Will Wildfire Smoke Worsen the Pandemic? We're About to Find Out

Will Wildfire Smoke Worsen the Pandemic? We're About to Find Out

Scientists still have much to learn about Covid-19, but, says Jessica McCarty, a geographer and fire scientist at Miami University, “We know that there's linkages between people who live in highly-polluted areas and their likelihood of getting any type of respiratory illness, as well as viral infections.” Smog from cars, for instance, remains a major threat to human health.

Wildfires Already Threaten the West. Then Came Covid-19

Wildfires Already Threaten the West. Then Came Covid-19

“If you look at a fire engine going down the street, there's four personnel inside who technically are not socially distanced,” says Mike Mohler, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.

Hungry Animals Can Change How Severely a Landscape Burns

Hungry Animals Can Change How Severely a Landscape Burns

The grazers might also prefer grasses to shrubs, which changes the vertical structure of the vegetation, further increasing the fire risk.So while the grazers are doing a helpful job of eating up some potential tinder, they’re leaving behind vegetation that is extra-flammable—which is a mixed bag, in terms of wildfire prevention.

Watch Australia's Wildfires Spawn Massive Smoky Thunderclouds

Watch Australia's Wildfires Spawn Massive Smoky Thunderclouds

As the mass climbs higher, the smoky air cools and forms into a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, a soup of water and smoke particles towering miles into the sky.

Australia Is Blazing Into the Pyrocene—the Age of Fire

Australia Is Blazing Into the Pyrocene—the Age of Fire

And just as fast-moving flames swallowed up Paradise in 2018 , fires are moving so quickly, they’re overwhelming whole Australian towns.

California’s Wildfires Are the Doom of Our Own Making

California’s Wildfires Are the Doom of Our Own Making

A single spark can ignite a wind-driven wildfire that moves with such speed firefighters can’t safely confront it, even from the air, as flame retardants dropped from planes and helicopters blow off course in the gusts.

Kincade Fire: The Age of Flames Is Consuming California

Kincade Fire: The Age of Flames Is Consuming California

All it takes is one spark to ignite ultra-dry brush, and high winds will carry that flame with incredible speed, overwhelming communities like Paradise, where many residents simply didn’t have time to escape .

California’s Power Outages Are About Wildfires—But Also Money

California’s Power Outages Are About Wildfires—But Also Money

“If the assumptions in your analysis turn out to be wrong, your whole strategy can blow up and be immensely costly, and delay your bankruptcy,” says Jared Ellias, an expert in bankruptcy law at UC Hastings College of the Law. That means you try to get through it fast, and with minimal chaos.

A Mass Power Outage, Twitter's Data Misuse, and More News

A Mass Power Outage, Twitter's Data Misuse, and More News

Massive power outages won't save California, Twitter misused your two-factor authentication data, and scientists now know where lightning strikes twice (as much as anywhere else).Power shutoffs can't save California from wildfire hell.

PG&E’s Power Shutoffs Can’t Save California From Wildfire Hell

PG&E’s Power Shutoffs Can’t Save California From Wildfire Hell

“If you imagine the atmosphere over your head as a sponge, you can’t wring it out anymore,” says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA.At ground level, the warm air screaming through the mountains sucks away whatever moisture might be left in the vegetation—which is increasingly little as the climate warms in California and autumns grow increasingly dry .

Blame Utilities for Wildfires, But Blame Everyone Else Too

Blame Utilities for Wildfires, But Blame Everyone Else Too

Cut off power and you risk the ire of the state's Public Utilities Commission: Skirting the danger of starting a wildfire could end up bricking medical devices and critical infrastructure.

For Nervous Californians, Fire-Proofing Is a New Obsession

For Nervous Californians, Fire-Proofing Is a New Obsession

Despite a flurry of stories in the media about people losing their insurance and leaving the area, Mark Sektnan, president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told me, “We’re not seeing a trend.” Insurance prices are increasing in some places, but California doesn’t allow insurers to jack up premiums based on recent disasters, and nearly everyone can find home insurance if they want it, he said.

How Supercomputers Can Help Fix Our Wildfire Problem

How Supercomputers Can Help Fix Our Wildfire Problem

Thus the fire sucks in surface winds.Researchers are using supercomputers and lookout stations like this to model the dynamics of wildfires in real time. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, atmospheric scientist Alexandra Jonko is using a supercomputer and a system called FIRETEC to model fires in extreme detail.

Cities Have Turned Into Fire Bait—But We Can Fix Them

Cities Have Turned Into Fire Bait—But We Can Fix Them

High winds blow embers perhaps miles in advance of a blaze, firebrands that land on clusters of pine needles or leaves on roofs, quickly triggering hundreds if not thousands of house fires, as appears to have happened in Paradise.Part of what makes the destruction of Paradise so shocking is that we tend to assume that cities just don’t burn anymore.

The Terrifying Science Behind California’s Massive Camp Fire

The Terrifying Science Behind California’s Massive Camp Fire

“We have a weather event, in this case a downslope windstorm, where, as opposed to the normal westerly winds, we get easterly winds that are cascading off the crest of the Sierra Nevada,” says Neil Lareau, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno.A windstorm barreling from the east just set the stage for this week's burning disaster.

Fighting historic wildfires amid bad ideas and no funding

Fighting historic wildfires amid bad ideas and no funding

What’s needed is a national wildfire strategy such as the one proposed by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers several years ago. And finally, what’s needed is for the federal government to restore funding for the Canadian Forest Service to at least 1990s levels, when it employed 2,200 people.

In the line of fire: lessons from a California architect on rebuilding resiliently

In the line of fire: lessons from a California architect on rebuilding resiliently

In Napa Valley, architect Brandon Jorgensen has tackled this question in the aftermath of the Wine Country fires that destroyed nearly 9,000 homes and buildings last October. Using “thoughtful design,” they’re looking for ideas that are more resilient against future fires as well as more socially and environmentally conscious than what was lost.

Wildfire Smoke Is Smothering the US—Even Where You Don't Expect It

Wildfire Smoke Is Smothering the US—Even Where You Don't Expect It

By 2050, an estimated 83.7 million people over the age of 65 will call the US home, nearly doubling the current population—and a paper published in April found that bad smoke days during California’s 2015 wildfire season caused spikes in emergency room visits, with the most pronounced impact on patients over 65.