Tag Archives: drought

Thousands Of People Have Been Evacuated In Canada After City-Sized Wildfires Spread Out Of Control

Right now, a wildfire is tearing its way across the Canadian province of Alberta. Its currently about850 square kilometers(about 328 square miles) in size, which is roughly thesize of Rome. Although it has recently begun to slow down, the conflagration is currently surrounding the city of Fort McMurray, and firefighters are desperate to kill it before it advances any further.

Around 8,000 people have been airlifted out of the severely damaged city, but 17,000 remain, and they are genuinely at risk of being completely trapped by the fire. Authorities hope that the only motorway capable of evacuating these residents will be safe enough by the end of Friday this week.

Let me be clear: air tankers are not going to stop this fire, said Chad Morrison, Albertas manager of wildfire prevention, as reported by theGuardian. It is going to continue to push through these dry conditions until we actually get some significant rain.

Naturally, people are beginning to wonder what caused such an unusually powerful, prolonged wildfire. Was this disaster, which has caused the largest fire evacuation in the provinces history, a one-off, or is it a sign of worse things to come?

Several climate change experts have concluded that this was in fact the result of a perfect storm, a dangerous union between themost powerful El Nio on recordand man-made climate change. Although tinder-dry plants, very low humidity and hot, strong winds have rendered the 1,100 firefighters unable to halt the fire, its ultimate cause appears to down to these twofamiliar antagonists.

Man-madeclimate changehas indubitably made wildfires both more common and more powerful: Since 1979, wildfire seasons have lengthened by nearly 19 percent. The global frequency of long fire weather seasons has also jumped by a whopping 53.4 percent, and the amount of burnable land affected has risen byover 108 percent.

Alberta itself has had 330 wildfires since the beginning of the year, which is more than double the recent annual average. As a marker of just how unusually hot it is right now, Fort McMurray recorded a temperature of 32.6C (90.7F), way above the expected high temperature of 14C (57.2F) for early May.

Although warmer winters are certainly down to climate change, the current record-setting El Nio has only served to exacerbate things. Thanks to the complex machinations of this climatic event, western Canada experienced a serious drought, so severe in fact that the province declared an agricultural emergency. This dryness has continued long into the beginning of spring.

We’ve had an incredibly dry winter, we didn’t have enough snow pack, ProfessorJudith Kulig, from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, toldBBC News. The drought, the lack of snow, the extremely high temperatures and the current lack of precipitation have all made for a rather grim tale that is not yet over.

Hopefully, the story ends with the residents of Fort McMurray being safely evacuated, but the danger is currently far from over. At the moment, out of the 49 separate wildfires in the area, seven are still listed as out of control. The scale of the fire can be tracked in real-timehere.

Ultimately, the take-home message is this: Climate change is makingextreme weather events including wildfires more likely, and these will be at their worst during El Nio years.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/city-sized-alberta-wildfires-driven-climate-change-and-powerful-el-ni-o

Eastern Mediterranean Drought The Worst To Hit The Region In 900 Years

Modeling the historic droughts that have hit the Mediterranean basin, scientists have found that the region’s latestdry period was the worst drought to have hit the area in the past 900 years. The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, highlights the concerns that climate change may be contributing to observed drying trends, and that those impacts might already be being felt.

The researchers looked back at the records of droughts documented in tree rings from all around the Mediterranean, sampling trees from North Africa, Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey, as well as using existing tree ring data from Spain, France and Italy. They found that the growth of the trees matched up with historical records written at the time of droughts to have hit the region between 1100 CE and 2012 CE. Although the variability between wet and dry periods was quite large, the most recent 1998-2012 drought was still found to be about 50 percent drier than the driest period in the last 500 years, and over 10 percent drier than any in the past 900.

For January 2012, brown shades show the decrease in water storage from the 2002-2015 average in the Mediterranean region. NASA

The scale of the project also allowed the researchers to look at how droughts affected different regions of the Mediterranean. They found that if the east was experiencing a dry period, then it was likely that the west was going through a similar spell. This is important,because it has all sorts of implications for food and water security withinthe region as a whole if everyone is experiencing a drought at the same time, and could help predict where conflict over these resources might arise.

But interestingly, when the researchers then looked at how dry periods affected the north and south of the region, they found an opposite relationship. When Greece, Italy, France and Spain were in drought, the eastern areas of North Africa tended to be wet. The differences between what happens in the east and west of the region when compared to the north-south are thought to be due to airflow patterns that move the weather systems around the Med.

Having such a longterm data set will be invaluable for any future events, as it in effect provides a baseline for comparison. This means that any variability can be checkedto see if drying conditions could be seen as a natural cycle, or iscaused by man-made climate change.

The magnitude and significance of human climate change requires us to really understand the full range of natural climate variability, explains Ben Cook, from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and who led the research. If we look at recent events and we start to see anomalies that are outside this range of natural variability, then we can say with some confidence that it looks like this particular event or this series of events had some kind of human-caused climate change contribution.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/eastern-mediterranean-drought-worst-hit-region-900-years