DROUGHT AND HEAT
compiled by Dee Finney
SUMMER HEAT KILLING PEOPLE
Most of the western U.S. is suffering from some degree of drought. The
darkest color on this map represents the most extreme category of drought in NOAA's classification scheme. Click on the image for a larger
version with legend. Image courtesy
|Source: University Of California - Los Angeles
UCLA Study Explores Droughts In Canadian Prairies
Canada's Saskatchewan River system, which recently experienced its worse drought in 134 years, may be prone to more prolonged and severe droughts than previously thought, suggests a new UCLA study based on tree rings that are more than 1,000 years old. If global warming ends up decreasing precipitation and historical precedents repeat themselves, the region could be in far worse shape than policy-makers currently anticipate, warn the authors of the study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.
"Past droughts and corresponding declines in river flow have been worse than anything we've seen for the past 100 years, including the recent drought, and this was before man began modifying the climate," said lead author Roslyn A. Case, who conducted the research as a UCLA graduate student but who now works for the Venice, Calif.-based environmental consulting firm of McDaniel Lambert Inc. "Human-induced climate change could make the situation even worse."
The UCLA findings, which represent the first large-scale reconstruction of the river system's flow rates, call into question the wisdom of current approaches to river water management in the basin, which encompasses Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and covers 168,000 square miles, including some of Canada's longest rivers.
"If future water policy and infrastructure development in the Canada prairies continue to take only 20th-century water resources into account, then the region is in for real trouble," said Glen M. MacDonald, co-author and chair of UCLA's geography department. "One reason the current drought seems so severe is the 20th century was one of the wettest periods the region has experienced."
With core samples from old-growth trees in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the researchers pieced together annual water flow over varying periods for the region's three main rivers: 1,113 years for the North Saskatchewan River, 522 years for the South Saskatchewan River and 325 years for the Saskatchewan River.
Among their findings:
* Between 900 and 1300, the North Saskatchewan River experienced 10 decades of the lowest flow in its history; over those 400 years, the average flow of the river was 15 percent lower than the 20th-century average.
* Between 1702 and 1725, river flows on the South Saskatchewan River were almost 20 percent below the 20th-century average.
* Between 1841 and 1859, river flows on the Saskatchewan River were at least 22 percent below the 20th-century average.
* Along the South Saskatchewan River, the early 20th century saw the highest river flows of the segment's 522-year reconstruction.
Tree rings from sites adjacent to Canada's prairies are reliable records of past precipitation and river flows in the area because trees form larger rings during years of high precipitation and form thin rings during years of little precipitation. The patterning persists for the life of the wood.
Case and MacDonald examined samples from 178 trees, the majority of which were living and none of which were damaged by their work.
To ensure the accuracy of their findings, the researchers initially checked their river flow predictions against historical records for river flows in the area.
In addition to recording the amount of precipitation in any given year, tree rings reflect the volume of river water flowing in any given period since rivers serve as the principle destinations for the region's watershed.
About 75 percent of water from the Saskatchewan River system is used for domestic and agricultural purposes, including wheat production. The Saskatchewan River Basin is one of the world's leading producers of wheat.
Debate surrounding future allocations of these waters has been hampered by the fact that government officials did not begin keeping consistent, systematic records of the river system's flow rates until 1912.
"In order to understand what nature can throw our way in terms of drought, we have to look deeper into the past than historical records currently go," MacDonald said. "That view suggests the possibility of some unpleasant surprises."
This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University Of California - Los Angeles.
India Swelters in 124-Degree Heat
Weather: Heat so intense that birds drop dead has killed more than 600 people.
By OMER FAROOQ Associated Press Writer
May 17 2002
HYDERABAD, India -- India baked in a heat wave today so intense that mud huts became as hot as ovens and birds in trees dropped dead, villagers said. This month's heat has killed 638 people nationwide.
Officials described the temperatures exceeding 115 degrees as "a natural calamity."
In Andhra Pradesh state, 622 people died. Temperatures there reached a record 124 degrees, said D.C. Roshaiah, an official in charge of relief work in the state.
Most of the dead were old people unable to bear the extreme heat, said Rajshekhar Murthy, a health worker in the state's Guntur district, where 102 people died.
P. Vijaylakshmi, a farmer in Kovvuru village in a remote corner of Andhra Pradesh, described the height of the heat wave last Friday as "the worst day of my life."
"How I can forget it? There was no place to hide. Even the dirt floor of my hut felt like an oven," he said.
Villagers said the heat was so intense that birds fell from the trees.
Similar heat waves struck Andhra Pradesh in 1996 and 1998, but this year has been the worst, state weather officials said. Andrha Pradesh is the fifth-largest state in India, with 76 million people.
Murthy, the health worker, said the number of dead would have been higher had local officials not issued warnings and supplied extra drinking water to the poor.
"The administration sounded a warning a week in advance," said Poonam Malkondaiah, an official in West Godavari district, where at least 50 people perished.
"People were told not to venture out of their homes, especially around noon when the heat wave reaches its peak. If there were compelling reasons to go out, they were asked to cover themselves," she said.
It has been an abnormally hot May in southern India. Temperatures have been 7 percent above the monthly average.
The national capital New Delhi and other parts of northern India have also been sweltering. Sixteen people died in the desert state of Rajasthan as temperatures climbed to 117 on Friday.
Andhra Pradesh's Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu set up a scientific committee to establish whether global warming was causing the heat wave.
However, meteorologists quickly blamed scorching desert winds from the northwest, not the greenhouse effect or deforestation.
