Taxonomy term

fire

Down to Earth With: Wildfire meteorologist Craig Clements

Not many people are able to combine their work and hobbies the way Craig Clements, a meteorologist at San Jose State University in California, has. “I was always interested in mountain weather,” he says. “I got into meteorology through my interest in mountaineering and climbing.”

19 Jan 2018

A flammable planet: Fire finds its place in Earth history

For hundreds of millions of years, wildfires have shaped the planet, from the plants, animals and ecosystems around us to the air we breathe. Yet scientists are only beginning to understand the planet’s fiery past. 
16 Jan 2018

Benchmarks: October 8, 1871: The deadliest wildfire in American history incinerates Peshtigo, Wisconsin

On Oct. 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned through 900 hectares of the city, killing as many as 300 people and leaving another 100,000 homeless. More than 17,400 buildings were destroyed and financial losses totaled more than $200 million at the time (equivalent to $3.7 billion in 2016 dollars).

08 Oct 2017

Aerosols help mitigate ill effects of Amazon fires

Forest fires across the Amazon Basin — many of which are set intentionally to clear land for human use — burn thousands of square kilometers each year, releasing roughly 240 billion kilograms of stored carbon to the atmosphere. According to a new study, however, the vast amounts of black carbon and other aerosolized particles also sent into the skies by such fires offset much of this carbon loss by stimulating increased photosynthesis.

24 Sep 2015

Fire-driven clouds and swirling winds whipped up record-setting New Mexico blaze

At about 1 p.m. on June 26, 2011, a wind-downed power line sparked a blaze in the Las Conchas area of Santa Fe National Forest. It would become the largest fire in New Mexico’s history at the time. Within hours, the flames spread to cover more than 160 square kilometers, threatening the town of Los Alamos, home of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which develops nuclear fuels and safeguards nuclear weapons, among other activities. Now, a new study identifies why the fire spread so far so fast, and the results may have implications for fire management practices in other mountainous regions.

12 Apr 2015

Highlights of 2012: Climate 2012 - A window into what to expect for 2013 and beyond?

July 2012 was the hottest month by far for the lower 48 states. Much of the nation faced drought conditions that grew steadily worse throughout the summer, and there were major repercussions for crop yields and food prices. Wildfires were also rampant. The record low snowpack in May 2012 in the Colorado Rockies set the stage for major wildfires in June, with more than 600 homes lost in Colorado alone. Wildfires developed in other regions in July as well, as tremendous record-breaking heat developed in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. Considered individually, the record temperatures, droughts, fires and diminished snowpack are not necessarily alarming and may not signal anything beyond the natural occurrence of a hotter-than-average year. But combined, these indicators are much more significant from a climate standpoint. They highlight that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future. So, what can we expect?

25 Nov 2012

Policy in the Field: U.S. fire policy in the wake of catastrophic fire seasons

Somebody turn down the heat!
 
Almost every region of the U.S. was on fire at some point in June. The fourth-hottest June on record in the United States, June 2012 also rounded out the hottest 12-month period since record-keeping began in the U.S. in the 1890s. July was the single hottest ever recorded.
 

10 Aug 2012

Benchmarks: June 22, 1969: The Cuyahoga burns

It was a relatively small fire. In terms of damage and duration, the city of Cleveland had seen far worse in the 173 years since its founding. In fact, the blaze on June 22, 1969, only warranted a mere 181 words in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But it was not an ordinary fire: It was the Cuyahoga River that burned. And the event started a movement that revolutionized the United States’ commitment to environmental protection.
 
03 Jun 2011

Hot as Hell: Firefighting foam heats up coal fire debate in Centralia, Pa.

By some accounts, Hell on Earth is located directly below Centralia, Pa.: Smoke rises from the cracked ground, smoldering sinkholes open without warning, and what is left of the town’s abandoned houses and surrounding woodlands is scorched and covered in a layer of smelly sulfur. Once a productive mining town in eastern Pennsylvania’s valuable anthracite coal region, Centralia has been reduced to a smoky ghost town, lacking even a zip code, by an underground coal fire that has been burning for nearly 50 years.

05 May 2010

Trial by Fire

What makes a fire burn? In addition to fuel (such as wood or paper) and heat, fires need oxygen. If there isn’t enough oxygen in the atmosphere, combustion simply won’t happen.

That was as true hundreds of millions of years ago as it is today. So wildfires, scientists say, can provide a unique way to estimate how much oxygen was in Earth’s atmosphere throughout its history.

04 Sep 2008