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Category — Forest Fires

Climate and economy fan flames in Spain

Tim Radford

 

Burn scars: a swathe of forest destroyed by wildfire in northern Spain. Image: DM Molina Terrén via Wikimedia Commons

Burn scars: a swathe of forest destroyed by wildfire in northern Spain. Image: DM Molina Terrén via Wikimedia Commons

The combined forces of climate, economic and social change are leaving Spain increasingly exposed to the damaging and costly effects of wildfires.

Climate change is gradually turning Spain into a fire zone – but it’s also the change in the economic climate that is inflaming the situation.

A research group reports in the journal Environmental Science and Policy that a mix of factors is behind the rise in both the numbers of forest fires and the areas of land scorched over the last 40 years.

Vanesa Moreno, a researcher in the geography department at the University of Alcalá in Madrid, and colleagues studied the pattern of fires in Spain from 1968 to 2010. [Read more →]

August 22, 2014   No Comments

Arctic warming blamed for dangerous heat waves

Paul Brown

Feeling the heat: a wildfire rages in New Mexico during the 2012 heat wave. Image: Kari Greer/USFS Gila National Forest via Wikimedia Commons

Feeling the heat: a wildfire rages in New Mexico during the 2012 heat wave. Image: Kari Greer/USFS Gila National Forest via Wikimedia Commons

Giant waves in the jet stream that often governs our weather are changing as the Arctic warms more rapidly − leading to long periods of soaring temperatures that pose major threats to economies and human health.

Few people have heard of Rossby waves and even less understand them, but if you are sweltering in an uncomfortably long heat wave, then they could be to blame.

New discoveries about what is going on in the atmosphere are helping to explain why heat waves are lasting longer and causing serious damage to humans and the natural world. These events have doubled in frequency this century, and the cause is believed to be the warming of the Arctic.

The weather at the Earth’s surface is often governed by high winds in the atmosphere, known as jet streams. In 1939, Carl-Gustaf Arvid Rossby, a Swedish-born America meteorologist, discovered waves in the northern jet stream that were associated with the high and low pressure systems at ground level that form daily weather patterns.

Jet streams travel at up to 200 kilometres an hour, frequently wandering north and south − with cold Arctic air to the north, and warmer air to the south. [Read more →]

August 20, 2014   No Comments