"Heat waves always precede the monsoon rains. They induce the moisture to come in," said R. Rajamani, an environmental expert based in Hyderabad. Monsoons normally arrive in southern India in early June, and in the rest of the country over subsequent weeks.
|BRIEFING: ENVIRONMENT; DROUGHT RESTRICTIONS (The New
York Times Archive)
State environmental officials last week eased a ban on lawn watering in the southwestern, northwestern and south coastal regions of the state. Residents may water two days each week (the days depend on whether a home's address ends in an odd or even number), and in some central and coastal counties, residents may water three days a week. The new policy will be reviewed by the state on June 28. Lawn watering is still prohibited in Passaic, Bergen, Hudson and Essex Counties and in part of Morris County. The Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, Bradley M. Campbell, said the state would need 18 to 26 inches of rainfall in the next few months to reverse
the drought. The state has opened a Web site, www.njdrought.org, with information about rules and drought status. Jeremy Pearce
| Changes In Sun's Intensity Tied To Recurrent Droughts
In Maya Region
by Aaron Hoover
Gainesville - May 17, 2001
The Maya were talented astronomers, religiously intense in their observations of the sun, moon and planets. Now, new research shows something in the heavens may have influenced their culture and ultimately helped bring about their demise.
In an article set to appear in Friday's issue of the journal Science, a team of researchers led by a University of Florida geologist reports finding that the Yucatan Peninsula, seat of the ancient Maya civilization, was buffeted by recurrent droughts.
More importantly, the research shows, the droughts -- one of which is thought to have contributed to the collapse of the Maya civilization -- appear to have been caused by a cyclical brightening of the sun.
"It looks like changes in the sun's energy output are having a direct effect on the climate of the Yucatan and causing the recurrence of drought, which is in turn influencing the Maya evolution," said David Hodell, a UF professor of geology and the paper's lead author.
In 1995, Hodell and two colleagues at UF published results in the journal Nature suggesting that the ninth-century collapse of the Maya civilization may have been influenced by a severe drought that lasted for more than 150 years.
The paper, co-authored by Mark Brenner, a UF assistant professor of geology and director of UF's Land Use and Environmental Change Institute, and Jason Curtis, a UF geology researcher, was based on analysis of a sediment "core" from Lake Chichancanab on the north central Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Cores are samples of lake sediment retrieved by driving a hollow tube into the lake bottom. The sediments are deposited layer by layer, like a wedding cake, with the oldest layer at the bottom. Such cores provide a timeline that allows researchers to obtain a continuous record of changes in climate, vegetation and land use.
For the latest research, Hodell, Brenner and Curtis returned to the lake and collected a new series of cores. The researchers discovered layers of calcium sulfate, or gypsum, concentrated at certain levels in the cores. Lake Chichancanab's water is nearly saturated with gypsum.
During dry periods, lake water evaporates and the gypsum falls to the lake bottom. The layers therefore represent drought episodes. The researchers found the recurrence of the deposits is remarkably cyclical, occurring every 208 years, although they varied in intensity.
The 208-year cycle caught the researchers' attention because it is nearly identical to a known 206-year cycle in solar intensity, Hodell said. As part of that cycle, the sun is most intense every 206 years, something that can be tracked through measuring the production of certain radioactive substances such as carbon-14. The researchers found the drought episodes occurred during the most intense part of the sun's cycle.
Not only that, the researchers found the droughts occurred at times when archeological evidence reflects downturns in the Maya culture, including the 900 A.D. collapse. Such evidence includes abandonment of cities or slowing of building and carving activity.
As Hodell said, the energy received by the Earth at the peak of the solar cycle increases less than one-tenth of 1 percent, so it's likely that some mechanism in the climate is amplifying the impact in the Yucatan.
Archaeologists know the Maya were capable of precisely measuring the movements of the sun, moon and planets, including Venus. Hodell said he is unaware, however, of any evidence the Maya knew about the bicentenary cycle that ultimately may have played a role in their downfall. "It's ironic that a culture so obsessed with keeping track of celestial movements may have met their demise because of a 206-year cycle," he said.
The cycle continues to the present, which happens to fall into about the middle of the 206-year period, Hodell said. Even a severe drought today, however, isn't likely to have the same impact on the culture as in ancient times. Brenner noted North Korea currently is suffering an extreme drought, but the country has the benefit of international aid.
"Nobody stepped in to help the Maya out," he said, "and as conditions worsened, it probably created a lot of stress among various Maya cities competing for resources."
Thomas Guilderson, of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, assisted the UF scientists in the research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation Paleoclimate Program. The cores were collected for a BBC program on climate and Maya culture collapse.
Weather Impacting Society More
|Relentless Heat in Phoenix
By BETH DeFALCO, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 37 minutes ago
PHOENIX - A record heat wave has led to the deaths of 18 people, most of them homeless, leaving officials scrambling to provide water and shelter to the city's transient population.
For the first time in years, homeless shelters opened their doors during the day to offer respite from the blistering sun, which has delivered above-average temperatures every day since June 29. Police began passing out thousands of water bottles donated by grocery stores, and city officials set up tents for shade downtown.
"I don't know why I'm not burnt to pieces," said Chris Cruse, 48, after taking refuge in a shelter.
Four more bodies were found Wednesday. Fourteen of the victims were thought to be homeless. Authorities did not know if a man found by the side of a road Sunday had a permanent residence.
The other three victims were elderly women, including one whose home cooling system was not on, police said.
"Most of us just run from air-conditioned box to air-conditioned box, so it's hard to imagine how omnipresent the heat really is for the homeless here," said Phoenix police Sgt. Randy Force.
In all of last year, the state Department of Health Services documented 34 heat-related deaths among Arizona residents. The number of illegal immigrants killed by heat-related illnesses while trying to cross the desert are counted separately.
The first deaths were reported Saturday. By Wednesday, the high still climbed to 109 degrees. Even during the coolest part of the day, the mercury has failed to descend lower than 89 degrees.
David Waing, a former truck driver who's been living on the streets of Phoenix for the past year, said he's been staying close to water by sleeping near one of the city's irrigation canals.
