Stories tagged wildfires

Jul
17
2012

I visited to Fort Collins to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the CSU Department of Atmospheric Sciences. A great celebration and an opportunity to see colleagues I haven't seen in many years.

On Saturday I drove through a section of the Cache La Poudre River to see some of the burnt scares from the High Park fire. The fire started on June 9 by a lightning strike and burned across 87,284 acres by early July, taking 259 homes. One person has died in the fire. It is the second-largest fire in Colorado's history and has cost about $30 million to fightHigh Park Fire impact on the Cache La Poudre River: A view of the Cache La Poudre River on July 14, 2012
High Park Fire impact on the Cache La Poudre River: A view of the Cache La Poudre River on July 14, 2012Courtesy Steve Ackerman
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A recent rain washed the ash into the river, which now runs gun-powder black, as you can see in the photo. This is black color is consistent with the name Cache La Poudre. I have to wonder how this sediment will impact the fish in the water. This is an excellent river for trout.

Notice the burnt trees along the ridge line in the photo. Also notice the dead pine trees in the photo; a result of the pine beetle. The mountain pine beetles inhabit ponderosa, lodgepole, Scotch and limber pine trees and play an important role in the life of a forest. The black beetle attacks old or weakened trees which helps development of a younger forest. However, unusual hot, dry summers and mild winters have led to an epidemic. It would seem logical that these beetle damaged trees would increase fire risks as dead trees are flammable and likely to catch fire. But this might not be the case, indeed the dead trees may inhibit the spread of fires. The Yellowstone wildfire of 1988 provided forest ecologists with a method. Large crown fires can swept quickly through the forest spreading from tree tops. In the 1988 fire there were many trees killed and their needles burned off, but the standing dead tree trunks remained. New wildfires tend to slow and sometimes burn out when they reach standing dead forest. An interesting research topic!

Aug
20
2010

We have heard about the many fires in Russia. NASA satellites have detected over 600 600 hotspots from wildfires within Russian territory in one day!

Fires produce a heat signature that is detectable by satellites even when the fires represent a small fraction of the pixel. Fires produce a stronger signal in the mid-wave IR bands (around 4 microns) than they do in the long wave IR bands (such as 11 microns). That differential response forms the basis for most algorithms that detect the presences of a fire, the size of the fire, the instantaneous fire temperature.

The unusually hot and dry mid-August conditions beneath a strong ridge of high pressure across British Columbia led to a major outbreak of wildfires across that western Canadian province. The satellite image shows the location of those fires as red squares. The smoke plumes are also seen on the satellite imagery.

Here's an image from a NASA instrument: The red squares are fire locations and the smoke from the fires is evident.
http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/gallery/?2010228-0816/BritishColumbia...

The aerosols released by fires and the degraded air quality caused by them represent tremendous costs to society, so reliable information on fire locations and characteristics is important to a wide variety of users. For this reason, NOAA tracks these plumes and makes them publically available from NOAA at:
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/ml/land/hms.html

Dec
08
2009

Poop with flies: you always manage to find a few of these guys on the pile.
Poop with flies: you always manage to find a few of these guys on the pile.Courtesy PKmousie
Poop. Poop. Poop. Poop. There. Have I got your attention? Of course, who can resist a story on poop? It is such a widely discussed topic with a vast array of monikers. Probably not a decent topic of conversation for invited guests or the dinner table, but it does get its chat time. Despite the disgust that it truly is, there is a curious fascination with the whole matter. It can tell you about your health, especially if you have the runs. It can tell you if you’ve been chewing your food well, or if you need to lay off the cheese. If you are a proper biologist, you’ve probably bent down and touched it or even broke it up to examine what passed. Certain scientists, such as Scatologists pursue the study of scat (poop) as a means to tell us more about a certain animal’s habits. If by the Fates, a poo survives intact and becomes old enough to fossilize, then we would call it a coprolite. Coprolites have been recovered from dinosaurs, ancient whales, fish, and prehistoric mammals to name a few.Coprolite: one very old poo
Coprolite: one very old pooCourtesy AlishaV

Recent news from BBC detailed a story about scientists studying the ancient droppings from mammoths. Well sort of. The researchers were examining mud deposits from a lake for fungal spores that are produced in large herbivore dung (mammoth poo). Their research concludes that the extra large mammals of the recent past experienced a slow and steady decline starting about 15,000 years ago. This flies in the face of the current prevailing theory, that an asteroid impact about 12,900 years ago caused global upheaval, world spread wildfire, and then abrupt extinction of the mega mammals. The asteroid theory had already been under assault by lack of evidence in soil samples. Samples taken all over the continent in soil cores extracted from peat bogs and lake bottoms.
Mammoth: artistic re-creation
Mammoth: artistic re-creationCourtesy ecstaticist
Was early man really responsible for the start of the downfall of the mammoth? I think undoubtedly we had a hand in their fate, but the answer is most likely multifaceted. Taking a closer look at the dung heaps of the past may well continue to give us a better picture of paleohistory. Just watch where you step!

mammoth dung story

mammoth comet story

Nice story on a recent find of a baby mammoth"

General Mammoth info
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/larson/mammuthus.html
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/mammoth/about_mammoths.html

Sep
01
2009
...any Bad Religion fans out there? Oh nevermind. The daily feed from NASA's MODIS Aqua satellite has some cool images of the Los Angeles wildfire. It's shocking to see how close it is to the city. You can follow the images as the fire progresses on the MODIS website for the LA area. Double click to zoom in below:
Jun
25
2008

Northern and central California are beset by more than 800 wild fires. Last week, the state baked under four days of triple-digit heat, which dried out brushland in many areas. On Friday, severe lightning strikes set them to blaze. California brushland, called chaparral, naturally becomes very dry in the summer and burns easily. The burning is nature’s way of recycling dead plant material. It’s only when humans build houses and things that we don’t want burned that it becomes a problem.

Over half a million people are being evacuated from areas near several huge wildfires burning in southern California right now. It is amazing to look at the images of this area from NASA's Aqua satellite.

Double click to zoom in

This image comes from NASA's MODIS Rapid Response website. This site is always a good place to check for a bird's eye view on large scale natural disasters.