“Mega-drought” in West means threat of extreme fire season ahead

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mega-drought-california-extreme-fire-season/


BY JEFF BERARDELLI

UPDATED ON: JUNE 9, 2021 / 7:16 AM / CBS NEWS

https://www.cbsnews.com/embed/video/?v=008a1348ac072eab7c4aa92e6596867a#vVdtb9s2EP4rgr4MGEKLpN4NDEOzbli3LujSFfsQFQZFHm02epsoxQ6K%2FPcdJdlxsgHFhrYJDEvk8e743N1z54%2B%2BGIe2q8S9vx76ES78O6Og9dcffTNAbf31zUd%2FuO%2FAX%2Ft3rfIvfKPwMUu0pDzKCaQxI1EacSIUpERLodNSioRyjrJ1d7gG%2Fcqd2Byub5M4ffXz6w%2FXv9XXH9T2159S83tzlfR0%2FOn2L5S21bhFyT3YAfqGqL4dt7uBDDsg%2B7a3A9kD2Yk7IHAHPbEADZGlJQ3sLfkAWpMSetErqCqD2gYzVM7rl7MaT7ZjpTynCBpvbyqlTQ%2BeBWHbxjON9yeaxWMKbvEQPuixqo46%2Fpxd8haXvMJHpyZdg7cHzznlOac859RF4XtW3Fvvh8u33hU69433C3rnXZ57J0XTNkaK6o8vZmIwNeoUdeevWcJDRjM6%2FeEdx14Mpm38dcTY4%2BtrUUKFrtBkHTNUUM3vDQKBYa%2FFFqzLC%2BvCuRuGzq6LoAgwBC4CfIUPBu0NRq5kWxfBbiyLwBRBXwScclYENMFPVgQqVTTkiSY6Z5xEeSxIqaOYKMginXKZQ5kXwbAb67IRpiqCJKKHMKF4MhKlpEqmpdaaspBFqY64SDImIM1zNXtD9GjxOuRzJBI5uUHSkEaMksWZ1Yduixjt%2FhUM9gXBYDyjh5QjGnFellqGMqRJpGjJY53FocpilauQZTn72mg8XPhdD3cG9u%2F66gkstquMhJWoq%2B3KtEUgOoTijuPHkU0RfIocimBRXAT%2BiaHO9Hd9q1ZIT9POagnCDPzygqYQ%2Bl1ln%2BPPcppwlsVJmOTokLsWzTaTYC0cYqs6HLOjVf7Vzeq2r8WAZkXnQJwKtQgOpO5g%2B%2B76NUqMz8De7%2FdPfVlA%2FhwJMOFv7Ku6a50yf61FZbFpYAsxcmoarh4oL0UcuXTGzCZRzCTJylwTLFwq8yjJyyx%2F5PspSWWFBDPAXgxy58rKOJNyh13pZhJwlIlf3hO595hwoodm%2BMOZvxK1I1KkxKtzDZf388bNceeHJyowaaEztlUoglw49wNU4wjQwrZG7fPG2GEOWnu6sqiqF1LiymXVytsTTdp3Fvq3Y2llb0pQJ3HbtY1t%2B6PcDg4vXoIWY%2BViSy%2Fw359WLx9Xw%2Fwiii9iB9XQC3lrmq2DGGNqZdvD9IwJGVIa0yxBgKLl%2BkvkHWYJLn3rTOJLYzd22GwdSC6284roNsLd96oIXpxkpDN%2FJxk7rdjhme6HB9fEOpeO9r9R4PHUp8t%2BJVS5OdTO93o8vOnbDvrh%2FlfArPB5lIISWD8sVSyO8gjpMwxFmPgPmBY1DGLqVQjcANt794xru1bNlQSNmm6wpKAGMYw9KCJdKwQ35iwzD3qOgXNJ8DhR4CMSGD6cSuuwwyqXbVWBnOvzdKwInusugu%2BN3VTtdgtqY5rvqOPN8%2Fga%2B2MjysrlzjyRiR4xrODFiP73bpi68TlXoaBZTCSkOH9xkCTnEBGQLMqxoSiZcVceT44e68DVtHc2Kz3KTZMah5gpkJRQHpaoOwGSAwtJnGU8VmkZUZ74pyNvxvIlXsudQ4IjNCE081i2juiaRo9ixzGnwDBsxZGDcIzBycsRk1eDaKw37HqEy2u1B4ehhxq88ylN7ECoM53HEDUDIr1ZVl3WnyIxo0UTQROalAR4HGOPZTERmpWEQ8pzmYVaae3URiWnEWjCyyQnUaQQ1BRwxtVJmkZUUBoKB9aj%2BiOiCyt5ciearfNg4drTnGndOYUtTB69VmBvkTUnOn0Jdw4%2F39HZ9ijgimjjZnBHRPj9s3F8e%2BOPky638nZ2AmVHuwgtZ9GgoxuDM%2BMeSn%2Fh5ym6OqU4WmBgS443ZQxwcg%2B1C3bOWBaxLJ0J54xRJ%2B14Q4McEJ3Qf9uOvYSZv72FT8peNOpNJQbXtSZzCxtsnHObxztbwKgp0d9PzO1%2BZfhWGmhQ4fvnu6%2FUtI8tkqYhpljJGUYnjwAHJZETnbI80zwv4zg%2BIrM4vhh31wFRmbF25YVNW5vqbNsdQBFoXBBcS%2Fcfzubz56PMP7rr3ObPs5rgMYMINEaQJY2JSwIyp%2FHUQ2tQRrxp0TZGcIlaNWe3y4EvZNWpXrD5vyomxvuke5935Hh4%2BBs%3D

By almost any measure the drought in the Western states this year is about as bad as we’ve ever seen — perhaps the worst in modern history. A severe lack of rainfall over the past two years, combined with a steadily heating climate, has turned California into a tinderbox, setting the stage for what will likely be a catastrophic fire season ahead.

This comes on the heels of the worst fire season in recorded history in the West, setting a new bar for what seemed possible. In 2020, more than 8 million acres burned, with California and Colorado experiencing their largest fires ever. 

That’s why it’s startling to see the comparison between last year’s relatively modest drought and this year’s record-setting drought. Drought conditions this time last year are a blip on the radar compared to where we are right now. 

