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California’s raging Creek Fire consumes over 200 miles, spawning “fire clouds” seen from space

NASA refers to pyrocumulonimbus as “the fire breathing dragon of clouds,” and notes that they are created when wind, rain, smoke and fire mix over thousands of burning acres.

Elias Marat

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As a record-shattering heatwave supercharges extreme fire conditions in California, the most terrifying of the multiple fires ravaging the Golden State has spawned a massive “fire cloud” visible from space.

Well over 2 million acres of land have gone up in flames across California, devouring forest land and consuming homes. The worst among the fires is the Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest in Central California, near Fresno, which has grown into a “raging monster” after exploding on Friday.

Since beginning Friday, the Creek Fire has already consumed nearly 145 thousand acres, or 212 square miles, as of Tuesday morning, according to Cal Fire.

The fire has doubled in size since Monday, and the fire has zero percent containment. Authorities have warned that they won’t have the Creek Fire fully contained until Oct. 15, 2020.

As the fast-moving fire likely spawned fire tornadoes during its expansion, a (literally) breath-taking “fire cloud” or pyrocumulonimbus has also been detected from space by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite.

“@NOAA’s #GOES17 has been monitoring California’s #CreekFire, which grew explosively today after igniting in the Sierra National Forest on Friday,” NOAA’s public affairs office wrote on Twitter on Sunday (Sept. 6). “In this loop, you can see the fire’s extraordinary #Pyrocumulonimbus cloud, which reached an estimated 45,000+ ft [14,000 meters, or about 8.5 miles] high.”

NASA refers to pyrocumulonimbus as “the fire breathing dragon of clouds,” and notes that they are created when wind, rain, smoke and fire mix over thousands of burning acres. These thunder clouds are triggered by the heat and moisture kicked into the atmosphere by fires, and the fire clouds also send massive amounts of pollutants into the upper atmosphere.

On the ground, the U.S. military have stepped into assist California’s strained fire services. On Tuesday, aircraft of the U.S. Navy and California Army National Guard helped rescue 35 people.

The Fresno Bee reports that a Blackhawk rescued 13 from China Peak and brought them to Yosemite International Airport. The Navy also airlifted 11 people from the fire zone to Lemoore Naval Air Station, while another National Guard helicopter flew back from Lake Edison with 11 people.

There have been two urgent rescues carried out since the Creek Fire ignited on Friday, with 214 people being rescued by helicopter after they were trapped at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir in Madera County.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from Madera and Fresno counties, while over 60 structures have been destroyed by the inferno-like blaze.

“This is an unprecedented disaster for Fresno County,” Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brandon Pursell said Monday. “This is one of the largest and most dangerous fires in the history of Fresno County. I don’t think everyone understands that. Playing that game of ‘how long can I wait’ is just foolish.”

The unsparing heat wave in parts of California has been accompanied by 22 large fires. Over the weekend, temperatures in the Los Angeles metropolitan region climbed past 121F (49.4C)

Worsening matters significantly, wind gusts of about 50 mph are expected in elevated parts of Northern California.

Meanwhile, Southern California residents are being told to urgently prepare for strong Santa Ana winds that are arriving Tuesday and are sure to spread the Bobcat Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest. The cities of Duarte and Monrovia face the strongest danger but Azusa, Bradbury, Arcadia and Sierra Madre could also be threatened, officials warn.

Corruption

Scientists Horrified as Over 27,000 Leaking Barrels of Toxic DDT Discovered on Seafloor Near LA

Elias Marat

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Over 27,000 barrels of the toxic insecticide DDT have been found so far on the seafloor about 12 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, in what could be one of the greatest examples of industrial pollution uncovered in recent memory.

The barrels have been leaking, and researchers fear that there could be up to a few hundred thousand barrels of DDT waste in total. Over 100,000 total objects have been found in the area by researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The barrels cover an area roughly spanning double the size of Manhattan and lie off the coast of Santa Catalina Island, which is home to dozens of endemic species that exist nowhere else in the world.

DDT waste has been linked to cancer and widespread disease among humans as well as mass die-off events in the natural world. It is likely that the vast trove of illegally dumped DDT could be linked to the widespread cancer faced by sea lions along the West Coast.

