Smoke from historic US wildfires seen from Europe
Washington, Sep. 18 (IANS): Massive plumes of smoke from the historic wildfires currently raging along the US West Coast were being seen thousands of kilometres away in Europe, as far away as the Netherlands and Germany, according to scientists.
“The fact that these fires are emitting so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke over 8,000 km away reflects just how devastating they have been in their magnitude and duration,” Xinhua news agency reported on Friday citing scientist Mark Parrington as saying in a statement.
Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), was tracking atmospheric currents and getting the tailwind of smoky skies generated by the devastating wildfires.
Moreover, according to CAMS’ forecasts, smoke from the fires scorching California and the Pacific Northwest “is starting to cross the Atlantic again and will reach northern Europe later this week, as it did at the end of last week”.
“From north to south, America’s West Coast is on fire. The present fires all over the west are the worst with highest temperatures and the worst air quality in history,” Californian businessman from the environment industry Glenn Nemhauser told Xinhua on Thursday, referring to America’s almost 3,000-km-long Pacific coast.
“This is clearly global climate change caused by man-made air pollution from coal and oil combustion,” he added.
In the last one month, the wildfires, further fuelled by drought and high temperature conditions, have scorched some 3 million acres in California and another 1.6 million acres in Oregon and Washington states, leveling several small towns, destroying thousands of homes, and claiming at least 34 lives, according to media reports.
On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown made a federal disaster declaration, allowing $1.2 billion of relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Oregon has seen a million acres of land burnt since the beginning of this year, “nearly double the 10-year average of approximately 557,811 acres”, the state’s Department of Forestry said on Thursday, noting that some 6,500 firefighters were battling the blazes.
In the worst-hit state of California, authorities said 17,000 firefighters were battling 25 major fires, with 25 killed, while hundreds of thousands of people had been evacuated, and almost 8,000 homes and structures incinerated.
Nearly 4,000 evacuees remained displaced, according to the American Red Cross.
California also recorded the hottest August in the state’s history, according to the National Weather Service.
Former Governor Jerry Brown and incumbent Gavin Newsom “have stated these fires are proof of global warming, and that this is now the new normal”.
In Colorado, Pine Gulch Fire, the biggest wildfire in the state’s history, was 95 per cent contained Thursday with 139,007 acres burned.
Last week’s rain in the Rocky Mountains states gave firefighters a breather, but the downpour did little to slow Cameron Peak Fire, which was only 8 per cent contained on Thursday with 102,596 acres scorched another possible record-breaking blaze.
Just 10 days ago, another big blaze, Middle Fork Fire, erupted in western Colorado near ski resorts at Steamboat Springs, which was at 5,445 acres with zero containment, according to the InciWeb, a national incident information system run by the government.