Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waldon Canyon Wild Fire ~ Colorado (NASA)

Waldo Canyon Fire

The Waldon Canyon fire in Colorado has now consumed more than 6,000ha (15,000ac) and is approaching Colorado Springs and vicinity urbanization. The above photo is I'm sure nothing short of terrifying for those directly affected - there is no respite. But there is a tremendous release of energy in heat, and light and sound. And pollution - particulate matter and gases, lots of many different gases. A 2007 report stated that natural forest fires contribute as much as the cars and other transportation (HERE).
"A striking implication of very large wildfires is that a severe fire season lasting only one or two months can release as much carbon as the annual emissions from the entire transportation or energy sector of an individual state," the authors write.
The NASA photo below illustrates the trending of the smoke and other matter. Visible traces continue for over a hundred kilometers (~sixty miles) with the dilution continuing ad infinitum ~ almost. Global movement patterns take over at some point. I recall an event where a researcher in downtown Toronto collected air samples directly outside his office window, and a sand storm in the Sahara six months earlier resulted in a unique and remarkable change in atmospheric deposition constituents.

Forest fires act as a natural cleansing to the forest ecosystem. Great swaths of our globe's ecosystems have had to adopt a managed approach ~ one where fire is intentionally controlled ~ which has benefited public safety and property protection ~ but those challenges can still remain and can be enormous. These are the 'phat tails' of probability ~ small likelihood ~ big consequences. The build up of unspent 'fuel' needs to be managed or Yellowstone 1988 and other representative examples are more likely to happen all over again.

This being early in the forest fire season - the work ahead will be daunting and the tasks of the workers and the public alike will be equally challenging.

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