10 October 2015 (Desdemona Despair) – Just last week, the NIFC site computed the year-to-date acres burned for 2015 to be neck-and-neck with the most recent record year, 2006, at slightly above 9 million acres.
So it’s very surprising to see this number jump by more than 2 million to 11,245,536 acres year-to-date, which is well above the 2006 record of 9.8 million acres burned for the whole fire season.
Des isn’t aware of any two-million-acre megafires that flared up in the last week, so maybe it’s just late-arriving data from earlier in the year. It will be interesting to see what numbers are reported in the next update.
By Joseph Serna
10 October 2015
(Los Angeles Times) – A heat wave gripped Southern California on Friday, with one Ventura County community hitting the highest temperature reading since record-keeping began.
A weather station near Camarillo Airport recorded 108 degrees, breaking the all-time high of 103 recorded on 23 September 1978. Elsewhere, triple-digit readings were recorded in Long Beach as well as various valley locations.
In downtown L.A. and Long Beach, the heat could reach 99 degrees and in Woodland Hills, the National Weather Service predicts it could top out at 105 degrees, nearing the daily record of 107 degrees set in 1971, said weather specialist Stuart Seto.
“It’s going to be low humidity, so there’s some elevated fire weather concerns,” Seto said.
For Angelenos looking for relief, head to high ground, Seto suggested. It will be 90 degrees at the beaches with dangerous waves and strong rip currents warding off swimmers, but in Big Bear and around Mt. Wilson, temperatures should remain comfortably in the low 80s. [more]
9 October 2015 (Desdemona Despair) – 2015 is likely to be among the worst years for forest fires on record. A lot of this destruction is caused by fires that are intentionally set to clear forests for agriculture. In Sumatra and southern Borneo, rainforest and peatlands are burned to make room for palm oil plantations.
This happens every year, but after extended drought, forests and peatlands in Indonesia are exceptionally susceptible to wildfire. The result is that agricultural business-as-usual is creating a carbon disaster, as deep peat burns, releasing long-sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere.
These fires in Jambi province, seen on 5 September 2015, burned within well-defined rectangular grids, showing that these were agricultural fires intentionally set by growers. According to land-use maps published by Global Forest Watch, the fires are burning within a palm oil plantation. Smoke and Fires in Sumatra
22 September 2015
Smoke from burning rainforest darkens skies over Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, on 22 September 2015. Indonesia forest fires compilation
24 September 2015
Forest and peatland fires on the border of Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, September 2015. This forest is orang-utan habitat. Indonesia forest fires compilation
4 October 2015
5 October 2015
Forest and peatland fires on the border of the palm oil concession, Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan, September 2015. This forest is orang-utan habitat. Indonesia forest fires compilation
Orang-utans living in Kalimantan forest. Indonesia forest fires compilation
By Damian Carrington
7 October 2015
(The Guardian) – Fires raging across the forests and peatlands of Indonesia are on track to pump out more carbon emissions than the UK’s entire annual output, Greenpeace has warned.
As well as fuelling global warming, the thick smoke choking cities in the region is likely to cause the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people in the region and is also destroying vital habitats for endangered orangutans and clouded leopards.
New drone video footage from Greenpeace from around the Gunung Palung national park in Kalimantan shows the peat fires smouldering underground, as well as flames burning down trees, and the thick haze they produce.
There have been almost 10,000 fires in the last month across Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and Sumatra, with the drifting smoke also provoking protests from neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
The fires, mostly started deliberately and illegally to clear forest for paper and palm oil production, are on track to match the worst ever year of 1997. As in that year, the region is currently experiencing a strong El Niño climate phenomenon. This creates drought conditions in Indonesia, exacerbating years of draining of peatlands, and creating tinderbox conditions.
“As governments prepare to meet in Paris to save the world from catastrophic warming, the earth in Indonesia is already on fire,” said Greenpeace’s Indonesian forest project leader Bustar Maita.
“Companies destroying forests and draining peatland have made Indonesia’s landscape into a huge carbon bomb, and the drought has given it a thousand fuses. The Indonesian government can no longer turn a blind eye to this destruction when half of Asia is living with the consequences.”
Indonesia’s pledge to the UN on climate action has been criticised for being vague on how it will halt the fires. [more]
By Zachary Davies Boren
7 October 2015
(Greenpeace) – Forest fires ravaging Indonesia’s rainforests will likely release far more carbon dioxide this year than the entire United Kingdom.
That’s because the country’s peatlands have also caught ablaze, and with them a reserve of 60 gigatonnes of carbon — which is 6 times greater than annual global fossil fuel emissions.
Add to that the biggest El Niño event in nearly 20 years and you’ve got a climate catastrophe in-the-making.
