands of kilometres away in the Southern Ocean. 

The findings highlight the complex links between wildfires, ecosystems and the climate. Climate-change-driven droughts and warming play a role in increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires, which release CO2 into the atmosphere, potentially driving further climate change and increasing the risk of wildfires. 

In the summer season of 2019–2020, around 74,000 km2 — an area roughly equivalent to 2.5 times the area of Belgium — burned in the eucalyptus forests in the coastal regions of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia. These wildfires are known to have been extremely large in scale and intensity, and to have released large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, but emission estimates remain uncertain.

To gain insights into the amount of CO2 released by the Australia wildfires, Ivar Van der Velde and colleagues analysed new high-resolution satellite measurements of carbon monoxide concentration in the atmosphere, from which they infer fire-induced carbon emissions. They estimated that around 715 teragrams of CO2 were emitted between November 2019 and January 2020 — more than twice the amount previously estimated from five different fire inventories and comparable to a bottom-up bootstrap analysis of this fire episode, surpassing Australia’s normal annual fire and fossil fuel emissions by 80%. 

Gaining a stronger understanding of the atmospheric burden of CO2 caused by these fires, and what they will cause in the future, is critical for constructing future scenarios of the global carbon balance, the authors note.

In addition to carbon emissions, wildfires release aerosols that affect ecosystems; for example, transportation of nutrients such as nitrogen and iron can enhance plankton growth. Nicolas Cassar, Weiyi Tang and colleagues report the presence of extensive phytoplankton blooms from December 2019 to March 2020 in the Southern Ocean, downwind of the fires. Aerosol samples originating from the fires contained high levels of iron, which the authors suggest were transported vast distances and fertilized the blooms.

Together, these studies demonstrate that wildfires can have an important influence on atmospheric CO2 levels and ocean ecosystems.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Deforestation and fires are shrinking Amazonian habitats


 The Amazon - Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Bruno Kelly

The Amazon Basin has a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate and is home to 10% of all known species. Degradation of the forest threatens the resilience of this ecosystem; around 21–40% of the forest cover is predicted to be lost by 2050, which will have large impacts on Amazonian biodiversity. 

To better understand these impacts, Xiao Feng and colleagues investigate how forest fires have been affecting the geographic range of 11,514 plant species and 3,079 animal species over the past two decades.Up to 85% of species listed as threatened in the Amazon may have lost a substantial portion of their habitat owing to deforestation and fires in the past two decades, a study in Nature indicates. It is estimated that for every 10,000 km2 of forest that is burned, about 27–37 additional plant species and about 2 or 3 more vertebrate species that have more than 10% of their range in the Amazon will be affected. As fires move closer to the heart of the Amazon Basin, which has greater levels of biodiversity, the impact of fires on biodiversity is expected to increase.

Since 2001, up to 189,755 km2 of Amazon rainforest have experienced fires - as much as four % of  the total area. This has impacted the ranges of as many as 85 % of species listed as threatened in this region. They note that periods of increased fires correlate with relaxation of policies designed to slow deforestation and forest burning. 

In Brazil, policies to reduce deforestation implemented in the mid-2000s were relaxed in 2019, which saw an increase of up to 28% in fire-impacted area, affecting the ranges of an estimated 12,064–12,801 plant and vertebrate species.

These findings demonstrate the connection between policy and forest fires and how these factors can impact biodiversity, the authors conclude.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


Sierra Club BC  

Wildfires devastate Fort MacMurray, Alberta, CA. Satellite photo by NASA.

Intact Forests Are Our Biggest Allies Against Worsening Wildfires, But We Are Logging Them To The Brink. Story here.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The role we humans play in the continuing decline of Earth's biosphere knows no boundaries. Sadly - an essential part of human life - food production - remains part of the problem.

by Larry Powell

 A thick blanket of smoke again darkens skies over northern India. Every year, farmers light large numbers of small fires between September and December—after the monsoon season—to burn off rice stalks and straw leftover after harvest, a practice known as stubble or paddy burning. (A NASA satellite image.) 
Smoke from burning stubble hovers over a small town in southwestern Manitoba, CA.
Nov. 2020. A PinP photo.

Canada is no stranger to the same practise. While "stubble-burning" in this country did not approach that of India's (at least not this year), numerous such fires were still common again this fall over the eastern prairies (See above) and in past years (below).

Stubble-burning in Manitoba - circa 2005. Photos by PinP.
Wildfire smoke (see brown) over the Canadian prairies last year. A NASA photo.

Smoke from several large wildfires in Canada (now proven to be more severe, frequent and prolonged thanks to manmade climate change) was so thick and widespread that it was easily visible from 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth. NASA captured this image in May, 2019, when a river of smoke was streaming east across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Siberian heatwave of 2020 'almost impossible' without climate change

world weather attribution

Siberian wildfire north of the Arctic Circle. Photo by Pierre Markuse.

In the first six months of 2020, Siberia experienced a period of unusually high temperatures, causing wide-scale impacts including wildfires, loss of permafrost, and an invasion of pests.
Story here. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Arctic is burning in a whole new way


"Where There's Smoke There's Fire" by Western Arctic National Parklands

Widespread wildfires in the far north aren't just bigger; they're different. Details here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Someday, even wet forests could burn due to climate change


A wet "sclerophyll" mixed forest. Might even it be vulnerable in a warming world? 
Photo by Hagasfagas.

