Wildfires and drought cause national forest closures in New Mexico and Colorado

June 13, 2018 by  
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Blazes in Colorado closed the 1.8-million-acre San Juan National Forest this week. The 416 Fire is burning on 25,900 acres and is 15 percent contained, according to a June 13 Facebook post . Meanwhile, in New Mexico , the 1.6-million-acre Santa Fe National Forest was closed “due to extreme fire danger.”  NPR quoted San Juan National Forest Fire Staff Officer Richard Bustamante as saying fire risks are at “historic levels.” The San Juan National Forest spans across nine counties, and the last full closure was in 2002. The forest order , signed by forest supervisor Kara Chadwick, says the purpose “is to protect natural resources and public safety due to the impacts of the wildland fire.” Related: NASA map shows how climate change has set the world on fire Bustamante said, “Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark could cause a catastrophic wildfire , and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care, or with human life and property.” The residents of more than 2,000 homes were told to evacuate; a June 12 night update said the evacuation order for San Juan County residents would lift this morning, although people would require Rapid Tag resident credentials to return. At the time of writing, no structures have been destroyed, and 1,029 people are working the fire. The Burro Fire is also burning in the San Juan National Forest on 2,684 acres (as of last night) and is zero percent contained. The cause for both fires is under investigation. In New Mexico, some districts of the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands will be closed effective Friday. “The Cibola is a high-use forest, so this is not a decision that we made lightly,” said Fire Staff Officer Matt Rau. “The forest is tinder dry and the monsoons may still be a few weeks out. We need to take every action possible to reduce the risk of human-caused fires.” Via NPR Image via Depositphotos

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Wildfires and drought cause national forest closures in New Mexico and Colorado

New study shows some LED lights can harm wildlife

June 13, 2018 by  
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Researchers have concluded that certain types of LED lights can be harmful toward a wide variety of wildlife, calling attention to the potential hazards of the rapid expansion of LED light usage. Though LEDs made up only 9 percent of the global market in 2011, that number is expected to rise to 69 percent by 2020. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology , researchers concluded that blue and white LED lighting is the most harmful to wildlife , particularly animals such as sea turtles and insects, while green, amber and yellow are more favorable. As the urbanization of our planet continues, it is essential that policymakers and scientists understand the potential outcomes of altering a space so drastically from its natural state. “Outdoor environments are changing rapidly and in ways that can impact wildlife species,” study leader author Travis Longcore told Phys.org . The researchers incorporated existing ecological data into the study as the team examined the impacts of different kinds of LED lights on animals such as insects, sea turtles, salmon and Newell’s shearwater seabird. Related: New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer LED lights seem to adversely affect species in different ways. Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings can be lured inland by artificial light rather than into the ocean , while migrating juvenile salmon’s attraction to light may leave them vulnerable to predators. To better inform the public regarding the risks of LED, the study includes the first publicly available database that documents how about 24 different kinds of light can impact wildlife. “If we don’t provide advice and information to decision-makers, they will go with the cheapest lighting or lighting that serves only one interest and does not balance other interests,” Longcore said. “We provide a method to assess the probable consequences of new light sources to keep up with the changing technology and wildlife concerns.” + Journal of Experimental Zoology Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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New study shows some LED lights can harm wildlife

Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

January 10, 2018 by  
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When you think of causes of fire in Australia , you might think of lightning or arsonists – but you probably don’t think of birds . But at least three birds of prey species spread wildfires in Australia, according to a new paper incorporating indigenous knowledge. Penn State University geographer and lead author Mark Bonta told National Geographic , “We’re not discovering anything. Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples…They’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more.” ‘Firehawk raptors’ – the Black Kite ( Milvus migrans ), Brown Falcon ( Falco berigora ), and Whistling Kite ( Haliastur sphenurus ) – spread fire by carrying burning sticks in their beaks or talons. They can transport fiery sticks up to around one kilometer, or 0.6 miles, away, staring fires where the flames haven’t yet burned. And while indigenous people have known about this behavior for a long time, this new study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology late last year documenting the knowledge and around six years of ethno-ornithological research could help overcome what the paper abstract described as “official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading.” Related: Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years “Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia,” Bonta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(4) (abstract): https://t.co/JJVomc5zDy #ethnobiology #ethnoornithology #birds #fire pic.twitter.com/Bv4oSA6BpC — Bob Gosford (@bgosford) January 1, 2018 Why would these birds of prey set fires? According to National Geographic, the blazes could help them find food as small animals and insects attempt to escape the fire. Co-author Bob Gosford told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016, “Black kites and brown falcons come to these fronts because it is just literally a killing frenzy. It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands come small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing the front of the fire.” And it’s important to dispel skepticism so officials could better plan land management and restoration. The researchers hope their paper will help with fire ecology and fire management that takes into account these fire-spreading birds. Via ScienceAlert and National Geographic Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant

January 10, 2018 by  
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In South Australia , California-based SolarReserve is building what will be the world’s largest thermal solar plant. The $650 million, 150 megawatt solar plant has received state development approval and construction on the project will begin in 2018. “It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals and schools,” South Australia’s acting energy minister Chris Picton told the Sydney Morning Herald . When fully operational, the plant will provide electricity for 90,000 homes and generate 500-gigawatts of energy each year. The South Australia solar thermal plant will feature a single tower that stands at the center of a vast field of solar mirrors, also known as heliostats. These mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto the tower, which incorporates molten salt batteries to store the energy. This power can then be released as steam, which powers an electricity-generating turbine. When completed, the plant will mitigate the equivalent of 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Related: The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia The plant will be located roughly 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Port Augusta in South Australia, a region which has generated international headlines for its energy developments. In collaboration with Tesla , South Australia now hosts the world’s largest single-unit battery , which is capable of providing power to 30,000 homes. “The state has taken a series of positive steps towards greater energy independence which are really starting to pay off. And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy almost a decade early,” said Natalie Collard, Clean Energy Council executive general manager, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “South Australia is providing the rest of the country a glimpse of a renewable energy future. Our electricity system is rapidly moving towards one which will be smarter and cleaner, with a range of technologies providing high-tech, reliable, lower-cost power.” Via Sydney Morning Herald Images via Department of Energy

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US govt scientist denied approval to discuss link between climate change and severe fires

November 1, 2017 by  
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Is the United States government blocking scientists from talking about climate change ? Forest Service research ecologist William Jolly was slated to give a presentation titled “Climate-Induced Variations in Global Severe Fire Weather Conditions” at the International Fire Congress – but was denied approval to go to the conference. And the Environmental Protection Agency recently reportedly blocked three scientists from talking about climate change at a Rhode Island event. Jolly, who works at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Montana, was going to give a 30-minute talk in Florida at the November 28 through December 2 conference hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE). According to Scientific American , critics are saying Donald Trump’s administration is suppressing the spread of science paid for by taxpayers. The Department of Agriculture , parent agency of the Forest Service, said regional managers mostly determine who will attend conferences based partly on available financial resources, and that political appointees do have the final word but don’t tend to weigh in on which people are chosen. Related: US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change Spokesperson Mike Illenberg said in a statement, “Our front line supervisors and managers weigh a variety of factors including cost, frequency of employee travel, conference location, the number of other employees attending, among other factors in making our business decisions about conference attendance. Based on their recommendations and resource availability, Forest Service leadership gives final approval.” Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Human Dimensions Science Program were also denied travel authorizations – one was Karin Riley, AFE’s board of directors’ vice president, who researches the relationship between wildfires and climate. Three scientists from the United States Geological Survey scheduled to speak about climate change at the wildfire conference are still waiting for a response on their travel requests. Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology executive director Timothy Ingalsbee said, “While the number of acres burned, homes destroyed, civilians killed, and tax dollars spent on suppression are going way up, why is the number of Forest Service scientists and managers meeting at professional science conferences and technical training workshops going way down?” Via Scientific American Images via Bureau of Land Management California on Flickr and Depositphotos

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US govt scientist denied approval to discuss link between climate change and severe fires

Inferno rages through North California, killing at least 10 people

October 10, 2017 by  
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For the past several days, 15 ferocious wildfires have been burning across at least 119,032 acres throughout Northern California . The inferno has claimed the lives of at least 10 people, a number that is expected to grow, and has torched over 1,500 homes and businesses. The scenic Wine Country counties of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino have been particularly hard hit. After igniting on Sunday night, the fires multiplied quickly due to the pervasive dry conditions in the area and strong winds of up to 50 MPH. In response to the raging flames consuming all in its path, 20,000 people were evacuated, many without much notice, into safer areas. In Sonoma County , the city of Santa Rosa, with a population of 125,000, has suffered serious damage. Seven of the 10 casualties from the wildfires have occurred in Santa Rosa. “That number’s going to change,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano. Given the ongoing search and rescue operation, “it’s just logical,” he said, that more people trapped by the fire will be found. Local landmarks destroyed by the fires include The Fountaingrove Inn and Round Barn, and sections of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. “I’m lucky,” said Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey. “My house is fine. My family is fine. My city is not.” Related: Over 82,000 people evacuated as wildfire engulfs Southern California While Santa Rosa may have endured the most casualties so far, the most powerful fires are burning in Napa County. “I have friends fighting off fires with hoses in the hills, said Alison Crowe, winemaker for Garnet Vineyards & Picket Fence Vineyards in Napa Valley. “Thankfully a lot of my friends got out last night.” Although Crowe has not been ordered to evacuate her home in downtown Napa and the main route out of town remains open, she and her neighbors are concerned. “It’s scary,” Crowe said. “We feel surrounded.” Via CNN Images via US Department of Agriculture and Glenn Beltz