The last time Indonesia’s peat and forest fires were this bad, they produced equivalent to between 13 and 40% of global carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
That was in 1997, when the region’s fires were responsible for between 0.81 and 2.57 gigatonnes of carbon emissions.
For reference, the UK emitted 0.52 gigatonnes of CO2 just last year. So it’s not even close.
Indonesia’s forest fires are behind an estimated 110,000 premature deaths a year via respiratory and cardiac illnesses caused by the resulting smog — and that’s just in your average year.
NASA says this fire season could become the worst one yet, with neighbouring countries Singapore and Malaysia already badly affected by the far-reaching haze.
And things may only get worse in the years to come since climate change is expected to increase the frequency and veracity of El Niños.
Captured on film
Exclusive footage from Greenpeace Indonesia, captured by a drone with a GoPro, shows just how big – and bizarre – the fires and fumes are.
Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan, where much of the fire footage was taken, is home to the largest population of wild Orangutans in the world.
The haze erupting from the Earth is so thick you can barely see a thing.
Other national parks, including Tesso Nilo on Sumatra, where rare tigers roam, have also been devastated by forest fires this year.
But, as you’ll note in the video, these aren’t your usual forest fires.
Instead of deep red flames tearing down trees, the smoke is actually emerging from underground.
That’s the deep peat.
Hunt for palm oil
According to Greenpeace analysis, 40% of this year’s Indonesia fires have been on peatland, of which there’s not all that much.
Underground peat fires release three times as much smoke per kilogramme burned as a standard forest fire.
In its natural waterlogged state, peatland doesn’t really burn; and neither do rainforests for that matter.
But decades of deforestation and draining the peatland in pursuit of palm oil has left the land vulnerable to worsening wildfires, many of which have been started deliberately and illegally.
“Burning the forest is the fastest, cheapest and most profitable method, instead of clearing with heavy equipment,” Indonesia’s director of forest fire control Raffles Brotestes Panjaitan told the Associated Press.
Since 2011, the government has had in place a moratorium on palm oil concession permits in primary forests and peatlands; but the policy has not been effectively enforced and it turns out 30% of last year’s fire hotspots were in places that were supposed to be protected.
The Indonesian government says peat fires are responsible for more than 60% of its national greenhouse gas emissions — and yet it failed to detail a solution in its UN climate pledge submitted late last month.
So this kind of thing happens here every year. But it’s getting worse.
Four rangers killed by elephant poachers in Garamba National Park, DRC – ‘This brings the number of people to eight who lost their lives defending wildlife in Garamba in 2015 alone’0 comments Posted by Jim at Friday, October 09, 2015
By Cynthia Walley
9 October 2015
(African Parks) – It is with deep regret that African Parks announces the death of Garamba rangers Anselme Kimbesa Muhindo, Andre Gada Migifuloyo, and Djuma Adalu Uweko, and Colonel Jacques Sukamate Lusengo, the member of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), who was assisting with patrols. The four men leave their wives and a total of 14 children.
The incident occurred when the men, all members of a 10-man Garamba patrol team, tracked the collar of a poached elephant to a poachers’ camp in the western Azande hunting area. An exchange of fire ensued during which the out-numbered Garamba unit was forced to disperse.
The African Parks helicopter that was part of the operation was immediately deployed to help rescue the rangers. Despite coming under fire it managed to retrieve six members of the patrol unit and drop them at a safe area where they re-grouped. Two men were flown back to the park headquarters at Nagero, one of whom had sustained injuries. The helicopter took multiple hits and was unable to fly back for the remaining men. The four rangers that were evacuated managed to walk to the closest road, a two day walk from the site of the attack. Yesterday, the bodies of the remaining four men were discovered when a reinforced patrol team managed to access the site of the incident.
Despite extensive efforts by the Garamba park management team to elicit reinforcements from other international forces in the region in order to help retrieve the four missing men, and track and apprehend the poachers, very little support or assistance was forthcoming. Some logistical help was provided by MONUSCO to retrieve the bodies of the four men.
"Our sincere condolences go to the families of the four men who tragically lost their loved ones while they were bravely eliminating the scourge of elephant poaching from Garamba National Park, said Peter Fearnhead, CEO African Parks. " This brings to eight the number of people who have lost their lives in Garamba in 2015 alone.”
By Captain Paul Watson
9 October 2015
(Facebook) – There is a war underway to defend, protect and conserve wildlife. In this war people are dying. Those who poach and those who oppose poaching. The casualties are on both sides.
People are dying because some people want to possess ivory and rhino horn, shark fins, and endangered wildlife products.
When people say we care more for animals than for people, why are these people not concerned with the human losses from poaching?