Millions of years ago, fire swept across the planet, fuelled by an oxygen-rich atmosphere in which even wet forests burned, according to new research by CU Boulder scientists. Story here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

‘Apocalyptic’ fires are ravaging the world’s largest tropical wetland


Brazilian Pantanal wildfire - "burn scar" by Coordenação-Geral de Observação da Terra/INPE

Infernos in South America’s Pantanal region have burnt twice the area of California’s fires this year. Researchers fear the rare ecosystem will never recover. Story here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tours Fort MacMurray, site of major spring flooding - fails to see his own handiwork amid the damage. (Opinion)

by Larry Powell
Kenney was out inspecting the town of Fort MacMurray and region (above) this morning, where major flooding has resulted in a mandatory evacuation order going out for the entire downtown area. Big trucks and low-lying buildings are reportedly submerged. 

This is the same Premier who "dissed" a reporter recently for daring to ask if this might be the time to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable, sustainable energy. Kenney was especially shocked that the journalist was a member of the Calgary press core, who are apparently all supposed to be cozy little members of the same club, parroting Kenny's anti-science lies about the consequences of continuing to exploit the tar sands. 
Fort Mac - 2016. A Creative Commons photo.

This is also the same Premier who is spending millions of tax dollars from his own citizens, including desperate, unemployed oil workers, to fund a "war room," spreading mis-information about the consequences of a changing climate (more floods, wildfires, rains and droughts) and slandering environmental groups in the process. 

Until this man joins the 21st century, realizes that fossil fuels are "oh-so-20th-century" and begins helping people to re-train for work in alternative, renewables energy projects, he'll get zero sympathy from me. Barely four years ago, catastrophic and historic wildfires decimated the same region, consuming many homes and businesses and raining havoc and misery down on hundreds of local citizens. 

Until we start to hold politicians like this accountable and call them out for the dangerous policies they advocate, these tragedies will only deepen.

In the age of Covid-19, these events are surely the last things we need right now!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Bushfires damaged Australian rainforest that is home to Earth's only living specimens of ancient species

Rainforest foliage in Nightcap National Park, NSW Wales, an international heritage
site hit hard by the bushfires. Photo by Naught101
Recent wildfires in Australia torched more than 48,000 square miles of land (for context, more than 40 Riding Mountain National Parks). The fires impacted ecologically sensitive regions, including an area called the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Site. This region contains a vast concentration of living plants with fossil records from tens of millions of years ago, according to Peter Wilf. Story here.


The hand of man shows through once again in another climate catastrophe.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Bush-fire smoke linked to hundreds of deaths

Bushfire smoke shrouds the Blue Mountains,
as seen from Sydney Harbour Bridge,
Dec.,2019. Photo by Sardaka.
The first study to estimate health effects from Australia’s extreme fires suggests that several thousand extra people were admitted to hospital. Story here.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Record number of fires rage around Amazon farms that supply the world's biggest butchers

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
The summer’s Amazon fires were three times more common in the areas supplying cattle to abattoirs than elsewhere in the rainforest. Details here.

Monday, February 24, 2020

In the line of fire

Nature Climate Change 
The bushfires burning in Australia have led to widespread local and global calls for increased efforts to mitigate climate change. Details here.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

This is the age of the megafire – and it’s being fuelled by our leaders

Tim Flannery for the Guardian
Bushfires spire from Yuraygir National Park,
Australia. Photo by European Space Agency.

In the face of the climate disaster it helped create, the Australian government has given us only lies and denial. Story here.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Wildfires in Western Canada Created Air Pollution Spikes as Far Away as New York City

Eco Watch
Fires around Ft. MacMurray, Alberta, Canada in 2016.
Satellite photo by NASA Earth Observatory.
New York City isn't known for having the cleanest air, but researchers traced recent air pollution spikes there to two surprising sources — fires hundreds of miles away in Canada and the southeastern U.S. Story here.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fires scorching Bolivia’s Chiquitano forest

Science magazine
Wildfires in the Amazon rainforests of Bolivia.
Photo by List Top 10.
The Chiquitano Dry Forest - endemic to Bolivia, highly biodiverse, and considered the world’s best-preserved tropical dry forest - has lost a staggering 1.4 million hectares to fires since July. Story here.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Australian blazes will ‘reframe our understanding of bushfire’

Science Magazine
Fire on Cape Barren Is. Australia, 2016. Photo by Planet Labs, Inc.

Australia is on fire like never before—and this year's "bushfire" season, which typically peaks in January or February, has barely begun. Driven in part by a severe drought, fires have burned 1.65 million hectares in the state of New South Wales, more than the state's total in the previous 3 years combined. Six people have died and more than 500 homes have been destroyed. As Science went to press, some 70 uncontrolled fires were burning in adjacent Queensland, and South Australia was bracing for potentially "catastrophic" burns. David Bowman, a fire geographer and director of the Fire Centre Research Hub at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, spoke with Science about the unprecedented crisis. The flames have charred even wet ecosystems once thought safe, he says. And the fires have become "white-hot politically," with Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Liberal government drawing criticism for refusing to acknowledge any link to climate change.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Fueling Concerns of Approaching Catastrophic 'Tipping Point,' Deforestation of Brazilian Amazon Hit Highest Level in Decade

Common Dreams
Another denizen of the Amazon.
Photo by Tom MacKenzie - 
Fish and Wildlife Service

"These figures confirm what we feared, namely that 2019 has been a dark year for the rainforest in Brazil." 
 Story here.

Diesel vehicles in oil sands operations contribute to regional pollution

EurekAlert Wildfires, cigarette smoking and vehicles all emit a potentially harmful compound called isocyanic acid. The substance has been l...