June 29, 2016

BW photograph of a charred log lying among rocks.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This post is a bit of follow-up to the previous blog.  A little while ago, central Maryland went through a period when it rained on fifteen days out of an 18-day stretch.   This past weekend, West Virginia experienced deadly flooding.  Earlier this spring, parts of Texas experienced the same.  This is certainly not the case for many other parts of the country, and wildfire is a consequence.

The USDA Forest Service posted this assessment in May 2016, which called for a “significant 2016 wildfire season”.  The National Interagency Fire Center has a detailed report as well.  Once there, click the link entitled “National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook”, which will take you to the full report.  The NICC homepage is here.

California continues its historic drought, and, as a result, it is another difficult fire season there.  In 2013, a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona killed 19 firefighters-the Tenderfoot fire earlier this month threatened that same area.   A wildfire near Fort McMurray, Canada, in May caused a spike in crude oil prices, as it caused a shut-down of production from the oil sands in the area.  The three photographs here are from the North Cascades, which are in Washington state.

BW photograph of some peaks in the North Cascades around Washington Pass.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I recently had the opportunity to take a ride along the entire Cascade Mountain Highway…

BW photograph of charred pine tree trunks along a rocky mountainside.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

and there was ample evidence of past wildfire activity throughout that region.

There is an important interactive cycle at work here.  Climate change is one of the factors driving the abundance and ferocity of wildfires.   As trees burn, any carbon dioxide they have absorbed within their lifetime is released back into the atmosphere.  If the fire burns enough to kill the tree, it will then no longer be able absorb carbon dioxide.   In addition, the soot produced is one of the particulate matters that eventually accumulate in the arctic ice sheets, which, in turn, causes a faster melt.  In 2014, Dr. Jason Box completed a study regarding the impact of arctic wildfires and glacial melting-the results can be read here.  The above predictions about the 2016 wildfire season take on added significance when examined from this perspective.

It is always important to be careful with fire.  However, that diligence must be exercised with extreme prejudice when in drought-stricken, extremely dry, areas.  Unfortunately, those areas are increasing.

Take care.





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