The sequester (a budget deal Obama made with republicans last year) cut more than $115 million from the federal wildland fire program budget, USDA officials have said, at a time when the nation continues to face abnormally dry conditions, particularly in the West, as a result of climate change.
During one of the worst wildfire seasons on record amid a historic drought, the USDA Forest Service ran out of money last year to pay firefighters, operate trucks and fly aircraft. The agency borrowed money from fire management budgets, which help prevent fires, to pay for suppression.
Given the cuts in the Forest Service’s fire budget because of sequestration, and the outlook for significant fire potential in much of the West, that process could play out again, a USDA spokesman said.
“If the U.S. Forest Service exhausts funding . . . for fire suppression in 2013, as it did in 2012, it will be necessary for the agency to transfer funds from other programs to cover fire suppression costs,” said the spokesman, Larry Chambers.
Posts tagged drought.
Scary video of rapidly spreading wildfire near LA from someone’s backyard. You can here father and daughter talking about animals running from the flames.
Tough year ahead guys.
A dog walks on cracked ground at the Las Canoas dam, some 59 km north of the capital Managua on April 26, 2013.. A large area of the dam has been dry since last February, as most of its water have been used by rice farmers for their crops, affecting around hundreds of peasants living in the area, according to local media.
[Credit : Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters]
Southern California wildfire spreads to Naval Base Ventura County
Photo: NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin
Seriously, it’s going to be a real rough year!
Wildfires have begun several months early this year due to drought (and mismanagement) in Idaho, California, Colorado, and Minnesota. There may be others, but that is all I could find in a short time frame.
An agency that watches for wildfire conditions (see below) predicts 2013 will be a killer season. On a personal level, news about wildfires and floods hit me hardest. It’s when good people come together to help their neighbors in such visual, visceral, and gut striking way.
First responders, like firemen, who are usually unpaid volunteers, put their lives on the line for us. They are great people. These types of disasters are at once heartening, because they impact regular people so hard, and frustrating, because our government is partially responsible for mismanaging land and not providing adequate equipment. I fear that 2013 will be the year of tears - let’s hope that I’m wrong.
BOISE, Idaho—Two small but unseasonably early fires burning in northern California’s wine country and another wind-whipped blaze farther south likely are a harbinger of a nasty summer fire season across the West.
Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said Wednesday in their first 2013 summer fire outlook that a dry winter and expected warming trend mean the potential for significant fire activity will be above normal on the West Coast, in the Southwest and portions of Idaho and Montana.
“We’re looking at a combination of a low-moisture winter and a warming and drying pattern in the West that will increase the fire potential,” said Ed Delgado, predictive services manager.
If that sounds familiar to the region’s residents, it should.
In 2012, record-setting fires raged in New Mexico and Oregon, while destructive Colorado blazes torched hundreds of homes amid one of the state’s worst seasons in years.
Just like last year, Colorado experienced some of its first 2013 wildfires in March.
Outside the West, however, much of the U.S. is expected to experience normal fire conditions, with below-normal danger in the South where significant, long-duration rains saturated the landscape since Jan. 1, Delgado said.
In California, wine-producing counties Napa and Sonoma experienced early-season blazes Wednesday, as warm temperatures, low humidity and gusting winds through already-dry foothills areas east and north ofSan Francisco led to warnings of extreme wildfire conditions.
Both were more than half-contained, according to crews.
And a fast-moving fire east of Los Angeles grew Wednesday afternoon to at least 1,500 acres near Banning in the San Bernardino Mountains, where winds from the east were blowing at nearly 30 mph. Some evacuations were ordered.
Evacuations were ordered for residences on two streets but the number of people was not immediately known. A KCAL-TV helicopter showed at least one structure engulfed by flames.
Current wildfire and wind condition map. Includes crowdsourced pictures and videos from flickr and youtube.
Good link to book mark.
Wildfire yesterday in Saint Cloud, MN near I-94. Usually these start mid to late summer, but the drought has evaporated most of the moisture held in the soils.
It’s going to be a gnarly year.
Even though crops may fail again, landowners are shielded by taxpayers from the full burden of their bad bets.
Drought helped drive the cost of crop insurance to a record $17.2 billion, the US Department of Agriculture said April 29. The government covers more than 60 per cent of payouts, spending about seven times more than a $1.4 billion program that helps farmers adapt to climate change.
The subsidies encouraging farmers to ignore addressing extreme weather are harder to justify when automatic budget cuts remove 5 per cent from most US programs and lawmakers prepare to craft a new five-year farm law.