"In the mornings, about 9 or 10 o'clock, when it starts getting really hot, we just jump in and take a swim," he said. "The nights aren't much better. When the wind does blow, it feels like a blast furnace."
Both he and Cruse spent Wednesday at the Phoenix Rescue Mission watching movies in the shelter's chapel, which was opened Monday to anyone needing a break from the heat.
The shelter was also turning on hoses so transients could wet their clothes and had ordered 300 neckerchiefs that can be dipped in water and tied around the neck, said Bob Reed, a shelter manager.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said his office was asking Congress to provide utility assistance for soaring cooling bills the same way it provides for heating bills in Eastern states.
"Fair is fair. There are too many individuals dying of heat here," Gordon said.
Maricopa County, including Phoenix and its suburbs, has a homeless population between 10,000 and 12,000 people, said Gloria Hurtado, the city's human service director.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, high temperatures dipped below the 115-degree mark Wednesday for the first time in five days. Authorities were investigating six deaths since July 14 to see if they were heat-related.
| Fruit growers lamenting 'apple stew'
By Martin Cassidy
BBC Northern Ireland rural affairs correspondent
Fruit growers in County Armagh are counting the cost of a heat wave which has left many apples cooked on the trees.
Orchard owners have been left wondering whether the stewed fruit was the result of a freak weather pattern or points to climate change.
The heat-wave in the orchards began on 10 July and over the next few days growers say there was barely a breath of wind to help cool the fruit.
It was a "dead heat", says Graham Hewitt - who hasn't seen anything like it in 25 years of producing the famous bramley apple.
"At 32 degrees, the apple which was most exposed, just literally cooked, it was just coddled on the tree," he said.
Walking down the rows of heavily laden trees, Graham points to the damaged fruit on the south west canopy of each tree which took the brunt of the piercing rays of sunlight.
The damage is all too clear to see with the fragile apple skins burned brown.
It is clear that in many places the fruit melted under the intense heat.
Graham plucks one of the apples and breaks the fruit open to reveal how the cooking process had penetrated right to the core of the apple.
"This is a totally new phenomenon in Armagh, this was a totally freak weekend of weather, but you always have it in the back of your mind is global warming going to pose more of a problem when it comes to growing a crop?"
The loss of up to 15% of the crop is a particular concern for growers as they are currently negotiating contracts for the sale of this year's apple harvest.
The Fruit Growers' Association though has been quick to stress that there will be no shortage of bramleys.
Back in the orchards the damaged fruit is already beginning to fall from the trees and Graham Hewitt says that with 10 to 12 weeks of growing left, nature will compensate by making the remaining apples larger.
Back in the orchards the damaged fruit is already beginning to fall from the trees and Graham Hewitt says that with 10 to 12 weeks of growing left, nature will compensate by making the remaining apples larger.
| World faces massive
increase in CO2 emissions as population grows
TOURS, France (AFP) Jul 19, 2005
The world faces a massive increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which fuel global warming, due to population growth, poor countries getting richer and the failure of wealthy countries to reduce greenhouse gases, a world population conference heard here Tuesday.
"We're on a toboggan and we've gone over the edge," Tim Dyson, professor of population studies at the London School of Economics, told the gathering.
"It (global warming) will screw everyone up, no matter where you are," he said at the start of the four-day conference of 2,000 demographers, economists, geographers and sociologists from 110 countries.
Scientists predict global warming, caused mainly by increasing carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and petrol in motor vehicles and power stations, will increase the frequency and severity of droughts, flooding and storms, threatening global agricultural production.
The world scientific authority on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicted in its 2001 report that rising levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide will increase temperatures by between 1.4 degrees and 5.8 degrees Celsius (35 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century and sea levels by between 9 and 88 centimetres (3.5 and 35 inches).
The IPCC, set to produce its next report in 2007, is likely to "increase its temperature estimates by 0.2 degrees (Celsius) at both the low and high end," Tim Dyson told the conference in this central French city.
He said that if per capita CO2 emissions remained at their 2000 levels, which he said was unikely, population increases would raise world emissions by 27 percent to 29.6 billion tons over the next 50 years.
World population is expected to reach nine billion in the next fifty years from 6.5 billion today.
Even a 40 percent reduction in per capita emissions in the developed world would be outweighed solely by the effects of demographic growth elsewhere in the world, Dyson said.
At the top end scenario, where emissions in the developing world double but remain constant in the industrialised countries, the increase in CO2 emissions would be 90 percent above 2000 levels by 2050.
Developed countries have so far been unable to reduce emissions, even in Europe where population is expected to fall in the next fifty years.
The United States, responsible for 25 percent of the worlds CO2 emissions, has refused to ratify the only international agreement to cut greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, the Kyoto protocol, which came into force this year and commits industrialised nations to cut emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
Even those countries which have ratified the Kyoto protocol appear unlikely to meet its modest goals, Dyson said. Between 1990 and 2002 Canadas CO2 emissions rose by 22 percent and Japan by 13 percent while those of the EU emissions have risen by 3.4 percent.
The worlds poor response so far to global warming was similar to that for other long-term threats such as HIV/AIDS with the early development of a scientific consensus followed by "avoidance, denial and recrimination" with little behavioural change, said Dyson.
Immigration to rich countries is also likely to a "significant role" in CO2 emissions growth.
The United States and Canada currently have the worlds highest average per capita CO2 emissions at 19.9 tons per year, 20 times more than for sub-Saharan Africa, and are expected to increase their population by 132 million during the next 50 years, due largely to immigration.
Economic development in poor countries will also increase emissions. Between 1990-99 emissions in North Africa and West Asia rose by 19.7 percent and South America 22.5 percent.
Population growth is also likely to put more people at greater risk from climate change.