It is with deep regret that African Parks has announced:
“The death of Garamba rangers Anselme Kimbesa Muhindo, Andre Gada Migifuloyo and Djuma Adalu Uweko, and Colonel Jacques Sukamate Lusengo, a member of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) who was assisting with patrols. The four men leave behind their wives and a total of 14 children."Our sincere condolences go to the families of the four men who tragically lost their loved ones while they were bravely eliminating the scourge of elephant poaching from Garamba National Park" Said Peter Fearnhead, CEO African Parks. "This brings the number of people to eight who lost their lives defending wildlife in Garamba in 2015 alone."
Poaching is a crime that is compounded by many other crimes including assault, extortion, bribery, kidnapping, and murder.
Guest post by Alexander Ač
9 October 2015
(Desdemona Despair) – Sea level rise (SLR) is recognized as one of the least adaptable impacts of ongoing climate change. Once a certain area is permanently flooded with saline water, people have to leave. Forever.
Thus SLR projections gain a lot of attention not only in the climate science community. This short article aims to show that we may be experiencing an increased rate of sea level rise, somewhere between 4-5 mm/year. This rate of increase will probably be only faster going forward.
Over the shorter time periods, SLR seems to follow linear trend, as fitted by AVISO and other research groups:
Figure 1.: From 1993, the global sea level rises on average by 3.3 mm per year. (Source: AVISO)
However, if we look at longer time periods, we observe an exponential SLR:
Figure 2: Combined data of the SLR from the past to present. Exponential fit gives a good model description of the observed SLR. (Data from Church, et al., 2006 were plotted using the program Data Digitizer. Satellite data were fitted in order to match absolute SL as published by Church, et al.)*
The rate of SLR was about 0.6 mm/y between 1870-1930, then 1.4 mm/y between 1930-1992 and about 3.3 mm/y from 1993 till present (see Hansen). However, over the past 5 years or so, the sea level rose at rate of about 5 mm/year.
Of course, one might argue that the 5-year period is a short-term cherry-picked period influenced by the ENSO cycle, etc. This is very well true, and it might turn out that the call on increased SLR is premature. On the other hand, given the accelerated (non-linear) heating of the global ocean, and recent abundant evidence on rapidly and increasingly irreversibly destabilizing of both Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, I am quite confident the rate of SLR will follow an exponential, rather than a linear trend. This would only follow the history from past decades. Certainly, the most conservative estimates of SLR as provided by IPCC turn out to be wrong. In fact, some of them already are.
I will leave it to a critical reader to decide, whether ongoing SLR acceleration is only temporary, or more worryingly, permanent (see Fig. 3).
Figure 3: Extrapolated long-term trend from 1870 projects a SLR of about 1,27 m by 2100. This is very well in line with some of the semi-empirical approaches as provided e.g. by Stephan Rahmstorf and others.
*NOTE for critical readers: This article does not aim to provide estimate of SLR by the end of the century. The author recognizes caveats in the statistical extrapolation – higher data point density in the AVISO data compared to Church, et al., problematic fitting of satellite data, etc. However, it does argue that we will see accelerated SLR in the future.
You can get the data and related graphs here: SLR_Data_exponential.xlsx.
The race to save the world’s great trees by cloning them – ‘To preserve those species that have stood the test of time is necessary, but it’s not sufficient’0 comments Posted by Jim at Thursday, October 08, 2015
By Alison Gillespie
October 6, 2015
(smithsonian.com) – It isn’t hard to find the big tree they call Lady Liberty in Florida. It stands at the end of a boardwalk about 16 miles north of Orlando, along with many gums, oaks, and magnolias in the middle of a small public park.
What is hard is photographing the living landmark: At 89 feet tall, Lady Liberty is much smaller than some champion trees but still gigantic by most standards, making it a big draw for tourists who come to see what a 2,000-year-old tree looks like. It is impossible to capture the entire massive trunk and gnarled branches in a single frame, although many visitors try—lying on the ground below with cameras pointed skyward.
This December, the Archangel Tree Archive will pay a visit to Big Tree Park as well, hoping to gather some young shoots from Lady Liberty’s branches to clone the massive cypress. The non-profit specializes in collecting and storing the genetic material of iconic old trees and then seeking appropriate places to replant the resulting clones, in an effort to preserve them for future generations. Experts estimate that less than 10 percent of the old growth forest in the U.S. is still standing. Some stands of the oldest trees are now threatened by logging and development.
Or worse. For years the majestic Lady Liberty was overshadowed by the Senator, another bald cypress that used to grow in this same Seminole County park. The Senator had once reached a height of 165 feet. Postcards from the 1920s show groups of people trying, unsuccessfully, to hold hands and encircle the tree’s massive 12-foot-wide trunk. Experts estimated that the giant tree was more than 3,500 years old.
When the Senator burned to the ground three years ago, the managers of Big Tree Park received more than 1,000 emails and phone calls from people all over the world expressing sadness and outrage.
