Thursday, July 2

Red moon over Iowa. Smoke from wildfires in drought-stricken western Canada pours into US Midwest

"As the sun comes up on July, 356 wildfires are burning in western Canada"

Smoke from Canadian wildfires turns moon over Iowa red

Smoke from fires in western Canada is steered south into the U.S. by the jet stream in a satellite image acquired June 29, 2015

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
UPDATED 9:38 PM CDT Jun 30, 2015
KCCI-8 News 
[See website for photos of red moon in addition to one above and hazy sun]
DES MOINES, Iowa —It's not just our view of the sun and moon being affected by the smoke from the Canadian wildfires, now our air quality at the surface is being impacted.
Smoke from wildfires in Canada is pouring south into Minnesota, the Dakotas and Iowa.
Lightning sparked about 40 wildfires in forests in northern Saskatchewan, upping Canada's fire total to 113 in the province. [...]
July 1, 2015 12:00 PM
AG Web Powered by Farm Journal
The drought parching fields across parts of Canada risks triggering a shortfall in global wheat exports, according to Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., which said the event was being compared to dryness in 2002. 
Continuing drought in Canada may create a 12 million metric ton shortfall in wheat exports, Senior Agricultural Economist Paul Deane wrote in a report on Wednesday. Forecasts offered little relief, with a strong, high-pressure system set to bring high temperatures and little rain that would add to crop stress and may cause irreversible yield loss, he wrote.
Wheat futures in Chicago rallied to the highest level since December on Tuesday amid dry weather in Canada as well as parts of Europe and excess rains across the U.S. Canada’s spring-wheat prospects have been hurt by drought, Whitefish Bay, Wis.-based Martell Crop Projections said last week, citing deficient rainfall in Saskatchewan and Alberta. [...]
Signs of drought appear to be in Western Canada for the long term
Mark Hume
The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Jun. 14, 2015 9:33PM EDT
Last updated Monday, Jun. 15, 2015 12:56PM EDT
(Vancover) High in the Rocky Mountains along the British Columbia-Alberta divide, John Pomeroy is seeing signs of the changing climate that has brought a crippling drought to the U.S. West.
The director of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan monitors 35 remote observatories in the mountains from Kananaskis, west of Calgary, to the Athabasca glacier, 100 kilometres south of Jasper.
And the data he is collecting – which show snowpacks vanishing at record speed – point to dramatically reduced river flows across B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan this spring. With recent record dry spells in some areas, the shortage of runoff water could lead to drought across a vast region of Western Canada.  [...]
Scorched Earth Is Big Climate Concern in Alaska Wildfires
by Brian Kahn
July 1, 2015
Climate Central
Alaska and its neighbor to the east, Canada, have kicked off wildfire season in a major way. Blazes have raged across the northern stretches of North America, sending smoke streaming down into the Lower 48 and leaving the landscape charred.
This summer, a number of factors have lined up to make Alaska a tinderbox. A dry winter left little snow on the ground and record heat in May, with the state’s average temperature running 7.1°F above average, melted what little snow there was.
Similarly warm conditions stretched across a large portion of western Canada in late May and set the stage for extreme wildfire conditions. Over the period of June 18-24, the Bureau of Land Management lightning network recorded more than 71,000 lightning strikes in Alaska, igniting a large swath of fires.
As the sun comes up on July, 356 wildfires are burning in western Canada and another 297 are active in Alaska. For the year-to-date, wildfires have burned 3.2 million acres in western Canada and 1.8 million acres in Alaska.
Both numbers are well above the long-term average and in the case of Alaska, are in record territory for the amount of acreage burned for this time of year. Similar stories have played out in Siberia in 2013 and Canada’s Northwest Territories in 2014.
For all the drama of trees lighting up like matchsticks, it’s what lurks below the forest that could be a major wildcard for future warming. Large reserves of peat make up a large portion of the soil, swamps and bogs in the northern reaches of the globe.
Flannigan refers to it as “legacy carbon,” an accumulation of centuries of plant matter that sequesters vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
Despite covering slightly less area than tropical forests, boreal forest soil stores three times as much carbon as its tropical counterpart. They currently operate as carbon sinks, taking up more carbon than they emit each year. Wildfires could flip the script, though, turning boreal forests into sources of carbon emissions as fires burn through the vast reserves of carbon locked in the trees and soil (something already happening in California). If that happens, it could rapidly warm the climate.
“Up until about 10 years ago, the prevailing dogma was peatlands just didn’t burn,” Merritt Turetsky, an ecologist at the University of Guelph, said. “They were way too wet and fire played little to no role in these ecosystems. Over time, we’ve seen that just isn’t true.”
As warming dries out forests and precipitation patterns change, the water table is dropping in once swampy areas. That makes peat susceptible to burning and when it does catch fire, centuries’ worth of carbon can burn up in the span of a few hours if fires are intense enough.

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