The Environment

Some Topics


  • Forest Fires

    Dry forests are areas of high risk that catch fire and cause major economic costs, atmospheric air pollution and loss of life. Animals and humans are vulnerable. Abatzoglou and Williams Stated:” Increased forest fire activity across the western United States ( and Canada) in recent decades has contributed to widespread forest mortality, carbon emissions, periods of degraded air quality, and substantial fire suppression expenditures. Although numerous factors aided the recent rise in fire activity, observed warming and drying have significantly increased fire-season fuel aridity, fostering a more favorable fire environment across forested systems. We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western forest fire activity. “[i] Extensive fires in countries such as Indonesia can interfere with weather and ocean currents. Smoke plumes can be seen in satellite photographs extending thousand of kilometers.

    Lightning Storms

    A new NASA-funded study found that lightning storms were the main driver of recent massive fire years in Alaska and northern Canada, and that these storms are likely to move farther north with climate warming, potentially altering northern landscapes. The team found increases of between two and five percent a year in the number of lightning-ignited fires since 1975. Higher atmospheric temperatures create more thunderstorms. Fires are creeping farther north, near the transition from boreal forests to Arctic tundra. In high-latitude ecosystems, permafrost soils store large amounts of carbon that become vulnerable after fires pass through."Exposed mineral soils after tundra fires also provide favorable seedbeds for trees migrating north under a warmer climate." A complex feedback loop between climate, lightning, fires, carbon and forests that may quickly alter northern landscapes.[ii]

    Increasing Fires from Global Warming

    There are important difference between natural fires that are limited in scope and duration and the massive, destructive fires that are now more frequent occurrences. Abnormal fires are often caused by human carelessness or involve human changes to the environment. According to Natural Resources Canada:” Wildland fires present a challenge for forest management because they have the potential to be at once harmful and beneficial. Wildland fires can threaten communities and destroy vast amounts of timber resources, resulting in costly losses. On the other hand, wildland fires are a natural part of the forest ecosystem and important in many parts of Canada for maintaining the health and diversity of the forest. In this way, prescribed fires offer a valuable resource management tool for enhancing ecological conditions and eliminating excessive fuel build-up. Not all wildland fires should (or can) be controlled. Forest agencies work to harness the force of natural fire to take advantage of its ecological benefits while at the same time limiting its potential damage and costs. This makes fire control strategies a component of forest management and emergency management in Canada.”[iv]

    Canada has 9% of the world’s forests. In 2015, the total forest burned in Canada, 2015 is 3,004,848 hectares. That’s a larger area than the island of Sicily, Italy. And in 2014, which was the worst fire season since 2007, 123,986 hectares burned, the equivalent of burning the entire country of Switzerland. Fighting fires across areas larger than small countries is a collaborative effort. Firefighters from across the country and even from the United States have pitched in to help combat the active fire season.

    Dangerous, costly, abnormal fires are exemplified by the Fort McMurray Fire. On May 1, 2016, a wildfire began southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. On May 3, it swept through the community, destroying approximately 2,400 homes and buildings and forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Albertan history. It continued to spread across northern Alberta and into Saskatchewan, consuming forested areas and impacting Athabasca oil sands operations. The fire spread across approximately 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) before it was declared to be under control on July 5, 2016. It is the costliest disaster in Canadian history. An official cause of the fire has not been determined to date, but it is suspected to be human caused, starting in a remote area 15 kilometers (9.3mi) from Fort McMurray. Cost estimates based on insurance payouts reached $4.7 billion (CAD).In July 2017 a massive outbreak of fires in British Columbia sent about 43,000 citizens out of their homes and into shelters.

