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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.

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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.

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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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South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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