Tuesday, January 25

Thunderstorms and Lightning Threaten More Wildfires in the Western United States | US News


Oregon’s explosive wildfire summer threatens to intensify further, with thunderstorms and lightning sparking more fires that have swept through much of an arid and dangerously hot western United States this year.

More than 80 major wildfires currently affect western states, which covers a combined area similar to the state of Delaware, with the largest conflagration known as the Bootleg Fire, a 537-square-mile fire burning in expanses of ancient forest about 300 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon.

Scientists say the man-made climate crisis is fueling the fires by contributing to scorching temperatures and dry, flammable vegetation. Almost the entire western US is in the grip of a severe drought that has sunk reservoirs, including those used to fight fires.

A recent “heat dome” that was installed over the Pacific Northwest, causing record heat in Seattle and Portland that buckled roads, melted power lines and caused hundreds of deaths, would have been “practically impossible” without global warming, according to a subsequent scientific analysis.

“The connection to climate change here is very clear: the fires are linked to the very dry and hot conditions that have presided over for a month,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.

‚ÄúThis is dangerous climate change. They will not be in two decades, nor in a decade. For Oregonians it’s here and now. “

The situation may worsen for firefighters struggling to contain the Bootleg fire, with lightning strikes forecast to potentially set fire to forests near the Fremont-Winema National Forest, where the fire is currently raging.

“Although the lightning activity forecast for earlier this week is expected to occur east of us, we are prepared for the worst and expect the best,” said Mike McCann, assistant forest fire chief.

The Bootleg Fire, now roughly the size of Los Angeles, is so large and hot that it is creating its own weather system, setting off winds that have pushed burning embers into the trees and further spread the flames. The fire has been burning for two weeks and only a third of its perimeter has been contained by firefighters.

At least 2,000 homes have been evacuated due to the spread of the fire, with several hundred buildings already burned to the ground. The winds are pushing the fire into more remote areas to the north and east.

If the fire were in heavily populated parts of California, “it would have already destroyed thousands of homes,” said James Johnston, a researcher at the Oregon State University College of Forestry who studies historic wildfires.

“But it is burning in one of the most remote areas of the lower 48 states.”

Satellite images capture wildfires raging through Oregon - video
Satellite images capture wildfires raging through Oregon – video

However, smoke created by the Bootleg fire has spread into Canada, while smoke from other fires in the western US has raised air quality alarms in several cities.

On Tuesday, New York state officials warned vulnerable people to stay indoors due to sooty air pollution from wildfires that have swept across the US to the East Coast. The smoke prompted New York City residents 2,000 miles away from the flames to witness a fiery sunrise Tuesday.

Last year set a record for the amount of land consumed by wildfires in the western US, but some experts predict that 2021 will exceed this mark given peak fire months in late summer and early summer. fall is yet to come.

Joe Biden has urged Congress to pass climate legislation to help curb the fires that are raging increasingly across the country. The president warned that disasters show that the United States “needs to act and act quickly.”


www.theguardian.com

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