How the U.S. fights forest fires and why innovation is needed

Some of the largest wildfires ever recorded are raging across the west. Millions of acres have burned in California, Oregon and Washington. Smoke has reached as far as Europe. 

Firefighters like Michael Seaton, who lost his home in the deadly 2018 Camp Fire, have worked more than a month straight.

“So you’re out on the line for two days and you’re sleep deprived out there. So I’ve seen people standing up with their eyes closed and they’re basically asleep,” said Seaton, a CAL FIRE engineer.

“All of this is on the heels of wildfire emergencies in 2019, 2018 and 2017 that points to the pattern of how climate warming is predisposing large landscapes to unprecedented fire activity,” said Doug Morton, Chief of NASA’s Biospheric Sciences Laboratory.

Heat waves and drought have left a thick layer of dry vegetation easily sparked by people and lightning. Although nearly 85% of wildland fires

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On the front lines of California’s fires: Smoke, chaos and comrades in arms

A Carson Hotshot with a wildfire in the background

A member of the Carson Hotshots works a fireline at the Slater Fire in Northern California.


USFS/Carson Hotshots/H. Kligman

With unprecedented fires burning millions of acres across the Western US the past few months, firefighters and other personnel from across the country have responded to the call to help contain the devastating blazes. 

Northern New Mexico, where I live, has managed to escape the worst of this horrifying fire season, with just a handful of smaller wildfires. That has freed up firefighting crews like the National Forest Service’s Carson Hotshots, based in Taos, to help on those larger fires. 

The Hotshots are an elite firefighting crew specializing in wildfire suppression and emergency situations. The team’s standards for physical fitness and training are intense. I’ve occasionally marveled when mountain biking around Taos with members of the crew, who carry on conversations as we pedal up steep trails and I struggle to

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Arctic sea ice hits second-lowest level on record amid Siberian heat, fires

Because of the outsize effects of climate change in the Far North, the Arctic is likely to be seasonally ice-free within two to three decades, according to NSIDC Director Mark Serreze.

The NSIDC declared Monday that the likely sea ice annual minimum was reached Sept. 15, when sea ice reached 1.44 million square miles, though it’s possible that a shift in weather patterns could cause some further melting.

The sea ice minimum was 135,000 square miles above the record low in 2012 but a staggering 969,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average seasonal low, the size of which is equivalent to the states of Alaska, Texas and Montana combined.

Because of rapid Arctic climate change — the region is warming at about three times the rate of the rest of the globe — the downward trend in the minimum ice extent during the past 42 years is 13.4 percent per

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Apple chief says fires and storms show impact of climate change

Apple chief Tim Cook said Monday he views the recent increase in fires, hurricanes and floods as strong proof that climate change is real.

The disasters should sway those denying science that shows greenhouse gases are dangerously changing weather patterns, Cook said in a talk streamed during an online event by The Atlantic magazine.

Cook reasoned that wildfires raging on the US West Coast, hurricanes slamming the South, and flooding in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions make a compelling case for climate change.

“All of these together, I do believe will convince the people that are not currently convinced about climate change,” Cook said.

His remote interview with Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg was recorded last week, when smoke from wildfires turned day to night in California and ash fell like snow in some places.

“It’s horrendous,” Cook said.

“It’s a reminder of how serious climate change is and what’s at

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