Yosemite NP’s Rim Fire time-lapse

September 18, 2013

USDA/Flickr photo via Mother Jones: A National Park Service fire crew builds a sprinkler system around a grove of sequoias. USDA/Flickr

USDA/Flickr photo via Mother Jones: A National Park Service fire crew builds a sprinkler system around a grove of sequoias. USDA/Flickr

It’s a rolling tragedy, in time-lapse.  Fire always offers a chance at beauty, if we don’t think about the destruction the fire wreaks.

A lot of cameras around Yosemite, and some were set to do time-lapse photos of the recent Rim Fire.  One hopes there is some academic value to these films, perhaps in demonstrating how the diurnal rhythms of the atmosphere changes the behavior of fire (notice how smoke often changes directions at sunset, and then at sunrise, and back again).

All that smoke.  Much of it was living plant material just a few weeks ago, and we watch it turned to tiny particles and gases, and spread by the winds.

More information from the filmmakers and posters:

Published on Aug 28, 2013

Time-lapse photography shows various perspectives of the 2013 Rim Fire, as viewed from Yosemite National Park. The first part of this video is from the Crane Flat Helibase. The fire [was]  . . .burning in wilderness and  . . . not immediately threatening visitors or employees. The second half of the video is from Glacier Point, showing Yosemite Valley, and how little the smoke from the fire has impacted the Valley.

In this next piece, you’ll see footage of fire fighting operations, including a back-burn, and helicoptering of supplies to firefighters on the front lines.  It’s the non-time-lapse version, with wildtrack sound.

Published on Sep 7, 2013

Fire crews in Yosemite conducted firing operations along the Tioga Road this week to provide a buffer of protection from the Rim Fire. As you can see in this video, the fire mostly burns debris on the forest floor rather than the trees. It’s only when the forest floor accumulates too much debris or too many young trees that a small fire like this gets hot enough to torch mature trees and spread from treetop to treetop.

Later in the video, we give you a behind-the-scenes peek at Yosemite’s Helicopter 551 ferrying supplies from the Crane Flat helibase.

The timelapse, from August, has over a million-and-a-half views on YouTube; the non-timelapse, a few weeks later, has fewer than 6,000 views, as I write this.  Time-lapse is very popular.

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Earth on fire? No, just Idaho (and a lot not pictured)

August 23, 2013

Photo and press release from NASA’s Earth Observatory:

Image from the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, acquired August 18, 2013 -- 50 mm lens. Looking to the west, over Idaho.

Image from the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, acquired August 18, 2013 — 50 mm lens. Looking to the west, over Idaho. See photo below for labels of fire sites.

Description of the photo:

Taken with a short lens (50 millimeters), this west-looking image from the International Space Station includes much of forested central Idaho. The oblique image highlights part of the largest single wilderness area in the contiguous United States, the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness.

Within this mountainous region (the dark areas are all wooded), several fires produced extensive smoke plumes. The densest smoke appeared to be generated by a combination of the Little Queens and Leggit fires (within the Salmon River Mountains [link added]). This image shows the common pattern of westerly winds carrying smoke in an easterly direction, as seen during the wildfire season of one year ago.

Named fires—most ignited by lightning—had burned 53,000 acres of forest south of the Salmon River by August 20, 2013; the number would be significantly higher if unnamed fires were included. The Gold Pan fire, north of the Salmon River, had burned 27,000 acres. For a sense of scale, Gold Pan lies about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Little Queens fire.

Ten days before this image was taken, fires in central Idaho (near Boise) had been aggravated by southerly winds. Some of those fires began to burn in July, but were quelled and remain under observation for new flare-ups.

In the image above, smoke partly obscures the black lava flows of the Craters of the Moon National Monument [link added] (lower left). The Beaverhead Mountains [link added] mark the eastern boundary of Idaho with Montana.

Astronaut photograph ISS036-E-32853 was acquired on August 18, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 36 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs/JETS at NASA-JSC.

English: Salmon River Mountains, ID

Salmon River Mountains, Idaho, on the ground; notice the steep mountains on-the-ground firefighters must contend with. Wikipedia image

Instrument: ISS – Digital Camera

My older brother Dwight was a firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management in the early 1960s.  There were some huge fires then — but not so many, so large, all at once.  While we don’t have satellite photos to compare from way back then, this is just scary.  Those were scary on the ground, and smaller than these — and fewer.

Notice in the photo below, some of these huge fires are not even big enough to be named.  Wow.

Image from the International Space Station of Idaho fires, with names of larger fires overlayed.  August 23, 2013

Image from the International Space Station of Idaho fires, with names of larger fires overlayed. August 23, 2013

More:

Compare with NASA photo from a month ago; Idaho’s been hammered by fire in 2013:

Photo of Idaho from about July 20, 2013, showing then-active fires in the state -- north at top of photo. Notice Craters of the Moon National Monument, the dark area in the southeast section -- this area is obscured by new fires in the photos above.

Photo of Idaho from about July 20, 2013, showing then-active fires in the state — north at top of photo. Notice Craters of the Moon National Monument, the dark area in the southeast section — this area is obscured by new fires in the photos above. Idaho’s borders are barely visible in a thin, black line.  This photo from NASA/Goddard


Annals of global warming: Arizona wildfires 2013 and “the new normal”

July 6, 2013

A burned home is seen in an unidentified neighborhood west of Highway 89 in Yarnell, Arizona July 3, 2013. Reuters

A burned home is seen in an unidentified neighborhood west of Highway 89 in Yarnell, Arizona July 3, 2013. Reuters, via International Business Times

From a much longer story you should read by Felicity Barringer and Kenneth Chang  in The New York Times, Tuesday, July 2, 2013, page A13 of the National Edition:

Since 1970, Arizona has warmed at a rate 0.72 degrees per decade, the fastest among the 50 states, based on an analysis of temperature data by Climate Central, an independent organization that researches and reports on climate. Even as the temperatures have leveled off in many places around the world in the past decade, the Southwest has continued to get hotter.