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CBS NEWS AND US DROUGHT MONITOR

The orange in the above map represents severe drought, the red is extreme drought and the dark red is exceptional drought. A total of 72% of the West is blanketed in one of these three categories and more than one-quarter is in exceptional drought — the highest category. https://www.cbsnews.com/newsletters/widget/e879?v=008a1348ac072eab7c4aa92e6596867a&view=compact#tVNNb9swDP0rhs5VI8vfuXXogPUyFGh3WoZCH1Si1ZYNSU5WFP3voxKnDXocsJtN8j3yPVKvZJyiHV0g61cCatRA1gTapiNXZG%2FhgH9qHCahIgamMdhUjMGbECBmX0b9Qt6uSPRCPVu3TSQ2fHVC9qDJOvoZrojw0aoebua4G%2F0dhn8SznUhWFtRBU1OSw6KdhxKCiovO80KrVpOfn2CfhcDJPBvMCaT4IXX0Pf2oi6REw5VrkExynghkbsG2kFe0KpteaUbWTJek3fI%2FSxvRUyiOeM5ZTVlbZa365KtWflR9mhjn4o2ZICtoNqP83YXNySzLjtAiNkAwoUs7jyImI0mgz%2FRwwCZsR6yACKMLhM7EPqC82WCo70ugotPSxTzaux7UMnok1usFqxmtaTAq4qWXV5RYXJJOTS8U21htDGJtpSclWAol3VHy1KjqQ10FEzdNCUTjBUimfVBf3ZU9XZAEzK1E26bJkiSwKM02%2BukICSchr1V56k1hOc4Tlhrwy3sk3%2FpQMT2XODgEJ5shAHDeDXwzYJPveYjV4o8nIbAWoydQgsWG054knYPaK7EHHay6rhd0zANLS5WclSa58CpKExadpfnbZm3TdWdASd5J%2FY5gF%2FYhcOmVwQ120jW5fs%2BHsbZq%2BNGZMjS%2BFgkvXD6vhfRjH44DoDJo7Q07tOHCwHfjtPCvzymziEpDcqCQ8Jfn7N3%2BphvCsaaAo9O8hz31ZVApREdNU3etYZ3sqqqs1eLlKV5Egiit%2FOQHtzkR2P7i3QCYAm4tBbM6vREVZJtleh%2F%2BB7DuxinsN6sNqvD4XC9AK%2FxqW9W6WuzurxzijCLDjgr6HLYNJ0FPR32ZrWs%2Fj9SLwb8G8Xb218%3D

Over the past 20 years, the coverage of exceptional drought has never surpassed 11%. Right now it is a staggering 27%.

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CBS NEWS AND US DROUGHT MONITOR

The escalating drought has severely dried out vegetation weeks before fire season really kicks in. The energy, or fuel, available to feed fires, technically called the Energy Release Component, is at a record level for this time of year. 

In the chart below for the Central Sierra mountains of California, the blue line represents the current energy available for fires, and the red line shows the previous highs. 

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CBS NEWS AND SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY

Although it appears that our current level is a record for all time, not just for the date, that needs some context. The data plotted for the Central Sierras only spans the last 10 years, so incorporating more years would likely show that the current amount of available energy is indeed a record for the date, but not for the entire fire season.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fweatherprof&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3R3ZWV0X2VtYmVkX2NsaWNrYWJpbGl0eV8xMjEwMiI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJjb250cm9sIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1402032267774500866&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbsnews.com%2Fnews%2Fmega-drought-california-extreme-fire-season%2F&sessionId=8ebf224d0d5e2de6ed5805a9b4c6aafecfcdfe85&siteScreenName=CBSNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px

Fire season in the West traditionally ramps up in the summer and maximizes in the fall, but this season we have already seen numerous fires in the region. The Fire Weather Research Laboratory at San Jose State University says that vegetation moisture is so low that critical fuel moisture may be reached as early as this month.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fweatherprof&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3R3ZWV0X2VtYmVkX2NsaWNrYWJpbGl0eV8xMjEwMiI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJjb250cm9sIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1394504641409282048&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbsnews.com%2Fnews%2Fmega-drought-california-extreme-fire-season%2F&sessionId=8ebf224d0d5e2de6ed5805a9b4c6aafecfcdfe85&siteScreenName=CBSNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px

This year’s drought is being caused by two factors: low rainfall the past two years and, over the longer term, human-caused climate change.

Decline In Deer And Wild Horses Kindling Catastrophic Wildfires

Large herbivores, such as deer and wild horses have over evolutionary time evolved to control and maintain the grass and brush that is ubiquitous across the landscape. The now prodigious grass and brush that has resulted from a significant decline in our native herbivores is fueling and kindling catastrophic wildfires, makes them abnormally hot, resulting in the incineration of everything in their path.

And as these devastating wildfires burn for weeks and months at a time, the air quality in many areas reaches a ‘hazardous’ level due to extreme particulate concentrations combined with gaseous toxins that are deadly.

During this 2020 wildfire season, the air quality in many areas of California and Oregon (and elsewhere in America) reached levels where people are made seriously ill, while others who are exposed to this deadly air are then preconditioned and made more susceptible to a myriad of health issues down the road, and that is especially true for our children.

As a result of the ongoing mismanagement of large herbivores, this letter was penned to the Bureau of Land Management managers in the Medford, Oregon District offices by William E. Simpson II, a naturalist-researcher who studies the effects of herbivores (specifically wild horses) on wilderness landscape and wildfire.

TO: Elizabeth Burghard – BLM District Manager Medford, OR

Lauren P. Brown –

Manager – Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

CC: Et. Al.

RE: Who Should Americans Blame For Incinerating Flames And Deadly Smoke From Wildfire?

Dear Ms. Burghard and Ms. Brown:

Enjoying our “hazardous air”? It stems from obtuse management policies that fail to observe the reality of science instead of politics, egos and money.

