Alberta Fire Update

May 5, 2016

albertaplume

Weather Channel:

Officials said all efforts have failed to suppress the large inferno that invaded Alberta’s Fort McMurray, even with more than 250 firefighters working 24 hours to fight the blaze. A provincial state of emergency was declared by the Alberta government Wednesday evening as the raging fire showed no signs of weakening.

“This is a nasty, dirty fire,” Fort McMurray Fire Chief Darby Allen told the AP. “There are certainly areas of the city that have not been burned, but this fire will look for them and it will find them and it will want to take them.”

Below: Climate change context for Fire:

Climate Central:

An unusually intense May wildfire roared into Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in province history. The flames rode the back of hot, windy weather that will continue through Wednesday and could pick up again this weekend.

The wildfire is the latest in a lengthening lineage of early wildfires in the northern reaches of the globe that are indicative of a changing climate. As the planet continues to warm, these types of fires will likely only become more common and intense as spring snowpack disappears and temperatures warm.

An unusually intense May wildfire roared into Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in province history. The flames rode the back of hot, windy weather that will continue through Wednesday and could pick up again this weekend.

The wildfire is the latest in a lengthening lineage of early wildfires in the northern reaches of the globe that are indicative of a changing climate. As the planet continues to warm, these types of fires will likely only become more common and intense as spring snowpack disappears and temperatures warm.

wallofflame

“This (fire) is consistent with what we expect from human-caused climate change affecting our fire regime,” Mike Flannigan, a wildfire researcher at the University of Alberta, said.

At least one neighborhood of the northern Albertan city of 61,000 has been nearly entirely razed as the blaze ripped through the city from the west on Tuesday. Temperatures soared into the low 90s — up to 40°F (22°C) above normal for this time of year — coupled with high winds helped fan the flames late that afternoon. That sent 80,000 people in the city and surrounding area scrambling north and south through a post-apocalyptic landscape of trees lit up like matchsticks and flashing emergency lights.

Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen told the CBC that Tuesday was the worst day of his career as firefighters scrambled to combat the wildfire. Preliminary reports indicate that 80 percent of the homes in one neighborhood have been destroyed, though the full extent of the damage isn’t fully known yet. And it may very well not be over as hot, dry conditions are expected again on Wednesday.

What’s happening in Fort McMurray is a perfect encapsulation of the wicked ways that climate change is impacting wildfire season. A drier than normal winter left a paltry spring snowpack, which was quickly eaten away by warm temperatures. That left plenty of fuel on the ground for wildfires to consume

https://twitter.com/simondonner/status/727877160380203012

 

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10 Responses to “Alberta Fire Update”

  1. otter17 Says:

    The Fort McMurray Fire Chief certainly wasn’t mincing words. That sounds like heavy stuff.

  2. webej Says:

    Irony is that the whole city exists because of the oil/tar sands. Forest fires caused by global warming (or by poetic justice or the ?gods) striking at the place that champions carbon production more than any other.

    I’m not trying to be unsympathetic and raise the spectre of divine retribution or say they had it coming to them. I know for a lot of people it is a huge tragedy.

    Nevertheless, the symbolism is awesome.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      We ALL “have it coming to us” unless we are living the simplest of life styles as hunter-gatherers in the same ways as our ancestors of some 20,000 years ago.

      There is no “divinity” or “retribution” or “karma” or “poetic justice” involved—–those are meaningless human constructs—-there are just the laws of nature and mathematics, and the folks in Alberta just happened to be in front of Nature’s Bat this time.

    • otter17 Says:

      Aside from any irony that may be gleaned from this, from a purely scientific perspective, a hypothesis could be that this may be a (small) negative feedback.

      Ft. McMurray as a city has been required to grow at breakneck pace, very much straining the city functions and housing, not to mention the tar sands facility infrastructure growth. If changing climate conditions in that region dry out the boreal forests and increases fire damage to the area, then less oil production additions can be supported, and hence a slightly slower increase in the planet’s GHG radiative forcing. Then again, who knows if the breakneck pace of production capacity additions would begin again as the fires die down and the area converts to a grassland or whatever biome comes next.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I think it’s more correct to say that this is a positive feedback mechanism that is causing negative immediate effects on the citizens of Ft. McMurray, in that the development of the tar sands has contributed to AGW, local susceptibility to fire, and reckless development in Alberta.

        Speculating about what comes after this in terms of future development is an exercise in futility.

        • otter17 Says:

          Haha, yes a bit of speculation, but was a somewhat fleeting thought experiment that passed my mind.

  3. redskylite Says:

    In 2013 Neil Young said “Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland,”, that was an exaggeration having seen photo’s and read accounts of post Nuclear Hiroshima. But now I would agree.

    The great boreal forest includes Alberta, and joining the dots (as Jeff Masters blog talks about today in his Wunderground Wunderblog) there is little doubt anthropogenic climate change is the culprit.

    NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory today released April’s average CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa, April was at a record high of 407.42 ppm, an astounding record jump of 4.16 ppm from 2015.

    It is accelerating and getting away from us.

    The Taiga is the biggest lung of the world, followed by the Amazon. Man will never invent technology on such a scale to deal with CO2 not even in his wildest dreams. We are living on borrowed time with just a desperate decade or two left to really try and change our ingrained way.

    We must try harder.

    My memories of my family include generations that have battled through two world wars, a period of peace in Europe, let their strife not been in vain.

    We can do better.

    We must do better.

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

  4. neilrieck Says:

    Any person with a micro-gram of empathy would feel sad for the people of Fort McMurray. On the flip side, the young person standing in front of me in yesterday’s coffee line brought up the word Karama while referring to this article:

    http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/jen-gerson-fort-mac-isnt-karma-any-blame-is-shared-by-all-of-us

  5. Vee Jay Says:

    Umm.. isnt oil flammable? If so.. what has this to do with the climate exactly? and why are their purple flames? Wouldnt the fact that whole town sits on an oil deposit not be a factor? Strange that it’s not mentioned… prayers to everyone whos lost their homes…hmm I wonder if Trump will accept Canadian refugees?


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