“The decade of 2001 to 2010 in Arizona was the hottest in both spring and the summer,” said Gregg Garfin, a professor of climate, natural resources and policy at the University of Arizona and the executive editor of a study examining the impact of climate change on the Southwest.

Warmer winters mean less snowfall. More of the winter precipitation falls as rain, which quickly flows away in streams instead of seeping deep underground.

The soils then dry out earlier and more quickly in May and June. “It’s the most arid time of year,” Dr. Garfin said. “It’s windy as well.”

The growing season also starts earlier, so there is more to burn.

“The fire season has lengthened substantially, by two months, over the last 30 years,” said Craig D. Allen, a research ecologist at the United States Geological Survey station at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

The fire potential is exacerbated by the past policy, beginning around 1900, of putting out all fires. Fires are a natural way of clearing out the underbrush. With that natural rhythm disrupted, the flammable material piled up, so when it did catch fire, it ignited a giant fire that burned hotter and wider.

This total-suppression policy began to ease as early as the 1950s, when scientists began to see fire’s role in ecosystems. It was completely abandoned nearly two decades ago.

But in the 1970s, the Southwest entered a wet period, part of a climate cycle that repeats every 20 to 30 years. “That wet period helped keep a lid on fires,” Dr. Allen said. “And it also allowed the forests to fluff up.”

Since 1996, the climate pattern, known as the Pacific decadal oscillation, has swung to the dry end of the spectrum, and the region is caught in a long-term drought.

Stephen J. Pyne, one of the nation’s leading fire historians and a professor at Arizona State University, said, “How we live on the land, what we decide we put on public and private lands, how we do things and don’t do things on the land, changes its combustibility.”

In many landscapes, he added, “you’ve enhanced the natural combustibility” by building hundreds of thousands of homes in fire-prone areas, and for years suppressing natural fires, allowing a buildup of combustible materials like the “slash” debris left behind by logging.

The article explains how this is the dry phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation; so we can hope the wet phase will be wet enough to suppress fires.  However, the simple fact of additional effects brought on by PDO does not mean warming goes away when the PDO switches phases.  Note especially the lengthening fire season over three decades; incrementally, warming is making these well-known cycles, warmer, and too often, destructive or more destructive.

More: 

Sign welcoming visitors to Yarnell, Arizona:

Sign welcoming visitors to Yarnell, Arizona, with wildfire in the background: “Elevation 4,850 ft., ‘Where the desert breeze meets the mountain air.'” Sedonaeye.com image

 

English: Monthly values for the Pacific decada...

Monthly values for the Pacific decadal oscillation index, 1900 – 2010 Black line:121-month smooth Data source: http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/PDO.latest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Scapegoat season

June 21, 2011

Say what?

John Cole at Balloon Juice:

Grampa Simpson at it again:

In comments made over the weekend, Senator John McCain R-AZ., blamed illegal immigrants for the some wildfires that have raged across his state of Arizona.“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain said Saturday at a press conference. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”’

The Senator from Arizona’s comments set off a wildfire of their own, as the Wallow Fire currently blazes across his state across 500,000 miles.

A forest service spokesman on the Wallow fire in Arizona says there’s no evidence that this specific fire was caused by immigrants.

I still can not believe that there are people who want to argue that there would have been no difference between the current Obama administration and a McCain/Palin reign of terror.

What’s going on there?


Disaster in Yellowstone Park: 20 years after the fires, it’s healing

September 17, 2008

High school students weren’t alive when Yellowstone burned in 1988. Do you remember?

NASA infrared satellite photograph of Yellowstone fires in 1988

NASA infrared satellite photograph of Yellowstone fires in 1988

It was a conflagration that made hell look like good picnicking. 1988 was a particularly dry summer, and hot. Lightning and human carelessness ignited fires across western North America. Five huge fires raged out of control, and burned huge swaths out of forests in Yellowstone National Park that probably hadn’t seen fire in 80 years, maybe longer.

The Salt Lake Tribune featured several stories about the fires and Yellowstone’s recovery today, “Yellowstone: Back from the ashes,” how wildland firefighting changed, a great chart on fire succession stages, and another chart on the effects of the fire on larger animals in the Yellowstone system.

Old Faithfull erupts against background of smoke from 1988 fires - NPS photo by Deanna Marie Dulen

Old Faithfull erupts against background of smoke from 1988 fires - NPS photo by Deanna Marie Dulen

The 1988 fires made history in several ways; it was the first time so many fires had burned simultaneously. Ultimately some of the fires merged into even greater conflagrations. The fires forced the shutdown of tourism and other activities in the Park. Inadequacies in fire fighting equipment, staffing and policies were highlighted and displayed in newspapers and on television for weeks, forcing changes in policies by cities, states and the federal government.

Some good came out of the fires. Much undergrowth and dead wood had choked off plant diversity in some places in the Park. The fires opened new meadows and offered opportunities for some species to expand their ranges.

Scientifically, a lot of information came out of the fires. The mystery of when aspen would seed out was solved — new aspen seedlings appeared in areas where the fires had sterilized the ground with extremely high temperatures that seemed to trigger the seeds to germinate.

Our visits in 1989 offered a lot of opportunities to look at very bleak landscapes.

Yellowstone National Park in 1989, a year after the big fires - Copyright 1989 and 2008, Ed Darrell

Yellowstone National Park in 1989, a year after the big fires - Copyright 1989 and 2008, Ed Darrell

Recover of the forested areas began rather quickly, but will take time to cover over all the scars of the fires.

Other resources:


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