Quantcast

550,000 Acres on Fire in Alaska in Latest Sign of the Climate Crisis

Climate
Alaska Army National Guard helicopter crews fought a wildfire on July 4. Spc. Michael Risinger / U.S. Army National Guard

Two small communities near Anderson, Alaska were ordered to evacuate late Thursday due to a wildfire, as the state's summer of heat and smoke continues.


The Kobe Fire was reported at 6:45 p.m. Thursday and by 10:50 p.m. had grown to 600 acres, The Alaska Division of Forestry reported. There are no reports that anyone was burned, but multiple buildings were threatened, prompting the evacuation of the Kobe and Anderson subdivisions. The residents of the City of Anderson, around 10 miles northeast of the blaze, were told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

The fire is the latest to ignite in Alaska, where 1.2 million acres have burned so far this year, making 2019 one of the state's three biggest wildfire years, according to InsideClimate News. Increasing Arctic wildfires have long been predicted in models of potential impacts of the climate crisis.

"When it comes to the Arctic heat wave, the wildfires, am I surprised? No — this was long predicted. Am I worried? Yes," Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann told InsideClimate News.

Alaska's fires show the footprints of climate change in multiple ways. Higher temperatures are drying out the tundra and northern boreal forests. Alaska has experienced a record-breaking heat wave this spring and summer. The temperatures for the entire state for July 2018 to June 2019 averaged above freezing for the first time in 95 years, according to NOAA data.

Climate change is also making lightning storms more likely, which were responsible for many of Alaska's fires this year, International Arctic Research Center scientist Brian Brettschneider told InsideClimate News. Lightning sparked 12 new fires in the state on Wednesday alone, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.

On July 8, Alaska's Hess Creek Fire was reported as the largest burning in the U.S. at 145,321 acres, according to Alaska Wildland Fire Information. The fire has been burning since June 21 in a part of central Alaska 80 miles north of Fairbanks, CNN reported.

"We're all socked in with smoke," firefighter spokesperson Sarah Wheeler told CNN. "It's a smoky mess."

Currently, more than 550,000 of the 782,681 acres on fire in the U.S. are in Alaska, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center situation report. To put that in perspective, 505,900 acres burned in California in the state's record wildfire year in 2017. However, fires in Alaska tend not to threaten human communities as often. Livengood, where the Hess Creek Fire is burning, only has a population of 13. Wheeler said some cabins were threatened by the flames, but most were not permanent homes.

"Alaskans are used to living with fire," Wheeler told CNN.


EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Record flood water levels in Venice hit again on Sunday making this the worst week of flooding in the city in over 50 years.

Read More Show Less

By Brian Barth

Late fall, after the last crops have been harvested, is a time to rest and reflect on the successes and challenges of the gardening year. But for those whose need to putter around in the garden doesn't end when cold weather comes, there's surely a few lingering chores. Get them done now and you'll be ahead of the game in spring.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
(L) 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle that is studded with glycoprotein tubercles.
(R) The measles virus pictured under a microscope. PHIL / CDC

The Pacific Island nation of Samoa declared a state of emergency this week, closed all of its schools and limited the number of public gatherings allowed after a measles outbreak has swept across the country of just 200,000 people, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Austin Nuñez is Chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, which joined with the Hopi and Pascua Yaqui Tribes to fight a proposed open-pit copper mine on sacred sites in Arizona. Mamta Popat

By Alison Cagle

Rising above the Arizona desert, the Santa Rita Mountains cradle 10,000 years of Indigenous history. The Tohono O'odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Hopi Tribe, among numerous other tribes, have worshipped, foraged, hunted and laid their ancestors to rest in the mountains for generations.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The Navajo Nation has suffered from limited freshwater resources as a result of climate, insufficient infrastructure, and contamination. They collaborated with NASA to develop the Drought Severity Evaluation Tool. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Native Americans are disproportionately without access to clean water, according to a new report, "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan," to be released this afternoon, which shows that more than two million Americans do not have access to access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.

Read More Show Less
Wild Exmoor ponies graze on a meadow in the Czech Republic. rapier / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Nanticha Ocharoenchai

In the Czech Republic, horses have become the knights in shining armor. A study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Podyjí National Park could help boost the numbers of several threatened butterfly species.

Read More Show Less

Despite huge strides in improving the lives of children since 1989, many of the world's poorest are being left behind, the United Nations children's fund UNICEF warned Monday.

Read More Show Less