California’s Carr Fire may have unleashed the most intense fire tornado ever observed in the U.S.

California’s Carr Fire may have unleashed the most intense fire tornado ever observed in the U.S.

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: August 3, 2018 SNIP: A tornado? Scary. Wildfire? Horrific. A tornado made out of fire? Just about the most terrifying thing Mother Nature can whip up. On July 26, the Carr Fire near Redding, Calif., unleashed a vortex with winds so strong it uprooted trees and stripped away their bark. On Thursday, the National Weather Service estimated the fire-induced tempest packed winds in excess of 143 mph. Such wind strength is equivalent to an EF3 tornado, on the 0-to-5 scale for twister intensity. “This is historic in the U.S.,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, told BuzzFeed News. “This might be the strongest fire-induced tornado-like circulation ever recorded.” While the National Weather Service forecast office in Sacramento described the vortex as a fire whirl, our analysis suggests this was an actual tornado. Fire whirls are much more common. They are the equivalent of dust devils and shed off by large wildfires by the hundreds. But this vortex’s rapidly-rotating updraft that was embedded in cloud-based rotation bore the hallmarks of a textbook tornado. The funnel produced tornado-like damage, too. It tore trees from the ground, destroyed additional structures and even collapsed/twisted large high-tension electrical...
How climate change is making disasters like the Carr Fire more likely

How climate change is making disasters like the Carr Fire more likely

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: July 30, 2017 SNIP: Firefighters are waging war against 17 wildfires that cover 200,000 acres in California this week. Front-line dispatches suggest that, at least at times, they’ve lost the battle. The bodies of two children were found under a wet blanket with the remains of their great-grandmother hovering over them. Three firefighters and one bulldozer operator are dead. More than 700 homes have burned to the ground. Crews have struggled, at least in part, because they have never seen fires behave like this before. “What we’re seeing in California right now is more destructive, larger fires burning at rates that we have historically never seen,” Jonathan Cox, a Cal Fire spokesman, told CNN on Monday morning. Several specific conditions are feeding the inferno. Afternoon temperatures have peaked in the triple digits around Redding, Calif., since early last week. The dew point — a measure of how much moisture is in the air — dropped precipitously through Thursday afternoon until humidity was 10 percent as the temperature reached 110 degrees. On top of that, the soil in Northern California is exceptionally dry. A hotter-than-average summer and a very dry winter have led to tinder-dry vegetation. When it ends Tuesday, this month will become Redding’s hottest July on record, with an average temperature of 86.7 degrees. The energy release component, or how much fuel is available for the fire, is at the highest it has been around Redding since at least 1979. As Earth’s average temperature warms because of human-made climate change, topsoil will continue to dry out, according to the 2017 National Climate Assessment. “The...
Huge wildfires are spreading in California, Oregon, and Colorado. They’re poised to get worse.

Huge wildfires are spreading in California, Oregon, and Colorado. They’re poised to get worse.

SOURCE: Vox DATE: July 24, 2018 SNIP: Wildfires have almost become a year-round threat in some parts of the western United States. From Colorado to California, it feels like the blazes from last year never went out. Flames ignited forests and chaparral virtually nonstop in 2017, and the year ended with record infernos in Southern California that burned well into 2018. Officials don’t refer to “fire seasons anymore but rather to fire years,” Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, told me in an email. The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park has already burned more than 36,000 acres, an area more than 42 times the size of Central Park in Manhattan, since igniting on July 13. More than 3,000 firefighters from as far away as Virginia are fighting the blaze. As of Tuesday, the fire was only 26 percent contained and had led to the death of one firefighter, Braden Varney. The fire sent thick plumes of smoke and ash into the air, leading to very unhealthy air quality alerts in the region. Meanwhile, the Substation Fire near Portland, Oregon, has torched 79,000 acres and forced 75 households to evacuate. It’s just one of 160 wildfires that has scorched southern Oregon. As of Monday morning, the fire is 92 percent contained. In Colorado, wildfires have already ripped through more than 175,000 acres, and the ensuing rains have brought mudslides along the freshly denuded landscape. And it’s likely to get worse. Many parts of the US are facing a higher than normal fire risk this year. It’s an alarming echo of last year’s devastating fire season,...
The world is hot, on fire, and flooding. Climate change is here.

The world is hot, on fire, and flooding. Climate change is here.

SOURCE: Grist DATE: July 24, 2018 SNIP: The worst ravages of climate change are on display around the world. Wildfires have ripped through towns in Greece, floods have submerged parts of Laos, and heat waves have overwhelmed Japan. These are striking examples of climate change playing out in its deadliest forms, and they’re making the term “natural disaster” an outdated concept. People in Greece were jumping into the Aegean to escape advancing wildfires, according to a report in the New York Times. More than 70 are confirmed dead so far, and some scenes are horrific. This is already Greece’s hottest year on record. Although the last few weeks have been mild and wet, it’s nearly certain that warm weather has played a role in drying out forests throughout Europe, where the number of fires this year is 43 percent above normal. Longer summers, more intense drought, and higher temperatures are all linked to greater fire risk. It’s the hottest month of one of the hottest years in the history of human civilization, and unusual wildfires are sprouting up all over the map. … All over the world, heatwaves are getting longer and more intense, the most well-documented and deadliest consequence of our failure to cut greenhouse gas...
A Global Heat Wave Has Set the Arctic Circle on Fire

A Global Heat Wave Has Set the Arctic Circle on Fire

SOURCE: NY Mag DATE: July 20, 2018 SNIP: From Japan to Sweden, and Oman to Texas, a global heat wave is setting records, igniting wildfires, and killing dozens all across the world this week. The south-central region is home to the highest temperatures in the U.S. this week, with nearly 35 million people living under excessive heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to be in the triple digits across Texas this weekend, marking the most severe heat wave in the state since 2011. Across the globe in Kyoto, Japan, Thursday marked the seventh straight day of temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees, breaking all known records for the ancient capital city. On Thursday alone ten people died and 2,605 people were sent to hospitals in Tokyo due to heat, the Japan Times reports. The day before, Tokyo rescue workers set a record by responding to more than 3,000 emergency calls. Meanwhile, in Sweden, the Arctic Circle is on fire. High temperatures and a prolonged drought have caused 49 fires to ignite across Sweden, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees as far north as the Arctic Circle this week. According to the Washington Post, temperatures in Scandinavia typically settle in the 60s and 70s this time of year, meaning the current heat wave is making things around 20 degrees hotter than...