"The continuing process of urbanisation will mean that extremely large numbers of people, probably several billion, will be living in low-lying, densely populated coastal areas of the developing world, and their situation is likely to be particularly exposed," Dyson told the conference.
"Flooding of coastal areas, which might result partly from sea level rise and partly from increase rainfall, could lead to the simultaneous loss of cropland and urban infrastructure, producing food price rises, large scale migration and possibly significant socio-political disruption," the professor said.
Before the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the CO2 level in the atmosphere was steady at around 280 parts per million.
When the Kyoto protocol was drawn up in 1997, the CO2 level had reached at 368 parts per million (ppm). In 2004, it hit 379 ppm.
Most predictions of increasing temperatures, floods, droughts, storms and rising sea levels are based on a concentration of 550 ppm. On current trends, this figure, is likely to be reached in the second half of this century.All rights reserved. © 2005
Record Temperatures Grip Many Cities
By JOHN M. BRODER, The New York Times
-PHOENIX (July 22, 2005) - A relentless and lethal blanket of heat has settled on much of the western United States, forcing the cancellation of dozens of airline flights, threatening the loss of electrical power, stoking wildfires and leaving 20 people dead in Phoenix alone in just the past week.
Fourteen of the victims here are thought to have been homeless, although the heat also claimed the life of a 97-year-old man who died in his bedroom, a 37-year-old man who succumbed in his car and two older women who died in homes without air-conditioning.
Daytime highs in Phoenix have remained near 110 degrees for more than a week, and municipal officials acknowledge that it is almost impossible to deal with the needs of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people living on the streets. The city has barely 1,000 shelter beds, and hundreds of them are available only in the winter.
The lack of preparation for the homeless here is obvious to those sweltering on the sidewalk outside the Society of St. Vincent de Paul relief center in a zone of desolation between the office towers of downtown Phoenix and the State Capitol.
"I'm dying out here," said a homeless man in his 40's who goes by the name of Romeo, crouched in a sliver of shade on a littered sidewalk while waiting for a handout meal and a bottle of water. "The police are making us move all over the place. Where do they expect us to go? They need some more shelters."
The Phoenix police and private social service agencies have been passing out thousands of bottles of water donated by grocery chains and individuals. But the fierce heat continues to take a toll.
"We've not seen anything like this before," said Tony Morales, a Phoenix police detective. "We get heat-related deaths every summer, usually 5 to 10 deaths through the whole summer, but nothing like this."
In Maricopa County as a whole, which includes Phoenix and its suburbs, 21 people died of heat exposure all of last year, just one more than the city's toll in the last several days.
Officials of the National Weather Service estimate that more than 200 heat records have been broken in the West during the last two weeks. On Tuesday, Las Vegas tied its record for any date, 117 degrees. Reno and other locations in Nevada have set records with nine consecutive days of temperatures at 100 or higher. The temperature in Denver on Wednesday reached 105 degrees, making it the hottest day there since 1878. The highest temperature for the entire region during the heat wave has been 129, recorded at Death Valley, Calif.
The weather forced airlines to cancel more than two dozen flights this week, remove passengers from fully loaded planes, limit the number of tickets sold on some flights and take other measures to withstand the heat.
The reasons for that are related to engineering. Aircraft manufacturers have customarily set temperature limits at which their planes can be safely operated. (The limits are lower at higher altitudes, as in the Rocky Mountains, and higher at lower altitudes, as in the desert that surrounds Las Vegas.) High temperatures mean aircraft engines must take in more air in order to create the greater thrust the planes need to leave the ground. But airplane makers also have limits on the amount of thrust that an engine can produce. If the engines exceed those limits, they may not perform properly. At that point, aircraft manufacturers advise, the airlines should remove weight from planes - either passengers or cargo - or, in the worst cases, not fly at all.
United Airlines canceled seven United Express flights out of Denver on Wednesday, when the record-tying temperature there exceeded the operating limit for the carrier's propeller planes, said a spokesman, Jeff Green. "It was just so extreme, and stayed on so long, that we had to cancel flights," Mr. Green said.
America West canceled 22 flights out of its Las Vegas hub this week, 11 each on Monday and Tuesday. The temperature of 117 there was approaching the limit for America West's regional jets: 117.26, above which they should not fly, said Linda Larsen, a spokeswoman for Mesa Airlines, which operates the flights for America West.
On the other hand, Southwest Airlines, one of the biggest carriers operating in Las Vegas and Phoenix, has not canceled any flights because of the heat, a spokesman said. And Frontier Airlines merely refused to fly any pets.
The extraordinary heat has lasted for many weeks in the Southwestern desert, where it has exacted a high price in lives along the Mexican border. Officials of the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection say 101 illegal migrants have died of heat so far this fiscal year, which runs from October through September. That compares with 95 heat-related deaths in all of the previous 12 months.
Twenty-one border crossers have died in Arizona just since July 1, said Salvador Zamora, a spokesman for the border agency. The agency has stepped up its efforts to rescue migrants from the heat, using trucks and helicopters to aid people in distress in the brutal sun.
Here in Phoenix, where the issue of rescue involves the homeless, Moises Gallegos, the city's deputy director of community services, said that space was available in downtown shelters but that some of the homeless refused to use it. Some are drug or alcohol abusers who do not want to be tested and treated, a condition for entry, and others are mentally ill and refuse all offers of help, Mr. Gallegos said.
But some private social service agencies contend that there is a critical lack of shelter space here, and criticize officials for not opening a 500-bed city-owned homeless shelter that is used only in the winter.
"We need a year-round overflow shelter," said Terry Bower, director of the Human Services Campus Day Resource Center.
