Posts Tagged ‘arid’

Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires

June 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Laurence COUSTAL | Heat waves have become more frequent in Portugal, say experts

PARIS (AFP) – Highly exposed to global warming’s climate-altering impacts, Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires such as the one — still raging — that has killed at least 60 people this weekend, experts say.- Why Portugal, why now? –

The Iberian peninsula encompassing Portugal and Spain is experiencing a warmer, drier June than usual, explains Thomas Curt, a researcher at France’s Irstea climate and agriculture research institute.

Added to that, the country has vast expanses of highly inflammable plants, including forests of pine and eucalyptus trees.

“Hotter air is synonymous with drier and more inflammable vegetation,” said Curt. “The more the mercury climbs, so does the risk of fires and their intensity.”

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than the global average over the past half century, according to a 2014 review of climate change impacts on Portugal.

Heat waves have become more frequent, and annual rainfall slightly less, said the review published in the journal WIREs Climate Change.

More frequent and pronounced heat waves are expected in future, accompanied by a “substantial increase” in fire risk — “both in severity and in length of the fire season,” it said.

– Does global warming boost forest fire risk? –

“It is certain — we are experiencing a rise in temperatures,” said Curt.

The Northern hemisphere summer has lengthened over the past 50 years from July-to-August, to June-to-October now — meaning a longer fire risk season.

There has been an increase in major fires of more than 100 hectares, and so-called “megafires” of more than 1,000 hectares, the researcher added.

“It is truly a growing problem everywhere in the world, and notably in Mediterranean Europe.”

These mega blazes remain rare — only about 2-3 percent of all fires — but are responsible for about three-quarters of all surface burnt.

“Many analyses of climate change show that these major fires will become more and more likely,” said Curt.

– What to do? –

In the short term, reinforce firefighting capacity, deploy patrols, set up watchtowers to raise the alarm, and ban fire-making everywhere.

Over the longer term, human settlements and green areas will need to be substantially redesigned, experts say.

Some forest will have to be cut back, undergrowth cleared, and residential areas moved further from scrubland and forest borders, to reduce the risk to life and property.

“The focus of efforts should shift from combating forest fires as they arise to preventing them from existing, through responsible long-term forest management,” green group WWF said.

“Responsible forest management is more effective and financially more efficient than financing the giant firefighting mechanisms that are employed every year.”

In the yet longer term, added Curt, “of course, we need to curtail global warming itself.”

by Laurence COUSTAL

Drought diaries: How no water, extreme heat are hurting Americans

August 2, 2012

Above:The dry Truckee Canal near Teresa Pena-Raney’s peach orchard in western Nevada. (Teresa Pena-Raney)

By Tim Skillern | The Lookout ; Yahoo!

Along the 195-mile Embarras River, a tributary of the Wabash in southeastern Illinois, rancher Jim Gardner worries about his 200 head of Angus cattle.

There’s enough hay — for now. But in July, the cattle started eating winter’s food, and this year’s drought has already browned his fields. When the rain stopped, the ranch cut the hay for feed. The fields are now barren.

“You have a choice: Spend money to buy hay or spend money on fuel to get hay. We may be looking for hay again in October,” Gardner writes in a first-person piece for Yahoo News.

The Embarras flows north to south, meandering through seven Illinois counties that have all been designated as “extreme” drought by the federal government. Like more than 1,500 counties across the country, water along the river is sparse or non-existent.

“The ponds are gone. They’re just big craters now. The trees are dropping leaves, diminishing what little shade they have,” Gardner writes. “Dust billows up like a giant wave, rising through barren locust trees when the cows head to pasture.”

He said that this May he improved two fields by spreading turkey manure on them — and it worked, sort of. They were last fields to turn brown in the drought.

“For more than 100 years, someone from our family has worked this dry ground,” he writes. “Every decision we make carries risk of failure of ending that tradition.”

Gardner’s story is one of undoubtedly thousands of drought-related anecdotes from across the United States. There’s plenty of misery to spread around: On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture named 218 additional counties to its tally of natural disaster areas, raising the number of counties nationwide with drought designations to 1,584 in 32 states. And — as millions of Americans have learned this summer — if it’s not the drought that’s problematic, it’s the drought’s ugly cousin: the heat wave.

Yahoo! News asked Americans — ranchers, farmers, city-dwellers and anyone impacted — to share snapshots of living in drought and extreme heat. Below are a handful of their stories.

Read the rest:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/drought-diaries-no-water-extreme-heat-
hurting-americans-205201456.html?_esi=1

Drought Tightens Grip on U.S. Midwest, Plains Farm States

July 19, 2012

The drought in the United States is now believed to be the worst dry spell for farmers in 25 years.

(Reuters) – The most expansive U.S. drought in more than a half century grew more dire in the farming states of the Midwest and High Plains this week, wilting corn and soybean crops and sapping already-damaged yield potential, climate experts said Thursday.

More than 70 percent of the nine-state Midwest was in some stage of drought in the week ended July 17, up from 63 percent the prior week, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report on drought throughout the country compiled by climate experts.

Half of the Midwest, which produces about 75 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States, was in severe to exceptional drought, up from about a third of the region a week earlier, the Drought Monitor reported.

“Another week of hot and dry weather continued the deterioration of crop conditions in America’s breadbasket,” said Richard Heim of the National Climatic Data Center.

Severe drought expanded to encompass nearly 59 percent of Iowa, the top corn and soybean state, up from about 13 percent the previous week.

Ninety-five percent of No. 2 corn and soy state Illinois was in severe drought or worse, up from about 66 percent a week ago.

Corn plants are seen in a drought-stricken farm field near Evansville

Drought also tightened its grip on the High Plains, with 68 percent of the six-state region in severe drought or worse, up from 56 percent the prior week, the Drought Monitor showed.

Nearly 64 percent of Kansas was in extreme to exceptional drought as of Tuesday, up from 28 percent the previous week.

Conditions in Nebraska also worsened, with 75 percent of the state in severe drought or worse, up from 55 percent the week before.

Meteorologists are calling it the worst drought since 1956.

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by John Picinich)