“We have given farmers incentives to take on more risk rather than give them an incentive to create a permanent solution,” said Vincent Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University in Bozeman. “You want to move toward programs that allow them to alleviate problems before the fact.”
Disaster declarations by the USDA have become commonplace over the past decade, as farmers face the disruption of traditional growing seasons.
U.S. Drought Monitor - April 2013
Brutal wildfire year lies ahead for the west and south west.
Thursday’s report by dozens of scientists from five different federal agencies looked into why forecasters didn’t see the drought coming. The researchers concluded that it was so unusual and unpredictable that it couldn’t have been forecast.
“This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” said lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”
Winter snow storms not enough to recharge soil and aquifers to end historic drought. 2013 drought forecast looking grim.
The historic drought that laid waste to America’s grain and corn belt is unlikely to ease before the middle of this year, a government forecast warned on Thursday.
The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.
The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.
“It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather,” Laura Furgione, the deputy director of NOAA’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.
Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.
The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy. The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51% of the country.
But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.
Via The Guardian
Strong reporting on how U.S. farmers cannot adapt to more big droughts like the one of 2012. Insurance companies covered billions in losses last year, but if 2013 is as bad as 2012, portfolios may shift to safer options.
US farmers are bracing for long-term challenges from climate change including blasting heat and more capricious rainfall.
About 80 percent of the farmland in the world’s biggest soybean and corn (maize) producer was scorched by extreme heat and drought last summer, savaging crops and sending global prices for the key food commodities soaring, hurting poor countries that depend on imports.
Across the heartland of the corn crop in the Midwest state of Iowa, farmers have turned a jaundiced eye on last season’s disaster to focus on this year’s weather conditions.
By early March, 53 percent of the land was still abnormally dry or suffering drought.
But as more and more accept that the climate is changing, farmers are putting their faith in technology to help them beat global warming…
Insurers compensated the losses with a record $14.7 billion in payouts — enough to allow farmers to get ready for a new season.
Via Global Post
He subtly makes the case to adapt rivers and ports to climate change.
President Obama said Tuesday that federal investments in waterway maintenance will be vital as drought fueled by climate change creates problems for barges bringing goods out of the Midwest.
Obama, during a meeting of the President’s Export Council, noted recent problems moving goods when last year’s major drought lowered water levels in the Mississippi River.
“Recently we had the challenge of … getting goods from the Midwest down the Mississippi when the water started going down,” Obama said.
He said the upcoming White House budget proposal would seek to address maintenance needs.
“And if in fact temperatures are warming — I know this is not our climate change meeting — but I think we can anticipate that we may end up having some challenges in terms of managing our waterways well, whether or not we can continue to use barges to move a lot of product out of the American heartland to ports around the world, that is going to depend on our infrastructure,” Obama said.
“So we are going to, in our budget, continue to push Congress to see if we can essentially deal with deferred maintenance,” he added in emphasizing the importance of waterway and port infrastructure.
The president touched on climate change very briefly during wide-ranging remarks about U.S. export and trade policy.
The Dark Snow Project is about 50% funded. Scientists believe that increased droughts are causing more wildfires. These fires emit soot and ash into the air, called ‘black carbon.’ This black carbon circulates through the atmosphere and is deposited (in part) on glaciers and sea ice.
Scientists are finding that the black carbon absorbs heat from the sun, in turn causing the ice to melt faster than expected. The effect of melting ice is faster sea level rise, which will impact (in the least) coastal cities around the world.
The unique part of this project is that it is mostly funded by citizens like you. Really good project and highly recommend visiting their website, darksnowproject.org.
Dark Snow Project: Climate Change and Citizen Science in Greenland
For the dark snow project to succeed, your help is needed.
Please visit darksnowproject.org and consider a tax deductible donation to this unique citizen science initiative, and helping expand the boundaries of knowledge in this critical area of climate science
by Peter Sinclair.
I knew there was drought in MN, but didn’t know how fast it could affect infrastructure. Should be a boon for construction and engineers in the coming years.
Homeowners are learning that when soil dries up, it shrinks — so foundations shift, twisting and cracking the houses on top of them.
Five contractors contacted by the Pioneer Press said their foundation-repair business increased 25 percent to 100 percent in 2012.
“Business has exploded,” said John Newman, co-owner of RamJack Minnesota, based in Norwood.
The cost is not usually covered by insurance, because the damage is blamed on an “act of God.”
The U.S. Drought Report, cited on the state Department of Natural Resources website, said that as of Jan. 24, more than 80 percent of Minnesota was experiencing severe or extreme drought.
Precipitation was more than 7 inches below normal in much of central Minnesota from last August through the end of January.
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