Wildfires And Massive Drought - The NEW Normal

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Wildfires And Massive Drought - The NEW Normal

Post by  on Sun Jul 22, 2012 12:39 pm




Wildfires Fuel Climate Change
A warmer climate mean more fires, and more fires mean more greenhouse gases, says new report

By Katherine Harmon

The wildfires blazing through North Myrtle Beach, S.C., today are hardly an anomaly in a warming world. According to a landmark report that will be published tomorrow in Science,
fires are not just a result of a changing climate, they're also
contributing to the overall warming trend much more than imagined, the
authors report. As vegetation burns, it releases stored-up carbon into
the atmosphere, speeding global warming and thereby exacerbating conditions that may generate a greater incidence of wildfires in the coming years.

Because fires have been part of the global environment for hundreds of millions of years—since the first land plants
emerged—as well as a tool for humans for more than 50,000 years,
they're largely assumed to be a natural and negligible part of the carbon and climactic cycles.
As people use fire on a massive scale as a cheap and efficient way to
clear forests for agriculture or development, however, it is having a
much greater impact than many scientists realized. In fact,
deforestation fires alone have contributed 20 percent of the total
greenhouse gases humans have contributed to the atmosphere since
industrialization.

The report brought together 22 scientists from a range of disciplines
and countries in an effort to better understand the global impact of
fire. "This is a critical move away from the thinking that fires are just a disaster,"
says David Bowman, a professor of forest ecology at the University of
Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, and a lead author of the report. Taken in
isolation, each conflagration can cause massive human, economic and
natural devastation, but as a broader force fire wields a much larger
power, according to the report. "Fire is a feature of our planet…. High
levels of fire activity have the capacity to change climate," he says.

But across the globe, fires have been getting larger and stronger. "We
are witnessing an increasing instance of these megafires," says Thomas
Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the
University of Arizona. This year alone has seen an increase in both the
magnitude and deadliness of conflagrations sweeping Australia and the U.S. Southwest.
In the past 20 years, the area scorched by fire in the western U.S. was
six times greater than in the two decades that preceded it. These
infernos are in large part a result of longer, drier summers, which are
only poised to get worse with climate change, Swetnam explains.

"The real originality of this work is that we've been able to say
something so obvious," Bowman says. He noted that the challenge now will
be integrating fire into the large-scale climate models, and that will
take further research and understanding.

"What we're calling for," said Bowman of the report, "is inclusion [of fire] in the next [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]
models." Not only is the fire of a broader concern for climate
stability and human well-being, but large-scale events also pose a risk
of upsetting new carbon trading schemes,
notes Jennifer Balch, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for
Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, because they can release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into
the atmosphere.

EXTREME Drought Map For July Destroying ALL Crops



Report shows US drought rapidly intensifying

By JIM SUHR | Associated Press July 2012



  • Drought-damaged corn is seen near …
  • Cattle seek refuge from the heat …

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The widest drought to grip the United States in decades is
getting worse with no signs of abating, a new report warned Thursday,
as state officials urged conservation and more ranchers considered
selling cattle.
The drought
covering two-thirds of the continental U.S. had been considered
relatively shallow, the product of months without rain, rather than
years. But Thursday's report showed its intensity is rapidly increasing,
with 20 percent of the nation now in the two worst stages of drought —
up 7 percent from last week.
The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought in various stages, from moderate to severe, extreme and, ultimately, exceptional. Five states — Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska — are blanketed by a drought that is severe or worse. States like Arkansas and Oklahoma are nearly as bad, with most areas covered in a severe drought and large portions in extreme or exceptional drought.
Other states are seeing conditions
rapidly worsen. Illinois — a key producer of corn and soybeans — saw
its percentage of land in extreme or exceptional drought balloon from
just 8 percent last week to roughly 71 percent as of Thursday, the
Drought Monitor reported.
And conditions are not expected to get better, with little rain and more intense heat forecast for the rest of the summer


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