    There were more than 67,000 wildfires across the United States in 2016. The fires burned over 5.5 million acres. In 2015, when severe drought in the West created conditions favorable to conditions, over 10 million acres burned. The National Interagency Fire Center, a group of connected federal agencies monitor wildfires in every state. While fires can and do occur anywhere there are trees, they are more common and destructive in some parts of the country, particularly in sparsely populated states. In Alaska, more than 12 million acres have burned over the last 10 years, more than the total burned acreage in 38 other states combined. The 6.9 million acres burned in Idaho due to wildfires from 2007 through 2016 is equal to about 13% of the total landmass of the state. [v]

    Wildfires blazing across Northern California in September 2017 produced the same amount of air pollution as vehicles did in the state in one year, according to Sean Raffuse, an air-quality analyst at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Raffuse said that the wildfires burning in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties have released more than 10,000 tons of PM 2.5. [vi]

    Dello wrote:” Neighborhoods burned this week in northern California, with more than 30 people reported dead and 2,000 buildings destroyed. Downtown San Francisco is hazy with smoke from wildfires covering 465 square kilometers, more than 30 kilometers north of the Golden Gate Bridge. In December 2017 multiple wildfires burned near and in Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California, forcing thousands to evacuate. The strong winds that are driving the fires are a normal feature of late fall and winter in Southern California. What is different this year is the amount of bone-dry vegetation that is ready to burn. The situation in Southern California is similar to what occurred in Northern California in October, when high, hot winds fueled fires that killed 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes. But while Northern California has since had a lot of rain that has essentially eliminated the fire threat, the south has remained dry.[vii]

    Thousands of small forest fires have burned across the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, the habitats for orangutans and other rare species. Indonesia’s fires are much worse than California’s. They are deliberately set and many of them occur in carbon-rich peat forests. These forests—which would normally be wet and hard to burn grow out of several meters’ worth of damp, rich organic matter instead of soil. The peat forests can become so dry, one match or a cigarette would let it all go up in flames. This releases more carbon than normal forest fires, and makes the fires hard to control. Even if things look fine, there are actually fires burning 20 feet below the ground The fires threaten more than just Indonesia’s wildlife. They have also created a cloud of smoke and haze big enough to be seen from space and are releasing an estimated 15 to 20 million tons of carbon dioxide per day—more than the emissions from the entire U.S. economy. [vi]

    [i] John T. Abatzogloua and A. Park Williams Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests. PNAS October 18, 2016 vol. 113
    [ii] Sander Veraverbeke ae al. Lightning sparking more boreal forest fires NASA global climate change. June 2017
    [iii] Wild Nature Institute. Snag Forest Habitat Protection. Accessed Online Dec. 2016.
    [iv] Natural Resources Canada . Forest Fires. Accessed online Dec. 2016.
    [v] Michael Sauter. States Where Wildfires Caused the Most Damage. 24/7 Wall St. May 10 2017.
    [vi] Take Part. Indonesia Burns accessed online Feb 2017

  • Discussions of Environmental Science and Human Ecology were developed by Environmed Research Inc. Sechelt, B.C. Canada. Online Topics were developed from the book, The Environment. You will find detailed information about the sun, weather, soils, forests, oceans, atmosphere, air pollution, climate change, water resources, air quality, energy sources, and preserving habitats.

    The Environment is available from Alpha Online as a Printed book or as an eBook Edition for Download. The 2018 edition is 286 pages.
    The Author, Stephen Gislason MD

  • Download The Environment as an eBook.

  • Also Read Air and Breathing.
    This book helps you understand air quality issues, normal breathing and the causes of breathing disorders.

    Persona Book Orders

    Click Add to Cart buttons to begin an order for mail delivery (US and Canada). All books can be downloaded as PDF files.
    Click the Download buttons to order eBooks for download. Click the book titles (center column) to read topics from each book.

    Print Books Read Topics Download
    Human Nature
    The Good Person
    The Puzzle
    The Environment
    The Sound of Music
    Surviving Human Nature
    Language and Thinking
    I and Thou
    Emotions and Feelings
    Neuroscience Notes
    Human Brain
    Children and Family
    Religion, 21st Century

    Google Search Alpha Online

    Alpha Online
    alpha online

    Alpha Online is a Web Site developed by Environmed Research Inc. Sechelt, B.C., Canada. Online Since 1995.
    Orders for printed books, eBooks and nutrient formulas are placed at Alpha Online. Alpha Nutrition is a registered trademark of Environmed Research Inc.