Monday, May 09, 2016

No snow equals greater possibility of fire: Well, duh!

How climate change may be fueling Canada’s fire season

By Chelsea Harvey, May 6, Washington Post

A devastating wildfire continues to rage around Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, having grown to more than ten times its original size and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Now, as firefighters struggle to contain the flames, some experts are saying that the blaze was likely helped along by factors related to climate change — which may also be contributing to a bigger trend in lengthier, more intense Northern fire seasons.

Around the same time the Fort McMurray fire sprang up (it arose Sunday from unknown causes), researchers from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab released some alarming findings. According to satellite data, last month saw the lowest area of snow cover in the northern hemisphere of any April in the past 50 years, at just over 27.9 million square kilometers of coverage. The previous record-holder was April of 1968, with 28 million square kilometers.

While all the factors that played into the low snow extent remain to be explored, the findings generally suggest that this year’s mild winter caused snow to melt faster and earlier than in previous years, said David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist, who helps run the Rutgers Global Snow Lab. And some scientists, including Robinson, have suggested that the low snow extent could make for a dryer, more severe fire season in the north.

(Continued here.)

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