Elsewhere in Arizona, firefighters are struggling to contain a swarm of 20 wildfires around the state, most sparked by lightning, including a 60,000-acre blaze northeast of Phoenix that shut several major highways. Across the West as a whole, 32 large wildfires are burning, fueled by the heat, dry conditions and a profusion of brush created by the winter's heavy rains, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
And in California, the state's Independent System Operator, which handles the flow of power to three-quarters of California customers, declared a Stage 2 emergency on Thursday and Friday, the first in two years. Stage 2 means that utilities are within 5 percent of their maximum production of electricity and that interruption of power to some customers is possible.
Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Independent System Operator, said the emergency was in effect for Southern California and asked residents to conserve electricity. Ms. McCorkle said the system had experienced 14 consecutive days in which demand in Southern California was near capacity.
"The Bay Area is not hot, and that has been our saving grace," she said. "L.A. is sizzling."
Craig Schmidt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's regional headquarters in Salt Lake City, said records had been falling across the Western states since the heat wave started on July 12.
In Phoenix, it was at least 110 every day from July 11 to 19; on Friday the temperature peaked at 108.
There may be some relief in sight, though: monsoons are moving into the area. The rain and cloud cover will cool things down a bit, officials said, but humidity will rise, prolonging the misery.
"Throughout the Western states - you have to estimate, but more than 200 records have probably been broken, and that's just talking daily records," Mr. Schmidt said. "These records are no fun to break."
Among the most remarkable was the one in Las Vegas, where the 117-degree reading on Tuesday matched the record for any date, set in 1942. The 95-degree low on Tuesday was also a record for Las Vegas, as was the average temperature that day, 104 degrees.
In Death Valley, meanwhile, the temperature never dropped below 100 degrees in two 24-hour periods.
Mr. Schmidt attributes the heat to a high pressure system that refused to budge.
"This one went on for so long, because there's a very strong ridge of high pressure centered over Utah and Arizona," he said, "and it kept the monsoon moisture from working its way northward. That usually cools things off with thunderstorms and clouds."
Andy Bailey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Las Vegas, said: "It's probably fair to say what just wrapped up was probably the most intense heat wave the city's ever seen. We had a string of four days where it was 115 or above."
Now, however, the region is facing a new threat from the expected summer monsoons and thunderstorms, Mr. Bailey said.
"We're concerned with flash flooding today and tomorrow," he said.
Micheline Maynard contributed reporting from New York for this article, Katie Zezima from Boston and John Dougherty from Phoenix
battle 8 Oregon wildfires
01:24 PM PDT on Sunday, July 31, 2005
Firefighters battled eight wildfires Sunday burning in eastern and
southwestern Oregon. The largest was the Double Mountain fire south of Vale which
stretched over 34 square miles. By Sunday, it had burned some 24,000 acres
and was still threatening three homes and three outbuildings. AP photo = Members of the Bureau of Land Management
fire crew fight the Double Mountain fire near Vale, Ore. But the fire was 75 percent contained and officials were hoping to have
it fully contained by Sunday evening. "We have military tankers from Boise and our own planes, plus
aircraft from Burns working the fire," BLM spokesman Randy Hyde said. The fire was burning between Vale and the town of Harper to the west.
As of Saturday evening, and there had been no evacuations although U.S. 20
was closed for about three hours. Malheur County Sheriff Andy Bentz said people in the path of the fire
were notified. "All things considered, things went well. You cannot make people
leave their property, only advise them. The wind change caused us some
concern," he said. The lightening-caused fire began early Friday and has burned mostly BLM
and private land. Lightning storms moved through the area again Saturday night, but Hyde
did not believe it caused any additional blazes. Other range fires burning in southeastern Oregon included the Farewell
Bend fire, which had been contained at 3,800 acres and crews were
mopping up on Saturday. The Skull Springs fire 35 miles from Haynes Junction was at 600
acres and growing on Saturday. In the Old Fort Road area north of Klamath Falls, the Simpson fire
had grown to about 2,100 acres Saturday of brush, timber and grass -- with
no immediate prediction for containment. The 500 firefighters battling it expected to see it grow to 4,500 acres
before having a shot at containing it in about a week, said Oregon
Department of Forestry spokeswoman Anne Maloney. The fire had moved away from two homes threatened at the start. The
cause remained unknown. Jeree Mills, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination
Center in Portland said that a far smaller fire burning in eastern Oregon
-- the Dry Cabin Fire -- could also turn out to be a much bigger
headache, depending on the wind. The fire burning near Dayville had only burned some 270 acres. But it
was located in an area of what Mills called "nasty, dense
forest" without road access. That would make relief efforts
difficult. In southwestern Oregon, the Blossom Complex fire had grown to
nearly 1,000 acres near Paradise Bar. It was threatening 16 structures
along the Rogue River near Gold Beach, including several vacation homes. The Wild Rogue River Wilderness area is popular with whitewater
rafters. Rafters have had to occasionally hold up to allow helicopters to
dip buckets of water from the river, said fire information officer Minty
Sherrieb. The Huggins and Solitude fires were burning on ridges less than
a mile from the south side of the river. The Huggins fire was being mopped
up. The complex of fires started a week ago from lighting strikes. And the Wasson fire, east of Eagle Point, had burned 1,500
acres. It was threatening 20 structures and was said to be over 50-percent
contained. The fire started Tuesday when a truck overturned on U.S.
Highway 140 about 16 miles northeast of Medford. A fire break was burned around the Oregon Tiger Sanctuary, an 80-acre
compound that is home to lions, tigers, and snow leopards that had been
Firefighters battled eight wildfires Sunday burning in eastern and southwestern Oregon.
The largest was the Double Mountain fire south of Vale which stretched over 34 square miles. By Sunday, it had burned some 24,000 acres and was still threatening three homes and three outbuildings.
AP photo = Members of the Bureau of Land Management fire crew fight the Double Mountain fire near Vale, Ore.
But the fire was 75 percent contained and officials were hoping to have it fully contained by Sunday evening.About 130 firefighters and aircraft stopped the blaze from spreading north to Vale.