“I had parents who recalled going to see the Senator with their grandparents, and their grandparents had been there with their grandparents,” says Jim Duby, program manager for Seminole County. What had seemed indomitable was suddenly gone, and a personal connection people felt to the past was severed. The tragedy also inspired in some people a renewed appreciation for the trees that remained, including some volunteers at the park who asked about protecting and researching Lady Liberty.
Enter Archangel. Previous projects have taken Archangel scientists to the tops of California’s redwoods and the depths of old-growth forests in England. They are often called in to clone trees growing near historic homes, including places such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
Archangel’s lead propagator, Jake Milarch, says his staff and a group of scientific advisors have identified a list of approximately 100 iconic trees around the world that should be cloned.
“We go for the biggest trees, because those are the ones that have survived,” he says, arguing that their genetics likely played a big part in that longevity.
Not everyone is convinced that cloning big old trees is always worthwhile. Some critics point out that conservation work should ideally seek to protect more than lone specimens, pushing instead to save valuable parcels of land and their embedded habitats to protect the health of the entire ecosystem. Others worry that cloning could potentially create a dangerously vulnerable monoculture if locations for the new trees are not selected carefully and tracked regularly.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. I think to preserve those species that have stood the test of time is necessary. But it’s not sufficient,” says Charles Maynard, director of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Center in New York. His own group has spent decades researching the genetics of chestnut trees and the possible ways blight-resistant strains of those trees could be realistically reintroduced into forests. [more]
Scientists say dramatic worldwide coral bleaching event is underway, beginning in 2014 with ‘the highest thermal stress we’ve ever seen’1 comments Posted by Jim at Thursday, October 08, 2015
By Chris Mooney
8 October 2015
(The Washington Post) – For just the third time on record, scientists say they are now watching the unfolding of a massive worldwide coral bleaching event, spanning the globe from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. And they fear that thanks to warm sea temperatures, the ultimate result could be the loss of more than 12,000 square kilometers, or over 4,500 square miles, of coral this year — with particularly strong impacts in Hawaii and other U.S. tropical regions, and potentially continuing into 2016.
The event is being brought on by a combination of global warming, a very strong El Nino event, and the so-called warm “blob” in the Pacific Ocean, say the researchers, part of a consortium including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as XL Catlin Seaview Survey, The University of Queensland in Australia, and Reef Check.
“This is only the third time we’ve seen what we would refer to as a global bleaching event, an event that causes mass bleaching in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic-Caribbean basin,” said Mark Eakin, who heads NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch. The prior events, Eakin continues, “were in 1998 and 2010, and those were pretty much one year events. We’re looking at a similar spatial scale of bleaching across the globe, but spanning across at least 2 years. So that means a lot of these corals are being put under really prolonged stress, or are being hit 2 years in a row.”
The total loss could amount to 5 percent of the world’s corals in 2015, according to Eakin. That’s not as bad as the loss in 1998, but there’s a fear that if the event continues into 2016, the losses would grow.
“We’ve been hearing worrying reports of bleaching from various places, and now the bad news is officially here, with worse news likely yet to come with the strengthening El Niño,” says Nancy Knowlton, an expert on coral reefs with the Smithsonian Institution, of the news. “No reefs that experience unusually warm waters are likely to escape unscathed, but reefs already suffering from overfishing and pollution may have a particularly rough time recovering, based on what we have learned from past bleaching events.” […]
The current bleaching event began in 2014, where it was observed in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. These areas experienced “the highest thermal stress we’ve ever seen,” said Eakin. Then it spread across the Pacific to Hawaii, which is at particular risk right now, along with many areas in the Caribbean. Major bleaching has also been observed in the Indian Ocean.
According to NOAA, 95 percent of all U.S. coral reefs are expected to see ocean temperatures that can lead to bleaching sometime this year. Of those areas, says Eakin, 60 percent are expected to be “hit with severe thermal stress and we’re going to see a lot of corals dying.” [more]
By Debasish Ghosh
1 October 2015
(The Guardian) – IT professional Debasish Ghosh has been documenting toxic foam in the Indian city’s polluted lake system. The snowy froth, a cocktail of chemicals and sewage, has a pungent odour and causes irritation on contact with the skin.
Bangalore was once known for its interconnected lake systems which provided a reliable source of water.
As the city grew these lakes became polluted by chemicals and sewage, creating a harmful snowy froth, which floats up from the city’s largest lake and spills over into surrounding areas.
Bellandur Lake, in India’s technology capital, now carries huge volumes of snowy froth which blocks the adjacent canals. […]
Many such lakes in Bangalore becoming polluted with harmful chemicals like nitrates, potassium, and sulphates. […]
In May, the lake caught fire twice. [more]