‘Heat… Fire… Disaster': What Climate Change Looks Like

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/06/29-0

Western US fires are being driven by extreme temperatures, which are consistent with IPCC projections

- Common Dreams staff
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012 by Common Dreams
“What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, referring to raging wildfires in the US west, in a press briefingon Thursday. “It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster… This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.”Oppenheimer, speaking alongside other scientists, argued that shorters winters with less snow, coupled with earlier Springs, and extreme summer heat — all contributors for the fires burning in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico — were also conditions that he and his colleagues at the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted would result from carbon-induced climate change.According to “Heat Waves and Climate Change,” a new report from Climate Communication, a nonprofit science outreach group which, along with Climate Nexus, coordinated the conference call with Oppenheimer and others, the “remarkable run of record-shattering heat waves in recent years, from the Russian heat wave of 2010 that set forests ablaze to the historic heat wave in Texas in 2011 and the “Summer in March” in the U.S. Midwest in 2012 all typify the ongoing trend driven by climate change.

The stage was set for these fires when winter snowpack was lighter than usual, said Dr. Steven Running, a forest ecologist at the University of Montana, reports Reuters. Mountain snows melted an average of two weeks earlier than normal this year, Running said. “That just sets us up for a longer, dryer summer. Then all you need is an ignition source and wind.”

“Now we have a lot of dead trees to burn … it’s not even July yet,” he said. Trying to stop such blazes driven by high winds is a bit like to trying to stop a hurricane, Running said: “There is nothing to stop that kind of holocaust.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/06/29-0

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