The world is now in its hottest summer ever and wildfires are now in a dangerous new phase.
The hottest weather ever in the Pacific Northwest began this new phase. Temperature ranging from 110 to 121 degrees Fahrenheit have created the driest and most flammable landscapes ever seen in the US. And all of it is now bursting into flames. As of yesterday 80 large wildfires have consumed over a million acres in the west.
The town of Lytton in Canada had temperatures of 121 degrees. The next day the town and the surrounding forests burned. Below is a video of Lytton burning.
The Bootleg fire in Oregon is something new though. This fire is so hot and so big that it is now creating its own weather. This fire has already burned 340,000 acres in only two weeks.
“The new fires are so extreme that they generate their own weather and confound firefighting efforts. The intensity and extreme heat can force wind to go around them, create clouds and sometimes even generate so-called fire tornadoes — swirling vortexes of heat, smoke and high wind.” (1)
Fires like this create huge updrafts that can reach up to 30,000 and even 45,000 feet into the atmosphere. Fires like this are not really containable. In the Bootleg fire, “Nearly every day the erratic conditions have forced some of the nearly 2,200 firefighting personnel to retreat to safer locations, further hindering efforts to bring it under control. More than 75 homes and other structures have burned.”
The Bootleg fire is definitely this new kind of super-fire. It is essentially out of control. The fire has created huge updrafts of hot air, smoke and moisture called pyrocumulus clouds, some of them reaching up to 30,000 feet.
“Last Wednesday, though, conditions led to the creation of a larger, taller cloud called a pyrocumulonimbus, which is similar to a thunderhead. It likely reached an altitude of about 45,000 feet, said Neil Lareau, who studies wildfire behavior at the University of Nevada, Reno.”
The Bootleg fire is “a kind of an extreme, dangerous situation,” said Chuck Redman, a forecaster with the National Weather Service who has been at the fire command headquarters providing forecasts.”
It looks like we will certainly see more of these new monster wildfires as the summer continues. We are still just in the early days of the fire season. With new fires like this likely to dominate the western summer fire season, I’m wondering how much longer will the American West be liveable? What happens when there is no more winter and the fire season is all year long? This now seems probable.
More reading on wildfires
(1) All quotes in this post are from a July 20, 2021 article in the New York Times titled “How bad is the Bootleg fire,” It’s generating its own weather.”