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Inferno rages through North California, killing at least 10 people

NASA map shows how climate change has set the world on fire

August 21, 2017 by  
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Devastating wildfires have blazed through Portugal, Canada, and Siberia this summer – with some people beginning to wonder if climate change will make such destructive fires normal. Maps with data from NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) reveal a world filled with red. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Kevin Trenberth told DW, “A lot of these things are happening locally, but people don’t always connect them to climate change. But there is a real climate change component to this and the risk is going up because of climate change.” NASA’s FIRMS Web Fire Mapper data from the last seven days, from August 14 to August 21, shown in the map above, reveals a world on fire. DW said Europe has experienced three times the average number of wildfires in summer 2017. Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and Greece suffered from fire as heatwaves incited dry, hot conditions. Related: This is how hot it will be in your neck of the woods if we don’t slow climate change 894,941 hectares have burned in Canada this season, according to the British Columbia Wildfire Service – in the worst season for fires since we started keeping records. People in Portugal have especially suffered: earlier in the season 64 people perished and around 2,000 people were cut off by a recent blaze surrounding Macao. Hundreds of homes were destroyed by wildfire in Siberia , and even Greenland saw a fire described as unprecedented. Some scientists are connecting these blazes to climate change, saying as temperatures rise , fires could occur more often. Trenberth told DW, “What’s really happening is that there is extra heat available. That heat has to go somewhere and some of it goes into raising temperatures. But the first thing that happens is that it goes into drying – it dries out plants and increases the risk of wildfires.” Via DW Images via FIRMS Web Fire Mapper and NASA Earthdata Facebook

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NASA map shows how climate change has set the world on fire

Mercedes-Benz unveils stunning art deco-inspired electric car

August 21, 2017 by  
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Mercedes-Benz decided to go back to the 1930s for its latest concept car, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 cabriolet concept. With its imposing grille and long, sensuous curves, this stunning car may be inspired by the art deco movement dating back to France before World War I, but it has a 21st century powertrain with four electric motors. At 20-feet-long, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 cabriolet is over five feet longer than the Nissan Leaf . At the front there’s a grille that’s inspired by a pinstripe suit, while as you move back, the extremely long hood and flowing lines are definitive of the art deco era. At the rear, Mercedes-Benz drew inspiration from a luxury yacht for the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 cabriolet’s round “boat tail.” Related: Mercedes-Benz unveils latest Tesla Model X rival – the Generation EQ “The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet takes modern luxury into the realms of the ultimate in luxury, and is the perfect embodiment of our design strategy,” explains Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. He adds, “Breathtaking proportions combined with a luxurious “haute couture” interior help to create the ultimate experience.” Inside, there’s only room for two passengers, but the yacht theme continues with an open-pore wood floor with inlaid aluminum. The spacious interior features a flowing aesthetic that brings exterior and interior together, a holistic design that highlights a floating, transparent center tunnel visualizing the drive system’s electrical energy flow with blue fiber optics. While the design of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 cabriolet concept may recall the best of the art deco era, its powertrain looks to the future. The concept is powered by four electric motors that generate a total 750 horsepower. With that much power, it could reach 60 mph in four seconds, and it has a driving range over 200 miles. Images @Mercedes-Benz + Mercedes-Benz

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Why the rampant wildfires in Indonesia may be the worst climate change crisis in the world

October 30, 2015 by  
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Indonesian President Joko Widodo cut his visit to the United States short this week, when he had to return home to face a severe crisis. Wildfires are ravaging Indonesia , a twisted side effect of deforestation, and smoke from the fires are creating a health hazard for people in Indonesia’s cities, in addition to releasing epic measures of greenhouse gases. As Tim McDonnell reports for Mother Jones , this might be the worst climate crisis in the world right now. Read the rest of Why the rampant wildfires in Indonesia may be the worst climate change crisis in the world

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There’s not enough money to save the West from an increase in blazing wildfires

August 28, 2015 by  
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This just might be the most cataclysmic forest fire season in history. So far this year, the Forest Service has spent $800 million trying to keep the blazes from raging too far out of control. This cost amounts to more than 50 percent of their budget, draining coffers so much that they can’t perform other critical services, like forest management. Adding insurance costs, damage to buildings and infrastructure, and further damage caused by flash floods and mudslides, this year’s fire bill is estimated to ring in at around $2.5 billion. Read the rest of There’s not enough money to save the West from an increase in blazing wildfires

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