"We have military tankers from Boise and our own planes, plus aircraft from Burns working the fire," BLM spokesman Randy Hyde said.
The fire was burning between Vale and the town of Harper to the west. As of Saturday evening, and there had been no evacuations although U.S. 20 was closed for about three hours.
Malheur County Sheriff Andy Bentz said people in the path of the fire were notified.
"All things considered, things went well. You cannot make people leave their property, only advise them. The wind change caused us some concern," he said.
The lightening-caused fire began early Friday and has burned mostly BLM and private land.
Lightning storms moved through the area again Saturday night, but Hyde did not believe it caused any additional blazes.
Other range fires burning in southeastern Oregon included the Farewell Bend fire, which had been contained at 3,800 acres and crews were mopping up on Saturday.
The Skull Springs fire 35 miles from Haynes Junction was at 600 acres and growing on Saturday.
In the Old Fort Road area north of Klamath Falls, the Simpson fire had grown to about 2,100 acres Saturday of brush, timber and grass -- with no immediate prediction for containment.
The 500 firefighters battling it expected to see it grow to 4,500 acres before having a shot at containing it in about a week, said Oregon Department of Forestry spokeswoman Anne Maloney.
The fire had moved away from two homes threatened at the start. The cause remained unknown.
Jeree Mills, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland said that a far smaller fire burning in eastern Oregon -- the Dry Cabin Fire -- could also turn out to be a much bigger headache, depending on the wind.
The fire burning near Dayville had only burned some 270 acres. But it was located in an area of what Mills called "nasty, dense forest" without road access. That would make relief efforts difficult.
In southwestern Oregon, the Blossom Complex fire had grown to nearly 1,000 acres near Paradise Bar. It was threatening 16 structures along the Rogue River near Gold Beach, including several vacation homes.
The Wild Rogue River Wilderness area is popular with whitewater rafters. Rafters have had to occasionally hold up to allow helicopters to dip buckets of water from the river, said fire information officer Minty Sherrieb.
The Huggins and Solitude fires were burning on ridges less than a mile from the south side of the river. The Huggins fire was being mopped up.
The complex of fires started a week ago from lighting strikes.
And the Wasson fire, east of Eagle Point, had burned 1,500 acres. It was threatening 20 structures and was said to be over 50-percent contained. The fire started Tuesday when a truck overturned on U.S. Highway 140 about 16 miles northeast of Medford.
A fire break was burned around the Oregon Tiger Sanctuary, an 80-acre compound that is home to lions, tigers, and snow leopards that had been threatened.
AP photo - An air tanker
drops retardant on a ridge
2 of Oregon's major wildfires now contained
11:46 AM PDT on Monday, August 1, 2005
Two of Oregon's larger wildfires were contained overnight but more than
4,000 lightning hits in 24 hours started about 40 other blazes,
firefighting officials said Monday. Jeree Mills of the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said the
fire near Eagle Point was contained at 1,510 acres Sunday night and
that the Double Mountain fire west of Vale in Malheur County was
contained at 22,095 acres. Higher humidity on Sunday and rain helped firefighters gain ground on
many of the fires. Mills said storms brought as much as a half inch of
rain in some areas. However, the storms also brought with them plenty of
lightning. Of the 40 new fire starts, Mills said, only about four have the
potential for growth. Elsewhere, the lightning-caused Blossom complex of fires, in the
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, had burned more than 1,000 acres as
of Sunday night, all of it within protected wilderness. More than 550 people were fighting the blaze with the help of seven
helicopters that were taking water from the Rogue River to douse the
flames, said Tom Lavagnino, a Forest Service spokesman. No buildings were
in immediate danger. Damp tinder from heavy spring rains kept flames from leaping into the
treetops and fueling a rapid spread, Lavagnino said. Near Klamath Falls, crews completed a fire line around the 10-mile
perimeter of the 2,283-acre Simpson Fire. Flare-ups tested the fire
line Sunday, but fire crews aided by a half-dozen helicopters held the
flames in check and reinforced the lines. The Dry Cabin Fire posed some of the toughest challenges,
burning in dense timber in a remote forest area about 20 miles north of
Burns Junction. Mills said the Dry Cabin fire was 30 percent contained at
1,600 acres in grass and brush. The Skull Springs fire 22 miles
north of that was contained at about 600 acres. The Mule Peak Fire, burning in rugged country 20 miles southeast
of La Grande, had grown to over 800 acres Monday. The Burnt River
complex fires also continued burning in Eastern Oregon.
Two of Oregon's larger wildfires were contained overnight but more than 4,000 lightning hits in 24 hours started about 40 other blazes, firefighting officials said Monday.
Jeree Mills of the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said the Wasson fire near Eagle Point was contained at 1,510 acres Sunday night and that the Double Mountain fire west of Vale in Malheur County was contained at 22,095 acres.
Higher humidity on Sunday and rain helped firefighters gain ground on many of the fires. Mills said storms brought as much as a half inch of rain in some areas. However, the storms also brought with them plenty of lightning.
Of the 40 new fire starts, Mills said, only about four have the potential for growth.
Elsewhere, the lightning-caused Blossom complex of fires, in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, had burned more than 1,000 acres as of Sunday night, all of it within protected wilderness.
More than 550 people were fighting the blaze with the help of seven helicopters that were taking water from the Rogue River to douse the flames, said Tom Lavagnino, a Forest Service spokesman. No buildings were in immediate danger.
Damp tinder from heavy spring rains kept flames from leaping into the treetops and fueling a rapid spread, Lavagnino said.
Near Klamath Falls, crews completed a fire line around the 10-mile perimeter of the 2,283-acre Simpson Fire. Flare-ups tested the fire line Sunday, but fire crews aided by a half-dozen helicopters held the flames in check and reinforced the lines.
