Wildfires Follow Record Hot Temperatures in UK, Burn in Famous Woodland That Inspired 'Winnie the Pooh'
Wildfires broke out across the UK Tuesday as the country experienced its hottest winter day on record. Firefighters battled blazes from Scotland to Wales, including two in the forest that inspired the "Hundred Acre Wood" in A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books.
Firefighters said the fires in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex were made more likely due to the fact that the ground was drier because of "unusual warm weather this week," BBC News reported.
D watch were in attendance at the Forest Fire at #AshdownForest today.... great work by all crews 👍🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🚒🚒🔥🌲🌲 https://t.co/0vZooi0PPq— Crawley Fire (@Crawley Fire)1551218681.0
The twin fires impacted more than 35 hectares of forest, but were brought under control by 5 p.m.
Other blazes across the country ignited for similar reasons.
"Wildfires are not common in February," Dale Gardiner of the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said, as The New York Times reported. "And due to the above average weather conditions, this has elevated the wildfire risk across the county."
The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to a fire on Marsden Moor in northwest England that one witness described as "apocalyptic."
Crews responded to reports of a fire at 7:51 p.m. Tuesday, according to a statement from the fire service.
"It was one of the of the highest flame fronts we have seen with flames of up to two metres high (approximately 6.5 feet) and it was moving fast across the moorland," station manager Adam Greenwood said.
A crew of around 30 firefighters worked to control the fire until it died down around 3 a.m. Wednesday, though crews stayed to monitor the situation.
"It was really adverse conditions. We were rotating the crews for their welfare as it's very physically demanding work," Greenwood said.
A dramatic picture from the ferocious moorland fire at #MarsdenMoor last night. A round-up with all the latest is h… https://t.co/LF4WmNDkTQ— West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (@West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service)1551264806.0
In Edinburgh, Scotland, meanwhile, a fire on the famous viewing point Arthur's Seat was visible from the center of the city, The New York Times reported.
Around 800 square meters (approximately 957 square yards) of gorse were burning Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, The Edinburgh News reported.
A fire in Glyndyfrdwy, Wales that was still burning Wednesday morning was the only one of the fires to send someone to the hospital, when a man was rescued after being trapped in his tractor by the flames, The New York Times reported.
Scientists spoke to BBC News about why the fires had broken out and exactly how unusual they were.
Winter is a typical time for controlled burns on moorlands in the UK, when it is safe to burn overgrown heather to allow new shoots to grow and create ideal habitat for grouse. But the fires that erupted Tuesday were not controlled.
"Landscape fires in Britain happen disproportionately in the spring, because on the moors and in the forest, you have no leaf cover," King's College London professor David Demeritt told BBC News. "Sticks and leaf litter dry out. And because this has been a relatively dry winter, there's more of that fuel on the ground — everything has dried out early."
Scientists also agreed that the warmer weather was made more likely by climate change.
"I am very confident to say that there's an element of climate change in these warm temperatures," Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University Dr. Friedericke Otto told BBC News. "But climate change alone is not causing it. You have to have the right weather systems too."
However, the fires are indicative of what the UK could see more of in the future.
"Climate change predictions suggest that, on average, conditions for wildfires in the U.K. are expected to increase as temperatures rise," Met Office meteorologist Bonnie Diamond told The New York Times.
We’ll be doing an attribution study on how this week’s record-breaking temperatures were affected by #climatechange… https://t.co/XZKvOAkven— Met Office (@Met Office)1551292200.0
London School of Economics environmental geography researcher Dr. Thomas Smith told BBC News that the early fires had one advantage: since the soil beneath them was still wetter than soil tends to be in the summer, they were less likely to spread and do lasting damage to vegetation and wildlife.
"The fires could even be doing us a favour - burning off overgrowth that may have become fuel for worse fires later in the season," Smith said.
Arctic Warming Amplifies Extreme Weather Events Globally: Wildfires, Flooding Likely to Be More Severe https://t.co/mvi4cWj3ek— The Progressive (@The Progressive)1534955949.0
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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