Monday, September 14, 2020

Smoke

It’s killing people in the West.  From the New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — Across a hellish landscape of smoke and ash, authorities in Oregon, California and Washington State battled to contain mega-wildfires on Sunday as shifting winds threatened to accelerate blazes that have burned an unimaginable swath of land across the West.

The arrival of the stronger winds on Sunday tested the resolve of fire crews already exhausted by weeks of combating blazes that have consumed around 5 million acres of desiccated forests, incinerated numerous communities and created what in many places was measured as the worst air quality on the planet.

“There’s just so much fire,” said Ryan Walbrun, a fire weather meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “And so much smoke.”

The fires, which have killed at least 24 people in the last week alone, have engulfed the region in anguish and fear, as fairgrounds have turned into refugee camps for many who have been forced from their homes. The choking smoke cast a dark pall over the skies and created a vision of climate-change disaster that made worst-case scenarios for the future a terrifying reality for the present.

“I drove 600 miles up and down the state, and I never escaped the smoke,” Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said Sunday on the television program, “This Week.” “We have thousands of people who have lost their homes. I could have never envisioned this.”

As the West burns there is consensus among scientists of the role that climate change is playing in the size and intensity of the fires.

“Fundamentally the science is very, very simple,” said Philip B. Duffy, a climate scientist who is president of the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

“Warmer and drier conditions create drier fuel,” said Dr. Duffy, a physicist. “What would have been a fire easily extinguished now just grows very quickly and becomes out of control.”

The old adage that you can talk about the weather but you can’t do anything about it is true. But you can do something about the climate. We’ve already done that with the massive dumping of carbon emissions, and it’s way past time that we did something about it.