The Dry Cabin Fire posed some of the toughest challenges, burning in dense timber in a remote forest area about 20 miles north of Burns Junction. Mills said the Dry Cabin fire was 30 percent contained at 1,600 acres in grass and brush. The Skull Springs fire 22 miles north of that was contained at about 600 acres.
The Mule Peak Fire, burning in rugged country 20 miles southeast of La Grande, had grown to over 800 acres Monday. The Burnt River complex fires also continued burning in Eastern Oregon.
expect to gain control of southern Nevada
Aug 4, 2005, 08:08 AM
The Vegas Fire has burned approximately
4,200 acres. Officials say fire activity has greatly
diminished and they expect to gain control
if conditions remain the same. Authorities expected to have two
small fires burning in the Spring
Mountains National Recreation Area contained
Tuesday. The Love Fire has burned approximately
thirty acres; the Wall Fire about three
acres. Mormon Well Road in the Desert National
Wildlife Refuge is expected to reopen Wednesday.
The road has been closed from Highway 95
to Highway 93. (Copyright 2005 by The Associated
Press. All Rights Reserved.)
The Vegas Fire has burned approximately 4,200 acres.
Officials say fire activity has greatly diminished and they expect to gain control if conditions remain the same.
Authorities expected to have two small fires burning in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area contained Tuesday.
The Love Fire has burned approximately thirty acres; the Wall Fire about three acres.
Mormon Well Road in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is expected to reopen Wednesday. The road has been closed from Highway 95 to Highway 93.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
WAIKOLOA, Hawaii, Aug. 4, 2005
(AP) Nearly 5,000 people ordered to flee their homes because of a huge brush fire on Hawaii's Big Island were allowed to return Wednesday, finding their property dusted with a layer of ash but otherwise undamaged.
In spite of authorities' reopening the area, Waikoloa Village appeared all but abandoned as National Guard helicopters joined local firefighters in trying to contain the massive blaze in its third day.
"This is like a ghost town today," said Kris Kosa-Correia, principal of Waikoloa Elementary School, where scores of evacuees found temporary refuge.
The principal checked on her residence Wednesday morning to find the fire had scorched undergrowth up to 20 feet from her door and left ash inside the condominium.
Fire crews continued trying to contain the blaze, which had charred more than 25,000 acres along the Kohala Coast on the west side of the island.
The evacuation order had affected 75 percent of the town's 6,500 residents, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency acting administrator Lanny Nakano. Officials turned a community center and elementary school into evacuation centers, a resort opened its ballroom to evacuees and another school offered dorm rooms.
The blaze started Monday as a small brush fire.
Elsewhere on the island, another fire jumped Akoni Pule Highway and had burned more than 2,000 acres, including a two-square-mile tract on one side of the road, and down toward the ocean on the other.
County officials used bulldozers, helicopters and ground crews to contain the flames. One house had been threatened, but firefighters were able to cut a fire break around it, Fire Chief Darryl Oliviera said.
On the mainland, officials in Washington state said residents of about 75 homes who had evacuated Monday when a wildfire closed in were allowed to return home Wednesday.
However, the returnees and residents of 70 other homes were under notice that they might have to evacuate again in the area near Lake Wenatchee in central Washington. The blaze had charred nearly 1,000 acres and was only 20 percent contained.
Large fires also were active Wednesday in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Utah, the National Interagency Fire Center reported. So far this year, wildfires have charred 4.7 million acres, compared with 5.5 million at the same time last year, the center said.
©MMV, The Associated Press. All Rights
Idaho wildfires keep crews busy
BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Wildfires burning in
southwestern and central Idaho scorched thousands of acres of grass, sage
and pine, as near 100-degree heat helped the flames spread over the
"On the Salmon-Challis National Forest,
our fire season has been great," said Gail Baer, a Forest Service
spokeswoman. "We haven't had the number of fires we've had in the
past to date.
Wildfires Rage Out of Control in MontanaThe Associated Press
Saturday, August 6, 2005; 12:35 AM
rage in 40-degree heat amid worst drought for 60 yrs
08.05.2005, 10:21 AM
LISBON (AFX) - More than 3,000 firefighters are battling 18 major blazes raging across Portugal as temperatures soar above 40 degrees amid the country's worst drought since at least 1945.
Hundreds of firefighters worked throughout the night and are beginning to show signs of fatigue, local officials said.
They are backed by over 700 vehicles and 16 water-dropping aircraft, the civil protection agency said.
Thick smoke from the wildfires can be seen on satellite images and is hindering the use of more aircraft, it added.
The wildfires come as many parts of Portugal have recorded their hottest temperatures so far this year.
With temperatures expected to stay near or above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) until at least Wednesday throughout much of the country, Interior Minister Antonio Costa warned the fire situation could worsen.
'We are facing very difficult moments which will probably last over the coming days since weather conditions will remain adverse,' he told reporters.
'Instead of dramatizing the risks we face over the coming days, we need to take steps to mobilize to confront them victoriously,' he added.
Firefighters asked rural homeowners to clear areas of 50 metres (165 feet) around their houses to keep fires from reaching them.
The wildfires have already destroyed homes, farmhouses, tractors, cars and a door factory, local media reported.
Four fires were raging out of control near the central port town of Aveiro, including one which led police to close a 15 kilometre (nine mile) stretch of the A1 motorway linking Lisbon to the second city Porto for three hours.
Wildfires have destroyed more than 68,000 hectares (168,000 acres) of forest and brush since the beginning of the year, while six firefighters have died battling the flames.
Copyright AFX News Limited 2005. All rights reserved.
blaze dangerously close to Leeward Oahu homes
Firefighters are still on the fire lines struggling to put out a huge blaze that has scorched a massive area of the Leeward side today. The large brushfire came dangerously close to homes in Honokai Hale.
At one point, there were 40-50 foot flames behind the old sugar cane pipe. That is probably about 12-15 feet from homes. Homeowners were left battling the blaze with their water hoses.