At a time when we need all the fuels (grass and brush) reduction and maintenance we can muster, here we discover that the Bureau of Land Management (‘BLM’) is removing large herbivores (nature’s grass and brush mowers) from our landscape locally and nationally, which is already deficient in large herbivores according to the best science.https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/ads?client=ca-pub-1227307663574741&output=html&h=280&adk=2608271695&adf=2437803625&pi=t.aa~a.829776362~i.57~rp.4&w=640&fwrn=4&fwrnh=100&lmt=1622913282&num_ads=1&rafmt=1&armr=3&sem=mc&pwprc=9818545385&psa=1&ad_type=text_image&format=640×280&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.valuewalk.com%2F2020%2F09%2Fwild-horses-removal-wildfire%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR3_Kp6Fysuv6XlPJLPWIhnX-YjmMog5kZd9RWoLrqvclVwq1vIzpJpWKCk&flash=0&fwr=0&pra=3&rh=160&rw=640&rpe=1&resp_fmts=3&wgl=1&fa=27&adsid=ChEI8MHshQYQ5PCP54y7qNiNARI9AHrZIcfPygrQDYGhQoBHe0GW9B4Pnbi72rZuDsVrklnKKnDh1YPkK29FgEInFXhefuPHUzywQxN2sbPIiQ&uach=WyJXaW5kb3dzIiwiMTAuMCIsIng4NiIsIiIsIjkxLjAuNDQ3Mi43NyIsW11d&dt=1622913273351&bpp=12&bdt=10194&idt=13&shv=r20210601&cbv=%2Fr20190131&ptt=9&saldr=aa&abxe=1&cookie=ID%3D81320396d220691a-224bdd61e9c70067%3AT%3D1622913267%3ART%3D1622913267%3AS%3DALNI_May8IVXWnwcl6JI7Ggb7t01SLhXcw&prev_fmts=0x0%2C300x250&nras=3&correlator=7277685408563&frm=20&pv=1&ga_vid=371416190.1622906261&ga_sid=1622913267&ga_hid=613557061&ga_fc=0&u_tz=-420&u_his=1&u_java=0&u_h=640&u_w=1139&u_ah=607&u_aw=1139&u_cd=24&u_nplug=3&u_nmime=4&adx=71&ady=3583&biw=1123&bih=537&scr_x=0&scr_y=1700&eid=44744007%2C44744015&oid=3&psts=AGkb-H-w-xXCkoT5lMP_1xZEaA50xORYygGZwwkAJHZaqMv09ieplvYaYtv_5ejtmPWw5RkQlSZw6nDf509SMA&pvsid=4320925660688057&pem=550&ref=https%3A%2F%2Foutlook.live.com%2F&eae=0&fc=1408&brdim=0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C1139%2C0%2C1139%2C607%2C1139%2C537&vis=1&rsz=%7C%7Cs%7C&abl=NS&fu=128&bc=31&jar=2021-06-05-17&ifi=6&uci=a!6&btvi=2&fsb=1&xpc=Czy9KwzYsb&p=https%3A//www.valuewalk.com&dtd=9188

The following statement is relevant in regard to the removal of wild horses from the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and areas surrounding the Monument, like the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area and the Pokegama Herd Management Area, where the BLM is idiotically rounding up wild horses (aka: large herbivores) this coming week.

Jozef Keulartz:

“The removal of large herbivores has adverse effects on landscape structure and ecosystem functioning. In wetter ecosystems, the loss of large herbivores is associated with an increased abundance of woody plants and the development of a closed-canopy vegetation. In drier ecosystems, reductions of large grazers can lead to a high grass biomass, and thus, to an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Together, with the loss of a prey base for large carnivores, these changes in vegetation structures and fire regimes may trigger cascades of extinctions (Bakker et al., 2016; Estes et al., 2011; Hopcraft, Olff, & Sinclair, 2009; Malhi et al., 2016).” http://oxfordre.com/environmentalscience/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.001.0001/acrefore-9780199389414-e-545

Additionally, you should be taking more of a leadership role in controlling your subordinate, Mr. Joel Brumm of your Bureau of Land Management (‘BLM’) office and his obtuse rantings (in public) that are both scientifically and legally incorrect, when he says: “wild horses are trespass animals in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (‘Monument’)”. Mr. Brumm’s blathering in this regard is just nonsense in the face of real science and arguably incorrect in the face of the law.https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/ads?client=ca-pub-1227307663574741&output=html&h=280&adk=2608271695&adf=3999567714&pi=t.aa~a.829776362~i.65~rp.4&w=640&fwrn=4&fwrnh=100&lmt=1622913348&num_ads=1&rafmt=1&armr=3&sem=mc&pwprc=9818545385&psa=1&ad_type=text_image&format=640×280&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.valuewalk.com%2F2020%2F09%2Fwild-horses-removal-wildfire%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR3_Kp6Fysuv6XlPJLPWIhnX-YjmMog5kZd9RWoLrqvclVwq1vIzpJpWKCk&flash=0&fwr=0&pra=3&rh=160&rw=640&rpe=1&resp_fmts=3&wgl=1&fa=27&adsid=ChEI8MHshQYQ5PCP54y7qNiNARI9AHrZIcfPygrQDYGhQoBHe0GW9B4Pnbi72rZuDsVrklnKKnDh1YPkK29FgEInFXhefuPHUzywQxN2sbPIiQ&uach=WyJXaW5kb3dzIiwiMTAuMCIsIng4NiIsIiIsIjkxLjAuNDQ3Mi43NyIsW11d&dt=1622913273390&bpp=12&bdt=10226&idt=12&shv=r20210601&cbv=%2Fr20190131&ptt=9&saldr=aa&abxe=1&cookie=ID%3D81320396d220691a%3AT%3D1622913267%3AS%3DALNI_MYyGFZlR7oZi_8Kc-CzgVwc6PX0HA&prev_fmts=0x0%2C300x250%2C640x280&nras=4&correlator=7277685408563&frm=20&pv=1&ga_vid=371416190.1622906261&ga_sid=1622913267&ga_hid=613557061&ga_fc=0&u_tz=-420&u_his=1&u_java=0&u_h=640&u_w=1139&u_ah=607&u_aw=1139&u_cd=24&u_nplug=3&u_nmime=4&adx=71&ady=4913&biw=1123&bih=537&scr_x=0&scr_y=2926&eid=44744007%2C44744015&oid=3&psts=AGkb-H-w-xXCkoT5lMP_1xZEaA50xORYygGZwwkAJHZaqMv09ieplvYaYtv_5ejtmPWw5RkQlSZw6nDf509SMA%2CAGkb-H_P7fos85x85_9J5tOM6oZNhUE_o0T4B5M_lQRUZ2Usp6zMc1I5RarpivSl_mwE4Hh4U0BnoxVxT9NS&pvsid=4320925660688057&pem=550&ref=https%3A%2F%2Foutlook.live.com%2F&eae=0&fc=1408&brdim=0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C1139%2C0%2C1139%2C607%2C1139%2C537&vis=1&rsz=%7C%7Cs%7C&abl=NS&fu=128&bc=31&jar=2021-06-05-17&ifi=7&uci=a!7&btvi=3&fsb=1&xpc=7dn3FoUAnG&p=https%3A//www.valuewalk.com&dtd=74943