“Unfortunately, the basin offshore Los Angeles has been a dumping ground for industrial waste for several decades, beginning in the 1930s. We found an extensive debris field in the wide area survey,” said Eric Terrill, chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said in a statement.

Los Angeles Times reports that shipping logs from a disposal company implicate Montrose Chemical Corp. of California, a company that produced DDT, in likely dumping some 2,000 barrels of DDT-laced sludge each month from 1947 to 1961 into a designated dumpsite.

Additionally, logs from other entities show that several other industrial concerns in Southern California used the basin as a dumping ground until 1972, when the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act was enacted.

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Environment

Florida Set to Release a Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in “Nightmare” Experiment

Jake Johnson

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Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage Monday as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec announced plans to move ahead this week with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.

Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti—a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus—critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.

Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitos are set to be placed in six locations in Monroe County this week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”

Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which approved the project last May—to “halt this live experiment immediately.”

“This is a dark moment in history,” said Perls. “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec said late last week that “less than 12,000 mosquitoes are expected to emerge each week” in Monroe Country over a duration of around three months, the initial phase of the experiment.

The stated goal of the project is for Oxitec’s genetically altered, non-biting male mosquitos to mate with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage before they can spread disease.

As the Miami Herald explained earlier this year: “A ‘death mechanism’ designed into mosquitoes is meant to ensure no viable female offspring will result from the mating, according to Oxitec. The male offspring will pass on the ‘self-limiting gene’ to half of their offspring, said company spokesman Ross Bethell.”

While Oxitec’s CEO claims “strong public support” from Florida Keys communities, the project has sparked protests and pushback from local residents since the proposal was first floated.

“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent,” Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said in a statement Monday.

Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, added that the “EPA has set the lowest possible bar for approving genetically engineered insects and has opened Pandora’s Box for future experiments that will slide through with little investigation.”

“Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” Wray said.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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Rapid Melting of Glaciers Has Shifted Earth’s Axis, Study Reveals

Kenny Stancil

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Since 1980, the planet’s north and south poles have moved roughly four meters in distance, and new research shows that shifts in the Earth’s rotational axis have accelerated since the 1990s as a result of the widespread melting of glaciers—a clear manifestation, scientists say, of the climate emergency.

“Faster ice melting under global warming was the most likely cause of the directional change of the polar drift in the 1990s,” Shanshan Deng—a researcher from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciencestold the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Thursday.

In a study published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letter, Deng and her co-authors found that changes in terrestrial water storage—particularly the accelerated loss of water stored on land due to melting glaciers—redistributed enough of the world’s mass to drive “the rapid polar drift toward the east after the 1990s.”

As The Guardian explained Friday:

The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move.

In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tons of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions.

The scientists found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995.

The AGU noted that “researchers have been able to determine the causes of polar drifts starting from 2002 based on data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a joint mission by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, launched with twin satellites that year and a follow-up mission in 2018.”

Data from the GRACE satellites has enabled scientists to “link glacial melting to movements of the pole in 2005 and 2012, both following increases in ice losses,” The Guardian reported. “But Deng’s research breaks new ground by extending the link to before the satellite’s launch, showing human activities have been shifting the poles since the 1990s, almost three decades ago.”

While Deng’s team showed that the accelerated decline in water stored on land stemming from glacial losses “is the main driver” of polar drift since the 1990s, the researchers wrote that groundwater depletion in non-glacial regions has also contributed to the movements.

“Groundwater is stored under land but, once pumped up for drinking or agriculture, most eventually flows to sea, redistributing its weight around the world,” The Guardian noted. “In the past 50 years, humanity has removed 18 trillion tons of water from deep underground reservoirs without it being replaced.”

Vincent Humphrey, a climate scientist at the University of Zurich who was not involved in the study, told AGU that the new research “tells you how strong this mass change is—it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.”

This shift in the Earth’s axis, however, is too small to affect daily life, Humphrey added. It could change the length of day, but only by milliseconds.

Nonetheless, other climate experts such as Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona, have said before that the mere fact that the climate crisis is driving polar movements demonstrates “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet.”

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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