Taxonomy term

wildfire

Bark beetles not to blame for big fires?

Since the mid-1990s, outbreaks of voracious bark beetles have devastated more than 71,000 square kilometers of forests in the Rocky Mountain West. Contrary to popular belief, however, the huge swaths of standing dead trees left behind don’t necessarily pose an increased fire hazard, according to a new study. The finding calls into question the efficacy of recently enacted policies entailing the thinning of beetle-killed forests.
 
08 Aug 2015

Flames fan lasting fallout from Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded during a catastrophic meltdown, spewing radioactivity over Eastern Europe and forcing evacuations of thousands of people. Nearly 30 years later, the scar of the Chernobyl disaster remains in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in the form of the 2,600-square-kilometer Exclusion Zone, which is choked with dead trees and overgrown brush contaminated with high levels of radioactive cesium, strontium and plutonium. Occasional wildfires in these woods send plumes of smoke laced with potentially harmful radionuclides into the atmosphere. Now, a new study finds that climate change will likely increase the frequency and intensity of these fires, further increasing the possible hazard.

19 May 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

Bare Earth Elements: Rim Fire Roundup

The devasting Rim Fire has been torching a growing patch of California for the last week and a half. The latest update from Cal Fire reports that the fire has burned about 726 square kilometers (~179,000 acres), currently making it the 7th largest fire by burn area in the state's history. EARTH offers a roundup of sites where official information can be found, as well as some of the many recent news reports covering the fire.

27 Aug 2013

N.E.O.N.: Studying critical ecological issues on a continental scale

NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network, is one of the most extensive ecology projects ever undertaken. Program scientists — along with members of the public — will examine critical ecological issues across North America, including the effects of climate change, invasive species, droughts, fires and floods.

22 May 2013

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: February 7, 2009: Deadliest day of fire ever recorded in Australia

On Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, John Brumby, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, warned the public of the high risk of wildfires that weekend: “It’s just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow.” He was right. The next day, more than a dozen major fires and hundreds of smaller ones tore across the region, fueled by record temperatures and high winds. The so-called Black Saturday fires released more energy than 1,500 Hiroshima bombs, according to one fire expert. Together, the fires cost billions in damage and killed 173 people — the deadliest day of fires recorded in Australia.
 
06 Feb 2012

Voices: Wildfires and debris flows: Federal mud

“Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”

– Joan Didion, California author

01 Mar 2011

Report from Ground Zero

How geoscientists aid in the aftermath of environmental disasters

01 Oct 2009

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