We all need to keep in mind that ‘administrative policy’ does not supersede established law or Acts of Congress, which represent the will of the American people as a whole, as opposed to the whims of some administrative fiefdom and it’s ruler (dictatorship), as has been the case at the BLM.

The corruption and malfeasance at the BLM now seems to arguably top any other government agency… here are just three of many examples, one concerns a BLM employee from the Medford District Office:

1) Former BLM Official (Medford, OR) Pleads Guilty to Public Corruption Charges Sophisticated Contract Manipulation Scheme Defrauds BLM of Over $400,000 https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/portland/press-releases/2010/pd041610

2) Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses During Reign of Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/inspector-general-report_b_8393670

3) The BLM make a material misrepresentation to the Congress of the Unites States of America in their 2018 Report To Congress ‘Management Options For A Sustainable Wild Horse And Burro Program’, where on page-1, paragraph 5 of the Executive Summary they wrote: “Wild horses and burro have no natural predators...”. That statement is false in the face of wildlife ecology and evolution. Mountain lions, bears, wolves, and coyotes kill and eat the foals and adults as their natural prey.

Climate-Driven Extreme Weather Is Imperiling Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Firefighters battle a forest fire in Pekanbaru, Indonesia's Riau province on March 2, 2021, amid an increase of hotspots in the region.
Firefighters battle a forest fire in Pekanbaru, Indonesia’s Riau province on March 2, 2021, amid an increase of hotspots in the region.

BYTara LohanThe RevelatorPUBLISHEDMarch 7, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

Ahailstorm in South Texas. Tornadoes in Tennessee. Wildfires across the West. A barrage of Gulf Coast hurricanes. Those are among the record 22 weather and climate disasters that each topped $1 billion in damages last year in the United States.

In all, the price tag for 2020 hit a whopping $95 billion — and that’s just in the United States. Reinsurance firm Swiss Re put global economic losses at $175 billion last year, including $32 billion for floods in China and $13 billion in damages from Cyclone Amphan across India and Bangladesh.

The worst news? Our profligate burning of fossil fuels means we’re in store for more.

Studies show that climate change is supercharging some weather and climate events and will lead to more severe and longer-lasting heat wavesstronger hurricanes, an increased wildfire risk and a longer wildfire season. We can also expect more heavy rain events and severe droughts, not to mention other extreme events like February’s polar vortex.

“You can’t attribute any particular storm to climate change, but what we do know is that climate change tips the odds of making many of these events more severe,” says Bruce Stein, chief scientist and associate vice president at the National Wildlife Federation.

While experts tabulate the economic losses — homes destroyed, crops ruined, businesses shuttered — ecosystems and wildlife can also sustain damage that’s harder to quantify.

Many plants and wildlife evolved with and have adapted to dealing with large-scale disturbances, but we’re beginning to see “megadisturbances” at levels beyond what we saw in the past, says Stein.

And that can take a toll. Extreme weather can kill animals directly — or indirectly, like by destroying food sources, contaminating water or altering habitat, forcing a species to move into areas where there may be more competition, fewer resources or a greater risk of predation.

“What we begin to find when you get some of these mega disturbances is that it’s beyond the ability of a species — or their adaptive capacity — to bounce back,” says Stein.

The Research

The effects of climate change on the natural world are being felt at two speeds. One is more gradual, referred to by scientists as “ramping” — shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels. The second is quick, like extreme weather events.

Both are problematic, says Sean Maxwell, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science. But, he adds, “I think the changes to acute events have the greatest potential to devastate local populations or ecosystems, and the impacts of these events are often more difficult to plan for or avoid.”

Maxwell was the lead author of a 2018 study published in the journal Diversity and Distributions that examined how changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate events affected wildlife. The researchers looked at 519 studies of ecological responses to extreme events — including cyclones, droughts, floods, and heat and cold waves — that took place from 1941 to 2015. They found that the response was negative 57% of the time. (And in those instances where species benefited, they were mostly invasive species.)

“Some of the negative responses we found were quite concerning, including more than 100 cases of dramatic population declines and 31 cases of local population extinction following an extreme event,” says Maxwell. “Populations of critically endangered bird species in Hawai’i, such as the palia, have been annihilated due to drought, and populations of lizard species have been wiped out due to cyclones in the Bahamas.”

Plant species, the researchers found, had the highest number of negative responses to extreme events, followed by reptiles and amphibians.

“Collectively, the studies in our review suggest that extreme weather and climate events have profound implications for species and ecosystem management,” the researchers concluded.

The Most Vulnerable

Species that are already threatened or endangered are of course especially at risk.

Take the Attwater prairie chicken. A million of these birds once ranged across the prairies of Texas and Louisiana.

Today fewer than 100 remain in the wild and scientists have sought to bolster their populations with captive breeding programs. But when Hurricane Harvey walloped Texas with 130-mile-per-hour winds and record rainfall in 2017, the birds were right in harm’s way.

“The Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge tracked 29 individual birds, mostly hens. Post-hurricane, staff confirmed only five of them still alive,” Texas Climate News reported. “The hurricane also killed roughly 80% of a prairie chicken population on private property in Goliad County.”

Other species with limited ranges, like those on islands, also face big threats.

“If a species is well distributed, then if one part of its range gets hit, there’s the ability for it to recover,” says Stein. “But if essentially all its eggs are in one basket, and that particular place gets hit by one of these big disturbances, that’s when you have a real concern.”