But it still wasn't enough. The brushfire blackened at least 400 acres and stretched from the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park to Honokai Hale.
No homes were damaged.
Fire crews will work through the night to try to contain this fire. The cause is still under investigation.
Smoke haze sparks talks
By Ahmad Pathoni in JakartaAugust 12, 2005
From: Agence France-Presse
MALAYSIA, which is blanketed in haze from hundreds of ground fires in Indonesia, has offered to help tackle the blazes during crisis talks.Almost 1,000 forest fires and blazes started to clear land on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are blamed for the smog that has cloaked peninsular Malaysia for more than a week, disrupting airports and shipping, angering residents and raising fears over public health.
Malaysia declared a state of emergency in some areas as the air pollution index soared.
Malaysian Environment Minister Adenan Satem offered assistance during a meeting with Indonesian Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban in Sumatra.
"The meeting was cordial ... the Malaysian side offered help to deal with the fires," forestry ministry spokesman Fauzi Masud said.
Mr Masud said the two sides agreed to cooperate on preventing people using fire to clear land and to carry out cloud-seeding to induce rain.
He said Malaysia was offering to help extinguish the fires, carry out cloud-seeding and draw up a long-term programme to prevent a recurrence.
Anger is mounting in Malaysia over the fires, an annual event this time of year as farmers use the dry season to burn forest and clear land.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said ministers from the two neighbours would also meet in Jakarta today to discuss coping with the haze and avoiding any longer-term political crisis.
"We must sit down and discuss and consult. This is the common interest," he said. "We cannot go into an open conflict. That will not be good for the region."
But Malaysia's opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said Indonesia must take action and douse the fires amid reports that the smog could continue for weeks.
"Malaysians want an explanation why the Indonesian government cannot stop the haze from becoming a tragic annual event," he said. "As the source of haze is in Sumatra, Malaysians are powerless to do anything."
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called for "more serious" measures to tackle the fires.
"The president expressed his dissatisfaction over measures in handling the fires .. and he wished to see that forest fires are being handled more seriously," his spokesman Dino Pati Jalal said, according to the Antara news agency.
Indonesian officials said hundreds of rangers had been deployed but were being hampered by the remote locations of the fires and a lack of water.
Satellite images taken on Wednesday showed 993 fires in Riau and North Sumatra provinces on Sumatra, said Israr Albar, a forestry ministry official in charge of forest fires.
"More than 60 percent of hot spots were caused by land-clearing by farmers and they are not in the forests," Mr Albar said.
With visibility in places down to 200 metres or less, Kuala Lumpur's second airport was closed until further notice while the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, has become hazardous.
Hundreds of schools in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding districts were ordered to close until Monday because of the worsening haze, which is causing a rise in asthma attacks and respiratory conditions.
|December 10, 2005
Australia's greatest river is running dry because of a prolonged drought that has exacerbated the problems caused by farmers taking too much water to irrigate unsuitable crops.
Scientists fear that years of below-average rainfall in south-east Australia is turning the once mighty Murray river - known as the Australian Mississippi - from a gushing torrent to a trickling stream. A build-up of sand and salt is the biggest problem generated by low rainfall that has dramatically changed the nature of the river over the past couple of decades.
"When we first came down here, we had wetlands in front of us," said Richard Owen, whose old shack overlooks the mouth of the Murray as it runs into the Southern ocean. "Now you can just walk up and across the sand. It's just filled up," Mr Owen said.
For the past three years, dredgers have been operating round the clock to keep the river's mouth from silting up. Even temporary respites in the drought - heavy rains last month and earlier in the year - do not seem to make much of an impact on the problem.
A forecast by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, the organisation set up to manage the waterway, predicts that the total storage capacity of the river system will continue to decline next year, even with average rainfall.
The river is described as a lifeline for the parched region of Australia, feeding water from the tropical north down the Darling river and from the eastern snowfields where the Murray's source lies 1,550 miles from the river's final destination.
The basin is also the nation's food bowl, accounting for 41 per cent of the total value of Australia's agricultural sector. That is one of the problems as rice and cotton farmers take huge amounts of water to irrigate crops unsuited to Australia's dry climate.
The Murray-Darling catchment plays a crucial role in supporting Australia's economy and rural life. It covers 1.06 million sq km (0.4m sq miles), or 15 per cent of Australia's landmass, equivalent to an area the size of France and Spain combined.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, until rail transport took over, paddle steamers plied the river, transporting wool, wheat and goods from town to town.
Mark Twain once likened the river in the 1880s to the Mississippi. During that period, farmers used the river water to irrigate crops, turning vast areas of arid lands into lush fields. But so much has been taken out and so many areas stripped of trees that river flows are falling and salinity rising as salt is brought to the surface soil with successive flooding and drought.
In an average year, 13,000 million litres of Murray water flows to the sea. But after four years of drought, outflows are now down to an annual 5,000 million litres - a fraction of the flow of comparable rivers such as the Amazon and Yangtze.
The national and state governments are spending about £200m over the next five years in an attempt to boost the flow and stabilise salinity levels. "Doing nothing is not an option," said Wendy Craik, chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.
Adelaide, the capital of South Australia state, draws 40 per cent of its water from the river. The government says supplies from the Murray could be unfit to drink within 20 years for the city of about one million.
Salinity projects up and down the river are trying to stop 1,000 tons of salt a day from entering the water system under a plan to stabilise salinity levels. But more than a year on, the Murray Darling Basin Commission is still searching for an extra 260 million litres of water to meet its stated target of returning the river to its previous flow.
Another problem is that the Murray is a slow and lazy river. Rainfall in the upper reaches of the Darling can take three months to make it downstream to Goolwa, so it takes a long time for the river to flush out all the impurities. http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article332109.ece
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