Posts tagged ‘weather’

July 4, 2012

Wildfires of the Future

As the UK enjoyed unusually hot temperatures at the end of May, alongside hosepipe bans, other parts of the world suffer from more and more disastrous wildfires.

In the US the ‘wildfire season’ started earlier than usual in Arizona, in the middle of May – with five fires at the same time. After the dry winter, plants were also rather dry and as the spring was warmer than usual, this all contributed to the first big wildfires of the year. Two-thirds of the state of Arizona is currently suffering from extreme drought, and there is hardly any chance of rain during the summer.

 

 

Later in May, residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico could barely see from the smoke of wildfires around them in the city, and fires were also burning in Colorado, Nevada, California and Utah.

Wildfires are getting more and more frequent and more destructive. Last year Texas suffered the most damages on record – with four million acres and about 2800 houses burnt down. Another big wildfire burnt for six weeks and eventually destroyed about 500,000 acres in Arizona – the “Wallow Fire” is now the biggest ever on record in Arizona’s history. And these are only figures from the Southern part of the US, while wildfires are now frequent in Idaho or the Yellowstone National Park, as well as in enormous countries like Australia, Canada and even in
Siberia, Russia.

Besides the obvious financial damages and occasional deaths, scientists have now also calculated the extra lives taken due to the increased air pollution. And while in a normal wildfire trees burn mainly, if the peat underground catches fire, it can significantly increase carbon emissions.

Most of the wildfires are caused by human negligence and lightning strikes. Such blazes have been regular in these environments, but the warmest ever spring with very dry conditions this year can lead to even greater fires than usual. They are very difficult to contain in fast winds, or in cases of merging with another fire.

Throughout history nature created perfect conditions to withstand large forest fires. A natural defense is that trees grow far from each other, but re-planted forests now mean more problem and more dangerous fires.

The recent changes in the Earth’s climate seem to fuel ever bigger fires, thus our future may mean regular disastrous wildfires all over the world, not just occasionally.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: HowStuffWorks

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October 26, 2011

Since Records Began…

The UK has just experienced the ‘hottest October since records began’ but who recorded the first weather event and when was the first weather forecast reported? And was this really the hottest ever?

The early Chinese, Persians and Egyptians already observed the weather and tried to draw conclusions, but of course professional weather records started much later.

In the US state leaders were amongst the first who were very interested in weather. Benjamin Franklin recorded the movement of a hurricane for the first time in 1743, while Thomas Jefferson even had a thermometer as well as a barometer and made regular observations between 1772 and 1778, mainly about temperatures.

Although there were many tools available for such recordings the telegraph eventually helped in collecting data from vast distances. In 1849 the first observation network was set up between telegraph companies and by the end of that year about 150 volunteers reported the data. By 1860, 500 stations operated all across the country.

In the UK one of the most famous early meteorologists was Dr John Rutty who recorded weather data for forty years in Dublin, which he eventually published in his book in 1770.

Also, from 1659 and 1766 various non-official records were kept, called the Central England Temperature and the England and Wales Precipitation series, respectively.

The Met Office 

Met Office UK

In the UK the Met Office was founded in 1854 as an experimental government department, with the objective to forecast weather, primarily for sailors. Its leader was a naval captain, Robert FitzRoy, who developed the first storm warning service, and created the foundation of several forecasting methods, including charts.

In 1861 The Times published the first weather forecast in a few short sentences covering only the next two days, also written by Robert FitzRoy.

US National Weather Service

The US National Weather Service was founded as the Weather Bureau in 1870, with the aim to provide meteorological observations at military stations, as well as to forecast storms. In those days however the primary forecast assumption was that a weather pattern in one location will move on to the next, while by 1902 notes on weather expectations were already sent to ships at sea wirelessly. The first weekly forecasts were started in 1910.

Today

The UK Met Office today considers 1914 as the beginning of official records, as they say, because reliable methods were only available from this time on.

This however means that the hottest, the wettest or the driest days may not actually be those – as said – ‘since records began’.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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