Taxonomy term

wildfire

Cave dripwater records wildfires

Water seeps through soil and bedrock before dripping from the roof of a cave and carries with it elements of the outside world and its climate history. That is why speleothems, cave structures formed via precipitation, can be studied as climate proxies. New research suggests that the chemistry of the cave dripwater can also contain the signature of wildfires that burned outside the cave, on the ground above the cave’s roof, yielding a more complex picture of the past.

27 Oct 2016

Firefighting gets a leg up from earthquake sensor networks

Seismic networks monitor ground motion in earthquake-prone regions like California and Nevada. Now, they may also help combat other natural hazards like wildfires, which are especially common in drought-stricken western states where parched landscapes create ideal conditions for fires to spread.

19 Aug 2016

Santa Ana winds get a fiery boost from the stratosphere

Southern California’s Santa Ana winds have long been implicated in the region’s dangerous and destructive wildfires. Now, a new study in Geophysical Research Letters points the finger at an accomplice: a phenomenon called stratospheric intrusions, which are natural atmospheric events that bring warm, dry air from the upper atmosphere down to the surface. These intrusions may exacerbate fires, as well as the region’s infamously bad air pollution.
 
23 Oct 2015

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

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