In 2017 Hurricane Maria cut the population of just 200 Puerto Rican parrots in half. The year before, Hurricane Matthew was believed to have wiped out the last Bahama nuthatches (Sitta insularis). It took two years before a few of the birds were found — and then Hurricane Dorian struck in 2019, making their survival unlikely, according to Diana Bell, a professor of conservation biology at the University of East Anglia.

“In fact, Dorian may have not only sealed the fate of the nuthatch but also severely impacted other birds endemic to these islands, particularly the Bahama warbler and the Abaco parrot,” Bell wrote in an essay for The Conversation. “Also known as the Bahama Amazon parrot, this subspecies uniquely nests in limestone cavities on the ground which are likely to have been flooded by the storm surge.”

Compounding Crises

The risk to wildlife from extreme storms can be compounded by the ramping effects of climate change, too.

“If you have increasingly severe hurricanes where you’ve also got sea-level rise essentially providing a higher lodge point for the storm surge, then you start seeing impacts beyond the historical record,” says Stein.

In other places, extreme weather is an extra blow to species already struggling with other environmental pressures, like habitat loss, invasive species or pollution.

Last year the world watched in horror as land-use management, climate change and drought helped push Australia’s bushfires to a terrifying new level, killing 34 people and burning 37,500 square miles.

In the immediate aftermath, one expert put the death toll for wildlife at 1 billion animals lost. Since then the figure has been revised to 3 billion killed or displaced by the blazes.

study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution found that the fire impacted the critical habitat of 832 native species, with 70 species losing more than 30% of their natural range. Twenty-one of those were already at risk of extinction.

Those that survived could find themselves hard-pressed in future climate disasters. “Multiple extreme events are likely to act in synergistic ways to exacerbate risk of species’ extinction,” wrote Maxwell and the other researchers of the 2018 study.

Australia already has one of the highest extinction rates, and the wildfires could limit the capacity of some species to recover — like the endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart and the long-footed potoroo — and threaten others. Australia’s record blazes last year could push the number of endangered species in the country up by 19%, the study in Nature Ecology and Evolution found.

Solutions

When Hurricane Irma sacked the Florida Keys in 2017, the storm tossed boats ashore, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left a trail of debris across the islands.

It also endangered one of the region’s beloved endemic species, the tiny Key deer, which today primarily live on Big Pine Key. Some deer were killed in the storm, and surviving animals faced threats to their already limited freshwater supply as the storm surge dumped saline ocean water into freshwater pools.

Island residents responded the way folks often do after a disaster — they offered help to their neighbors.

“What you saw during and shortly after Irma is that these Key deer were coming up to houses looking for fresh water,” says Stein. “And people were putting out kiddie pools of water for them.”

Following Australia’s bushfires last year, the country’s government jumped to the aid of wildlife by dropping 4,000 pounds of carrots and sweet potatoes to starving brush-tailed rock-wallabies who lost their food source in the blazes.

“There’s a lot of things that we can do to help human communities as well as wildlife after these acute disturbances,” says Stein.

But beyond immediate food and water relief, there’s a much bigger task ahead: reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address the ongoing dangers of climate change and the ability of ecosystems to adapt. Key deer, for example, also face a long-term threat to their drinking water supply from rising seas, something no number of kiddie pools can repair. And more severe hurricanes are likely in their future, too.

“As climate change continues to ensure extreme climate and weather events are more and more common, we now need to act to ensure species have the best chance to survive,” says Maxwell. “Wherever possible, high-quality and intact habitat areas should be retained, as these are the places where species are most resilient to increasing exposure to extreme events.”

If such intact habitat doesn’t exist, ecological restoration efforts can be used to help species adapt, his study found.

And the more we know, the better.

“Incorporating extreme events into climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans will be challenging,” the researchers of the 2018 paper concluded. “But by doing so we have a greater chance of arriving at conservation interventions that truly address the full range of climate change impacts.”

And that could give more species a fighting chance in a changing climate.

‘Probably the worst year in a century’: the environmental toll of 2019

The annual Australia’s Environment report finds last year’s heat and drought caused unprecedented damage

The sun glows red during the ACT bushfires
 The sun glows red during the ACT bushfires, one of the events that contributed to a disastrous 2019 for the environment in Australia. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Record heat and drought across Australia delivered the worst environmental conditions across the country since at least 2000, with river flows, tree cover and wildlife being hit on an “unprecedented scale”, according to a new report.

The index of environmental conditions in Australia scored 2019 at 0.8 out of 10 – the worst result across all the years analysed from 2000.

The year delivered unprecedented bushfiresrecord heat, very low soil moisture, low vegetation growth and 40 additions to the threatened species list.

The report’s lead author, Prof Albert van Dijk of the Australian National University’s Fenner school of environment and society, told Guardian Australia 2019 was “probably the worst in a century or more” for the environment.

“This is not the new normal – this is just getting worse and worse,” he said, adding that 2019 had seen a “continuing descent into an ever more dismal future. You start to see ecosystems fall apart and then struggle to recover before the next major disturbance.”

The Australia’s Environment report scored environmental conditions across seven indicators – inundation, streamflow, vegetation growth, leaf area, soil protection, tree cover and the number of hot days.

Across all years analysed, 2005 was the next worst year, impacted by the millennium drought. The year 2010 was the best; it was also one of Australia’s wettest on record.

Van Dijk said the cause of the impacts for 2019 were global heating as well as natural variability in Australia’s climate. The number of days above 35C was 36% higher than the previous 19 years.

The population had continued to grow and the country’s greenhouse gas emissions had remained high, the report said.

Greenhouse gas emissions per person were 11% below the 2000-18 average, but remained among the highest in the world because of high energy use per person and the burning of coal for electricity.

Findings were underpinned by about 1m gigabytes of data, including satellite data that only became available from 2000, as well as field data and on-the-ground surveys.

Reviewing biodiversity impacts, the report highlighted the number of spectacled flying foxes – one of many species vulnerable to heat stress – had dropped to 47,000 from an average of 100,000 before 2016.

The numbers of threatened species had risen by 36% since 2000, the report said.

