The new year in a large portion of the United States may have gotten off to a cold start, but down under, quite the opposite has been true. Temperatures have been soaring in Australia—so much so that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has had to add new colors to its temperature forecast map, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Its previous temperature range had been capped at 50 degrees—or 122 degrees F.
Colorado’s Waldo Canyon forest fire spread over almost 30 square miles, forced the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents, and destroyed 346 homes, more than any other fire in the state’s history. NASA’s Terra satellite snapped this visible and infrared image of the devastation while the fire was still burning but had been mostly contained. In the photograph, vegetation shows up as red, partially burned areas look light brown, and severely burned ones are dark brown.
The image shows the extent of the fire’s reach, the damage it inflicted on the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, and just how close it was to the Air Force Academy and Colorado Springs.
Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video / flickr
Some men just want to watch the world burn. Count me as one of them, at least when it comes to this video from NASA showing fires taking place the world over. Seventy percent of the world’s blazes take place in Africa—apparently making it the “fire continent,” according to the narrator. Perhaps surprisingly, especially given recent wildfires in the American West and Southwest, only 2 percent of the globes conflagrations take place in North America. NASA used two satellites, Terra and Aqua, to visualize patterns of vegetation, snow/ice cover, and fires worldwide from July 2002 to July 2011.
The fires in western Russia continue to burn. Though the overall area now ablaze has shrunk, the number of individual fires has actually risen today. The death rate in Moscow has doubled, and Russia is racing to stop the flames from spreading to areas still affected by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster a quarter-century ago.
While firefighting goes on, attention turns to the “why?” Russia‘s fire explosion has people wondering if there’s a bigger reason behind it. The topic seems particularly urgent because another major natural disaster is happening not so far away: in northern Pakistan, where exceptionally heavy monsoon rains have caused crushing floods. The big question–whether global warming is responsible–is still unanswered, but scientists do agree that a large weather pattern links the events.
According to meteorologists monitoring the atmosphere above the northern hemisphere, unusual holding patterns in the jet stream are to blame. As a result, weather systems sat still. Temperatures rocketed and rainfall reached extremes [New Scientist].
You’ve probably seen diagrams of the jet stream on weather charts, where a thick band represents its air currents that surge from west to east. However, New Scientist reports, a “blocking event” caused by west-pushing Rossby waves has slowed the jet stream’s flow. This happens from time to time, and it sets the stage for extreme conditions when weather systems hover over the same area.