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As Australia’s “Horrific” Fire Crisis Grows, US Sends Roughly 150 Firefighters to Join the Battle

For the first time since 2010, the federal government is sending U.S. firefighters overseas to help combat fires.

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(TMU) — Firefighters from the United States are being deployed overseas for the first time since 2010 to assist in efforts to combat Australia’s out-of-control bushfires, which continue to rage after burning roughly 12.35 million acres (5 million hectares) of land.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the deployment of firefighters from across the U.S., has announced that some 100 firefighters have been sent to Australia over the last four weeks to assist in efforts to stamp out the over 100 fires raging in the states of New South Wales (NSW) and over 40 fires in Victoria.

An additional 50 to 60 firefighters will also be dispatched to Australia on Monday. The Times also reports that among those firefighters 16 are from California, a state which has faced devastating blazes claiming thousands of acres, countless properties, and dozens of lives over the past few years.

In a news release last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire Director Jeff Rupert said:

“This exchange demonstrates the value of our arrangement for mutual wildland fire support with Australia. It’s a valuable tool for both countries as we face increasingly complex and challenging fires.

The interagency team of professionals will share expertise from managing wildland fire under a variety of locations and conditions in the U.S., many of which are similar to what they’ll encounter in Australia.”

The firefighters being dispatched have been trained in unique techniques that apply to distinct situations and diverse terrains such as wildland, urban settings, and the wildland–urban interface. Upon arrival to Australia, the firefighters will receive “orientation and operational training prior to going out on the line,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The operation has been made possible by an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and Emergency Management Australia.

National Interagency Fire Center public affairs officer Kari Cobb said:

“It works really well because Australia has a different fire season than we do in the United States.”

In August 2018, Australia and New Zealand dispatched about 140 firefighters to the U.S. for nearly 30 days, where they were stationed in Northern California, Washington, and Oregon.

A group of about 36 Canadians is also being dispatched to Australia for the very first time, duty officer Stephen Tulle of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center told CBC.

The bushfires devastating Australia have been raging since September, laying waste to wildlife and private property alike while experts warn that nearly half a billion animals, including 8,000 koalas, have been killed by the fires. About 1,400 homes have been destroyed while thousands of others are continuing to be displaced as extreme wind and heat stokes the bushfire crisis.

Regions devastated by the fires include the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and portions of the Gondwana rainforests, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world which has existed since the time of dinosaurs.

At least 17 people have died and many remain unaccounted for since the fires began.

On Monday, firefighter Samuel McPaul was killed in a “truly horrific” incident when extreme weather produced by the fire lifted his 12-ton fire truck into the air and dumped it on its roof. Two other firefighters on the scene are being treated for serious burns due to the “freakish” weather incident.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said:

“It was a fire tornado or a collapsed pyro convective column that had formed above the main fire front. That resulted in cyclonic winds that moved across the fireground.”

The Australian government headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced rising anger amid the crisis. On Thursday, locals expressed fury toward Morrison and humiliated him as they drove him from a meet-and-greet in the fire-ravaged NSW town of Cobargo. Residents cursed the beleaguered head of state, telling him to “piss off” and shouting “you’re not welcome you fuckwit.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Environment

China Was Just Caught Literally Changing The Weather For Communist Party Celebration: Study

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In recent years, China has made a number of head-turning and downright dazzling technological advances. Now, according to a new study, the East Asian giant has successfully managed to literally change the weather.

According to a recent report from the South China Morning Post, scientists at Tsinghua University say that during the 100-year anniversary of the Communist Party of China, authorities succeeded in modifying the weather in Beijing to clear the sky and improve air quality for the masses gathered to celebrate the party’s centenary in Tiananmen Square.

The large-scale operation involved lacing the clouds above the capital with chemicals to usher in rainfall over suburban parts of Beijing before the July 1 centennial event. According to the Tsinghua researchers, eyewitnesses report rockets being launched from mountains outside the city in the run-up to the event.

The Beijing researchers claim that the artificial rain managed to reduce the level of PM2.5 air pollutants by over two-thirds, bringing air quality to “good” conditions from “moderate” levels per World Health Organization Standards.

The use of chemicals to modify weather conditions is a practice that dates back to at least the 18th century, when European states used gunfire to shoot at storms in hopes to prevent hail from harming crops.

By the turn of the 20th century, dozens of hail cannons were deployed for commercial purposes despite the unproven nature of such primitive geo-engineering methods.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and the People’s Republic of China has reportedly invested vast resources into weather modification programs that will be tested in a region spanning 5.5 million square miles by the year 2025. The impact of such geo-engineering efforts could lead to regional tensions with China’s increasingly nervous neighbors.

Meanwhile, as the potential for a new cold war with the people’s republic continues to grow, professional China skeptics have stoked fears that the ruling Communist Party could use its newfound ability to manipulate the weather for military purposes. However, it’s worth noting that the United States military has been hoping to weaponize the rain since at least 1967.

However, with arid conditions and extreme drought threatening the food security of populations across the globe, the ability to literally make rain fall may not be as frightening as some make it out to be.

Additionally, some researchers have claimed that geoengineering could play a role in mitigating the impact of rampant climate change. However, it remains far too early to know the long-term impact of lacing skies with chemicals on a widespread, regular basis.

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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