River flows were 43% below the 2000-18 average, causing water storages to drop and mass fish deaths in the Murray-Darling Basin, and wetland environments had also seen record-low inundation.

River flows were above average around the coast of northern Queensland, around Karratha in Western Australia and at Strahan in Tasmania’s west.

The protection of soils by vegetation and moisture was “extremely poor”, causing dust storms. The average soil moisture was also lowest since at least 2000 and farming productivity had been hit.

The Great Barrier Reef, which has just experienced its third mass bleaching event in five years, had escaped bleaching in 2019 but its condition remained poor.

World heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests, the Blue Mountains, alpine regions, eastern Gippsland and Kangaroo Island had all been badly hit by bushfires.

A co-author of the report, Dr Marta Yebra, said: “Our data clearly shows that the combination of dry forests and hot weather made for an especially explosive mixture.”

All the findings and data from the report, now in its fifth year, can be viewed on a website and interactive map.

Australia’s Marine Animals Are the Fires’ Unseen Victims

As wildfires ravage Australia’s land and forests, so far killing an estimated one billion terrestrial animals, researchers worry marine and freshwater species will become invisible victims.

More than 17.1 million hectares of land have burned across the country, with the worst fires currently raging in New South Wales and Victoria, states in the nation’s southeast, according to Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy (DEE). Adrian Meder, a marine campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), says these fires are leaving behind a huge number of charred plants and a massive amount of ash.

Though Australia is in the midst of a massive drought, when the rain inevitably returns—as it already has in some regions—this organic matter will rush into rivers and flow into coastal lakes, estuaries, and seagrass and seaweed beds.

The free-flowing silt will get into fish’s gills and block sunlight that seagrass and seaweed beds need for photosynthesis, efectively strangling them. “It’s essentially like putting a shade cloth all over the entire system,” says Leonardo Guida, a shark campaigner with AMCS.

The slurry of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen will se alga in the water to bloom. The algae will consume the oxygen in the water, suffocating species that rely on it.

The fires have also torched many forests near the coast, destroying plants that filter silt and excess nutrients. The ecosystems are adapted to the low nutrient flows from the land, Meder explains. But “these fires have effectively clear-felled areas on a scale that hasn’t been seen before.”

Many commercial aquatic species, such as flathead, snapper, prawns, and various shellfish, begin their lives in coastal lakes and seagrass and seaweed beds. These coastal habitats are also spawning areas for species, including seahorses, and their degradation could send ripples throughout the larger ecosystem, the researchers say.

Some of these effects are already being felt. In southern New South Wales and Victoria and on Kangaroo Island, the fires are causing problems for fisheries and aquaculture, according to DEE.

When the rain began in the Central Coast region of New South Wales, members of the Darkinjung, a local Aboriginal land council, set up barriers to keep the deluge of silt- and ash-filled water out of the region’s rivers, lakes, and estuaries. According to Kelvin Johnson, a senior land management officer with the Darkinjung, they have already seen some dead fish in nearby rivers.

The wildfires and their aftermath have caused and could continue to cause cultural damage as well, Johnson says.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples, Johnson says, use sacred songlines—a complex mix of celestial references, songs, oral history, and physical and cultural landmarks—to navigate terrestrial and aquatic routes. Though it’s too early to know the extent of the damage, Johnson says if the fires harm oysters, crustaceans, flathead, or mullet, that would mark a loss of these cultural touchstones.

Last week, Australia’s federal government announced an AU $50-million (US $35-million) recovery fund (part of its AU $2-billion bushfire fund) to restore and protect damaged ecosystems and wildlife. But there has been no funding dedicated to marine and aquatic areas, Guida says. DEE notes that some of those funds may go to emergency interventions, such as erosion control, to stem sediment flows into aquatic ecosystems.

The ocean and the coast need dedicated help, Guida says. Though the devastation on land is much more visible, the health of the ocean and the land are intrinsically tied together.

A Red Flag Warning has been put into effect for Central and Eastern Montana.

GREAT FALLS – A Red Flag Warning has been into effect for Central and Eastern Montana.

The Red Flag Warning went into effect around 3 am with expected wind gusts of at least 75 miles per hour.

The warning will last over the next two days and during this span, areas with little to no snow cover will be at an increased risk of being able to catch a spark.

“We have to talk about fire danger in the middle of Winter here with these Chinook wind events but it’s definitely not something that happens every year that’s for sure,” said Francis Kredensor, Meteorologist, National Weather Service Great Falls.

This week we already saw a 22-acre grass fire start-up and the strong winds will also be putting high profile vehicles at risk when traveling on highways.

If you are traveling this weekend remember to take extra precautions so you can avoid any unnecessary risks.

A couple of easy things to remember for this weekend is to avoid doing any burning during the strong winds, prepare an emergency kit should a fire spark in your area and prepare a family communications plan in case of an emergency.

You can find links to the Weather Service and the Red Flag Warning here.

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires

A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California.
 A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change.

James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.

Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and manipulated the data.

A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging.
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 A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging. Photograph: Rafe Hanson

The emails add to concerns that the Trump administration is doing industry’s bidding rather than pursuing the public interest. Across agencies, top positions are filled by former lobbyists, and dozens of investigative reports have revealed agencies working closely with major industries to ease pollution, public health and safety regulations.

A USGS spokesperson said Reilly’s emails were “intended to instruct the subject matter expert to do the calculations as quickly as possible based on the best available data at the time and provide results in clear understandable language that the Secretary could use to effectively communicate to a variety of audiences.” The agency added that it “stands by the integrity of its sience”

When forests burn, they do emit greenhouse gases. But one expert said the numbers the interior department put forth are significant overestimates. They say logging wouldn’t necessarily help prevent or lessen wildfires. On the contrary, logging could negate the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide humans are emitting at record rates.

Chad Hanson, a California-based forest ecologist who co-founded the John Muir Project and a lawyer who has opposed logging after fires, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a “blatant political manipulation of science”.

Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said while it’s normal for the department to want to quantify emissions from fires, it’s unclear whether they began the process with a particular figure in mind.

He said the resulting quotes from top officials and press releases from the department are “about what you would expect from agencies trying to justify actions they already decided to take with minimal analysis”.

