Another big fire season across the northern hemisphere in 2018

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The big weather news across much of the country — and even the world — has been the destructive wildfires erupting across the West, and in Europe as well. Within the last week alone, many new blazes have begun in the western U.S., especially in California, where the disastrous Carr Fire near Redding has now been labeled as the sixth-worst blaze in the state’s history.

In North Idaho, wildfires that have recently erupted in Washington have led to increased smoke and haze across the region.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, since 1970, fire seasons in this country have expanded by an average of 78 days. An Earthsky article from early August said “decades of fire suppression and historic logging patterns have created small, dense forest stands that are more vulnerable to large wildfires.” Officials believe that fire suppression only delays the inevitable as the blazes can become more severe due to the accumulation of small trees and brush.

For the 2018 season, California has been hit hard, and it is only Aug. 6. The Golden State’s governor, Jerry Brown, said that wildfires in California are putting the state into “uncharted territory.” Firefighters from Florida and Maine, as many as 13,000 of them, were called to help fight the blazes. Late last week, firefighters from Australia and New Zealand were also coming to help with the situation. Other countries across the globe have also offered to help fight the massive blazes in California and other parts of the West.

Within the last five years, California has seen five of the most 10 destructive wildfires in the state’s history. Three of those blazes occurred in 2017, a disastrous season for much of the West, including North Idaho. The biggest fire has been the Carr fire near Redding, which has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and 500 other buildings. More than 120,000 acres have been charred and around 38,000 people had to be evacuated.

The latest wildfire data from the National Interagency Fire Center has close to 110 major fires in the western U.S. Nearly 1.5 million acres have recently burned, with over 38,000 blazes reported since Jan. 1, resulting in about 5 million acres going up in smoke. In 2017, there were over 39,000 fires reported from Jan. 1 through Aug. 3, leading to over 5.6 million acres burned. The 10-year average year-to-date is over 40,000 fires and 3.9 million acres burned.

It’s not just the U.S. that has been dealing with massive wildfires. In Europe, record heat has sparked many deadly blazes. At the end of last month, there was a large forest fire southwest of Berlin, Germany. The heat and drought has been so bad in Germany that old weapons and ammunition from World War II were emerging from area rivers that were experiencing very low water levels.

Other wildfires in Europe are also being fueled by long heat waves. July will likely be one of the hottest months in history for parts of the European continent. Many countries are on “red alert,” the highest of its warning levels for the heat that has raised the risk for fires.

Last year, Portugal had massive blazes that killed 114 people. The country’s firefighters are currently standing by in case there are new wildfires. One of the biggest fires to make recent worldwide headlines started about 12 miles outside of Athens, Greece. On July 23, very strong winds expanded a fire that burned 3,153 acres, destroyed 1,220 buildings and 305 vehicles, and killed 91 people whikle injuring hundreds more. A recent headline from this area said that a dog managed to escape the deadly flames by hiding in an outside oven.

Last month, there were nearly a dozen wildfires raging inside the Arctic Circle due to the hot and dry summer season. Sweden was one of the worst countries affected, as 60 fires burned across the country. Norway, Finland and Russia also reported numerous wildfires.

Late in the year, it’s quite possible that we’ll be hearing about wildfires breaking out in Australia. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, they are currently in their winter season, but severe drought is currently plaguing areas from the central portions of the continent to the southeastern coastlines, where Sydney, Australia’s largest city is located.

In terms of our local weather, July and August of 2018 is looking very similar to the same two months in 2017. It’s been extremely dry as only .10 inches of moisture has been measured in Coeur d’Alene since June 22. For July of 2018, Cliff measured only 0.04 inches of rainfall, well below the normal of 0.92 inches for last month.

More hot weather is expected later this week as temperatures will be well into the 90s once again in North Idaho. It’s quite likely that we could challenge the 100-degree mark at the end of the week.

In 2017, Cliff reported only .10 inches of rain for July and August. For the rest of August, there are signs of some cooler and wetter weather arriving in our part of the country toward the end of next week. Stay tuned.

•••

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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