Breathing Seattle’s air right now is like smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires.

Breathing Seattle’s air right now is like smoking 7 cigarettes. Blame wildfires.

SOURCE: Vox DATE: August 22, 2018 SNIP: Ash and smoke are choking Seattle’s air for the second week in a row, as wildfires smolder in the Cascades and in British Columbia. The air quality in Seattle this week has been worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most notoriously polluted cities. As of Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Seattle was at 190, a rating classified as “unhealthy.” In parts of the city, the index rose as high as 220, which is “very unhealthy.” Other parts of Puget Sound, like Port Angeles, Washington — 80 miles from Seattle — saw the AQI rise to 205 this week. To put it in perspective, an AQI of 150 is roughly equal to smoking seven cigarettes in a day. People breathing air this unhealthy should avoid being outside and exerting themselves, particularly people with heart and lung problems, the elderly, and children. Fires are a major source of air pollution, in rural and urban areas. Fires from crop burning in India last year helped make Delhi the most polluted city on earth. Though wildfires throw off particles of all shapes and sizes, the biggest health dangers come from the smallest ones, 2.5 microns or less in diameter. Known as PM2.5, these particles penetrate deep into the airways, causing inflammation, asthma attacks, and cancer. In Seattle, the concentrations on PM2.5 reached 157 milligrams per cubic meter. “When pollution is very high, over 37 [micrograms per cubic meter], we start to see health consequences,” Jia Coco Liu, a postdoctoral researcher studying air quality at Johns Hopkins University...
Canada’s British Columbia wildfires prompt state of emergency

Canada’s British Columbia wildfires prompt state of emergency

SOURCE: BBC News DATE: August 15, 2018 SNIP: A state of emergency has been declared by the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) as it battles more than 560 wildfires. It will be in place across the entire western province for at least 14 days. Hot and dry conditions, with a risk of thunderstorms in some parts of BC, are expected to continue over the coming days. This is the second year in a row the province has battled significant wildfires on parts of its territory. Over 3,000 people are under evacuation orders and another 18,700 are under evacuation alerts. Fires are active throughout entire parts of the...
Glacier National Park is on fire — and yes, warming is making things worse

Glacier National Park is on fire — and yes, warming is making things worse

SOURCE: Grist DATE: August 13, 2018 SNIP: This summer has felt like a global warming turning point. Now, another milestone: Saturday was the hottest day in the history of Glacier National Park, and its first recorded time reaching 100 degrees F. On the same day, lightning started three fires in the Montana park, which has since been partly evacuated and closed. On Sunday, hot and dry winds helped the biggest fire expand rapidly. Authorities have taken extreme measures, including deploying smokejumpers and dispatching firefighters by foot to reach the parts of the fire in rough terrain. So far, according to the National Park Service, these efforts have not been effective to slow the fire’s spread. Right now, every state west of the Mississippi is at least partly in drought, including Montana. Missoula, the closest major city to Glacier National Park, hasn’t had any measurable rain for 40 days, and none is in the short-term forecast either — a streak that will likely wind up being the driest stretch in local recorded history, beating a mark set just last year. It’s clear that Montana is already becoming a vastly different place. In recent decades, warmer winters have helped mountain pine beetles thrive, turning mountains red with dead pines. In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in the area now known as Glacier National Park. Today there are 26. They’ve been there for 7,000 years — but in just a few decades, the glaciers of Glacier National Park will almost surely be gone. By then the park will need a new name. Glacier Memorial Park doesn’t have the same ring to it....
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...