Harmon added that “the effect of logging on fires is highly variable,” depending on how it is done and the weather conditions.

Not long after the interior department came up with its carbon emission estimates from the 2018 California wildfires, Trump issued an executive order instructing federal land managers to significantly increase the amount of timber they harvest. This fall, he also proposed allowing logging in Alaska’s Tongass national forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.

Trump has also tweeted multiple times about wildfires, saying they are caused by bad land management or environmental laws that make water unavailable.

Monica Turner, a fire ecology scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “it is climate that is responsible for the size and severity of these fires”.

An Interior department spokesperson said the department’s role is to follow the laws and use the best science and that it continues “to work to best understand and address the impacts of an ever-changing climate.”

Agency officials started emphasizing wildfire emissions data as a talking point as early as August 2018.

In an email chain that month, Reilly was asked by interior’s former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes to sign off on a statement that fires in 2018 had emitted 95.6m tons of CO2.

“Interesting statistics,” Reilly responded, noting that emissions would vary based on the types of trees on the land. “…We assumed woodlands mix since we don’t currently have details on the overall land cover types involved. Any variance to the fuel type will still leave it in the range to make the comparison, however. I’ll use this one if you don’t object. Makes a good story.”

Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California.
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 Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Reilly, who was confirmed to his position in April 2018, later asked career scientists at the agency for updated numbers, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I need to get a number for total CO2 releases for the recent CA fires and a comparison against emissions for all energy in US … Tasker from the boss; back to me ASAP,” he said on 10 October 2018. His boss at the time was the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke.

The job fell to Doug Beard, the director of the National Climate Adaptation Science Center, and Bradley Reed, an associate program coordinator in the Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program, who responded with numbers from his team that afternoon.

In November 2018, Reilly once again asked for the same estimates of carbon dioxide generated by two devastating fires that fall in California – the Camp and Woolsey fires.

“The Secretary likes to have this kind of information when he speaks with the media,” Reilly said in a 16 November email to David Applegate, the associate director for natural hazards.

Applegate directed Beard to get the numbers, and Reilly chimed in, asking Beard: “Can you have [the scientists] gin up an estimate on the total CO2 equivalent releases are so far for the current 2 fires in CA?” He said he wanted to compare the figures to the carbon pollution caused by transportation in California.

“That would make a decent sound bite the Sec could use to put some perspective on it,” said Reilly.

Just a week earlier, the ferocious Camp fire had destroyed Paradise, California, killing dozens and becoming the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. The scenes detailed were horrific.

Conservatives have insisted that the wildfires are happening because environmentalists have overzealously encouraged the conservation of forests. Trump has battled with California – the face of the American progressive movement he opposes – over a multitude of other issues, including the state’s longstanding climate policy of requiring new cars to go farther on less fuel.

The new emails show communications staffers and political appointees using government scientists as foot soldiers in those battles.

‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said.
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 ‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Now, under the leadership of the former lobbyist David Bernhardt, the agency has sought to remove consideration of climate change from many of its decisions, while expanding oil and gas drilling on federal land. Multiple whistleblowers have accused the department of stifling climate science.

Bernhardt in a May 2019 hearing told lawmakers there are no laws obligating him to combat climate change.

After Reilly asked his staff to calculate the wildfire emissions numbers in November, an interior spokeswoman emailed him asking for the same information so she could put out a statement from Zinke. A few days later, the agency published a press release on Zinke’s behalf, with the title “New Analysis Shows 2018 California Wildfires Emitted as Much Carbon Dioxide as an Entire Year’s Worth of Electricity.”

“There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said. “Proper management of our forests, to include small prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and other techniques, will improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, while also helping curb the carbon emissions.”

Hanson, the forest and fire ecologist, said that in addition to using the government data for political purposes, the department numbers overstated the carbon emissions from forest fires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels.

He said that the carbon emissions numbers generated by USGS and released to the public were an “overestimate” that “can’t be squared with empirical data” from field studies of post-wildfire burn sites in California. Other scientists the Guardian spoke with did not dispute the government’s data, but did find fault with the way it was presented to the public.

“The comparison of fire to electrical emissions [in California] was not explained or justified”, said Harmon, the Oregon State University scientist. “Picking other sectors would have left an entirely different image in the reader’s mind…If the comparison had been made nationally it would have been found that fire related emissions of carbon dioxide were equivalent to 1.7% of fossil fuel related emissions. So it is hard to escape the conclusion that some cherry picking was going on.”

Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the emails are another example of the administration “trying to find ways to tell a story to achieve industry goals”.

“As wildfire experts have repeatedly explained, you can’t log or even ‘rake’ our way out of this mess,” O’Neill said. “The Trump administration and the interior department are pushing mystical theories that are false in order to justify gutting public land protections to advance their pro-industry and lobbyist dominated agenda.”

Police in Australia charged 24 people for deliberately lighting bushfires

Small spot fires still burn on January 05, 2020 between Orbost and Cann River along the Princes Highway, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia — The New South Wales Police Force has taken legal action against more than 180 people for bushfire-related offenses since late last year. That number includes 24 people who deliberately lit bushfires.

Nationwide, at least 25 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, which have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, the Associated Press reports.

Wildfires are common during the southern hemisphere summer, and Australians generally take a pragmatic view of them. But this year’s fires arrived unusually early, fed by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record.

Rain and cooler temperatures on Monday were bringing some relief to communities battling the fires. But the rain was also making it challenging for fire crews to complete strategic burns as they tried to prepare for higher temperatures that have been forecast for later in the week.

Ecologists say half a billion animals may have been killed by Australia wildfires: ‘Entire species are being wiped out’

Ecologists at the University of Sydney are estimating that nearly half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires, which have sparked a continent-wide crisis and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in desperation.

News Corp Australia reported Wednesday that “there are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began.”

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“Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been lost since September,” according to News Corp. “That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the [New South Wales] South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded.”

The horrifying figures come as images and videos of animals suffering severe burns and dehydration continue to circulate on social media.

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the National Conservation Council, told the Australian parliament that “the fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”

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Koalas in particular have been devastated by the fires, Graham noted, because they “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away.”

