Nearly 2 million acres of land are burning across the US in one of the worst fire seasons we’ve ever seen

Nearly 2 million acres of land are burning across the US in one of the worst fire seasons we’ve ever seen

SOURCE: Business Insider and San Francisco Chronicle DATE: September 14, 2017 SNIP: Almost 2 million acres of land — an area nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined — are currently aflame, according to the September 14 daily report by the National Interagency Fire Center. There are more than 100 active wildfires and at least 41 uncontained large blazes, battled by more than 25,000 responders, the National Guard, and half a battalion of active-duty soldiers. A staggering amount of land has burned so far this season — more than 8 million acres, along with more than 500 homes and other structures, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The Forest Service has spent more than $1.75 billion fighting fires so far this fiscal year, and the Interior Department has spent more than $391 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. Research indicates that human-caused climate change has already had a significant increase on the overall number and size of fires. The amount of land burned in the US since 1984 was double what would have been expected without the effects of climate change in that period. And wildfire season has become about two and a half months longer since 1970 (a trend that’s expected to...
The unprecedented drought that’s crippling Montana and North Dakota

The unprecedented drought that’s crippling Montana and North Dakota

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 7, 2017 SNIP: When Rick Kirn planted his 1,000 acres of spring wheat in May, there were no signs of a weather calamity on the horizon. Three months later, when he should have been harvesting and getting ready to sell his wheat, Kirn was staring out across vast cracked, gray, empty fields dotted with weeds and little patches of stunted wheat. “It’s a total loss for me,” said Kirn, who operates a small family wheat farm on the Fort Peck Reservation, an area of north-eastern Montana that lies right in the heart of the extreme climactic episode. “There’s nothing to harvest.” Kirn’s story is typical across the high plains in Montana and the Dakotas this summer, where one of the country’s most important wheat growing regions is in the grips of a crippling drought that came on with hardly any warning and, experts say, is without precedent. “This is unprecedented,” says Tanja Fransen of the National Weather Service in Glasgow, a larger city just up the road from Fort Peck. “This is as dry as it’s been in recorded history and some of our recording stations have 100 years of data. A lot of people try to compare this to previous years, but really, you just...
British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history

British Columbia is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history

SOURCE: Grist and CBC DATE: Aug 16, 2017 SNIP: It’s official: the B.C. Wildfire Service confirms the province is experiencing the worst wildfire season on record. Wildfire Service information officer Kevin Skrepnek says an estimated 894,941 hectares of land has been charred in B.C. since April 1. That eclipses the mark set in 1958, when 855,000 hectares burned. More than 2,500,000 acres have burned there since April 1, nearly six times the typical amount for a full year. B.C. extended a state of emergency on Friday to help speed the flow of aid to affected communities. More than $300 million has been spent fighting the fires so far, and one remote wildfire is so out of control that the B.C. Wildfire Service called it “a force of nature.” Though fire season is more than half over, there’s still time for the B.C. wildfires to grow. The latest forecast from Natural Resources Canada shows extreme fire danger in parts of British Columbia, with an outlook for above average severity through the end of...
From all-time heat records to millions of charred acres of forest, summer of 2017 is no joke

From all-time heat records to millions of charred acres of forest, summer of 2017 is no joke

SOURCE: Mashable DATE: Aug 8, 2017 SNIP: On July 7, Mike Flannigan, a scientist at the University of Alberta, stared at satellite imagery on his computer as one wildfire after another ignited across British Columbia during the course of the unusually hot day. In total, 140 wildfires began on that one day, setting what may be a new record, Flannigan said in an interview. In Canada, Flannigan said, the area burned each year has doubled since the 1970s, despite improvements in fire management. “This is due to human caused climate change,” he said. “I can’t be more direct than that.” It’s not just British Columbia that’s suffering this summer either. Across the globe, it’s as if summer weather is on steroids, with searing heat waves, deadly flash floods, and massive fires affecting many areas. Scientists say that we’d better get used to it, thanks in part to global warming. Studies have tied the increasing number of large fires in parts of Canada and the U.S. to global warming. In fact, the level of fire activity across the boreal forests, which stretch from Alaska to Canada and around the top of the world to Scandinavia and Russia, is unprecedented in the past 10,000 years, according to a study published in 2013. Wildfires haven’t just been confined to the far north this year either. In the U.S., 5.9 million acres have burned in fires so far in 2017, mainly across the West, which is 1.9 million acres above the past decade’s annual average amount. As of Monday morning, firefighters were battling 11 large blazes in California alone, with additional large fires...
‘Flash drought’ could devastate half the High Plains wheat harvest

‘Flash drought’ could devastate half the High Plains wheat harvest

SOURCE: Grist DATE: Aug 1, 2017 SNIP: It’s peak hurricane season, but the nation’s worst weather disaster right now is raging on the High Plains. An intense drought has quickly gripped much of the Dakotas and parts of Montana this summer, catching farmers and ranchers off-guard. The multi-agency U.S. Drought Monitor recently upgraded the drought to “exceptional,” its highest severity level, matching the intensity of the California drought at its peak. The Associated Press says the dry conditions are “laying waste to crops and searing pasture and hay land” in America’s new wheat belt, with some longtime farmers and ranchers calling it the worst of their lifetimes. Unfortunately, this kind of came-out-of-nowhere drought could become a lot less rare in the future. Farmers in the region are also worried because the Trump administration has targeted a key federal crop insurance program for hefty cuts. The governors of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana have all declared states of emergency to speed aid and open some normally protected areas for livestock grazing. The frequency of these rapid-onset droughts is expected to increase as the planet warms. A recent study focusing on China found that flash droughts more than doubled in frequency there between 1979 and...