As Reuters reported Tuesday, “Australia’s bushland is home to a range of indigenous fauna, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, and echidnas. Officials fear that 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country’s northeast coast, or between 4,500 and 8,400, have been lost in the recent fires.”

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The new normal, except it isn’t.

It’s going to get much worse.

And the longer we delay climate action, the worse it will gethttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12297648 

Half a billion animals perish in Australian bushfires

A staggering 500 million animals are believed to have died in bushfires since September.

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Australia’s coal-touting Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced growing scrutiny for refusing to take sufficient action to confront the wildfires and the climate crisis that is driving them. Since September, the fires have burned over 10 million acres of land, destroyed more than a thousand homes, and killed at least 17 people—including 9 since Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the government of New South Wales (NSW) declared a state of emergency set to take effect Friday morning as the wildfires are expected to intensify over the weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of fire in the landscape that we will not contain,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. “We need to make sure that people are not in the path of these fires.”

Blood-red skies loom over southeast Australia after deadly bushfires bring ‘one of worst days ever’

(CNN)Skies turned blood red above parts of southeast Australia on Sunday as residents sought refuge from deadly bushfires, and a senior firefighter described the previous 24 hours as “one of our worst days ever.”

Photographs of Pambula, in the state of New South Wales, showed an eerie, smoke-filled landscape, with deserted streets illuminated by an otherworldly, blazing red sky.
About 30 kilometers (19 miles) south, blood-red skies loomed over the town of Eden. There, hundreds of residents were seeking shelter on the beach on police advice, one Eden resident told CNN. Many houses have been destroyed in the area, and officials said they feared there would be fatalities.
A total of 146 fires are burning across the state, with 65 uncontained, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS). About 2,700 firefighters were tackling the blazes on Sunday.
“Conditions have eased today and firefighters have gained the upper hand on several dangerous fires. There are no total fire bans in place for Monday,” the NSWRFS posted on Twitter.
A blood-red sky looms over Eden, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

Earlier, NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told a news conference that Saturday was “one of our worst days ever on record.”
A “considerable number” of properties were lost across NSW on Saturday, Fitzsimmons said, adding that a 47-year-old man had died from cardiac arrest while fighting a fire threatening his friend’s home in Batlow. The man is the 24th person to die nationwide this fire season.
Separately, four firefighters in NSW were hospitalized due to smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion and hand burns. They have since been released.
Fitzsimmons said that conditions could worsen again in the coming days. “Today will be a relief — psychological relief but not what we need,” he said.
Fire-induced thunderstorms over New South Wales, seen from a flight on January 5, 2020.

Australia’s flag carrier Qantas canceled all flights to and from the country’s capital, Canberra, on Sunday due to smoke and hazardous weather conditions.
An airline passenger spotted huge clouds caused by the fires over NSW during a flight from Sydney to Melbourne on Sunday. They are pyrocumulonimbus clouds — fire-induced thunderstorms — which form when hot air rises from a ground based fire, according to CNN meteorologists. The air cools and condenses as it ascends, causing a cloud to form.
“This process is similar to the development of a thunderstorm,” said CNN Weather’s Derek Van Dam. “As such, a downdraft forms within the base of the pyrocumulonimbus cloud, allowing for embers to be picked up and carried to form new fires.”
In the neighboring state of Victoria, three fires have combined to form a single blaze bigger than the New York borough of Manhattan. The fires joined overnight Friday in the Omeo region, creating a 6,000-hectare (23 square mile) blaze, according to Gippsland’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
The country’s capital, Canberra, smashed its heat record of 80 years, reaching 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday afternoon, according to the country’s Bureau of Meteorology. In the western Sydney suburb of Penrith, the mercury climbed to 48.9 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) — setting a new record for the whole Sydney basin.
Victoria has declared a state of disaster, and NSW has declared a state of emergency — both granting extraordinary powers and additional government resources to battle the fires.
It marked the first time Victoria has activated these powers since the 2009 Black Saturday fires, the deadliest bushfire disaster on record in Australia with 173 people killed and 500 injured.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was another difficult night across the country — in particular in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Morrison — who in December faced criticism for taking a vacation to Hawaii during the fires — said the government’s response was the most significant and comprehensive ever to a natural disaster.
An eerie, smoke-filled landscape in Pambula, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

“I believe that’s where we need to focus our attention, and we are seeking to communicate that directly to Australians to ensure they have comfort that the response is matching the need,” he said.
“Sure there’s been a lot of commentary, there’s been plenty of criticism. I’ve had the benefit of a lot of analysis on a lot of issues. But I can’t be distracted by that, and the public, I know, are not distracted by that.
“What they need us to focus on, all of us actually, all of us focusing on the needs there and getting the support where it needs to go. That’s very much where my focus is, and that’s where it will continue to be.”
In a news release on Sunday, the Australia Defence Force (ADF) said it was significantly increasing its support in fighting the massive fires and had called up 3,000 army reserve forces and others with specialist capabilities.
An Australian army soldier helps people evacuate onto a Black Hawk helicopter in Omeo, Victoria on January 5, 2020.

They will also provide aircraft, ships and its largest vessel, HMAS Adelaide, with helicopter landing capabilities.
One priority for the ADF will be to assist in evacuations of people in isolated communities. HMAS Adelaide, the Australian Navy’s largest ship, arrived off the coast of Eden on Sunday as evacuations took place there.
Some ADF bases will be opened to house those displaced by the fires. Troops will also help move material and supplies, support recovery centers, and aid in fire trail clearance.
New Zealand and Singapore have also offered military support, and the ADF is assessing where they can help, the news release said.
Members of the UK royal family sent their “thoughts and prayers” to Australians affected by the massive bushfires through social media accounts on Saturday. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip issued a message of condolence expressing thanks to emergency services. “I have been deeply saddened to hear of the continued bushfires and their devastating impact across many parts of Australia,” the Queen wrote in a statement published on Twitter.
On their Instagram account, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were “shocked and deeply saddened” by “the fires that are destroying homes, livelihoods and wildlife across much of Australia,” posting a photo of a kangaroo with a burning building in the background.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex urged support for those affected by the environmental crisis in an Instagram post linking to a number of Australian fundraisers, such as the Australian Red Cross, the Country Fire Authority and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.