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Climate Change Reality: Fourmile Canyon Wildfire, West of Boulder, Colorado, September 2010
Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 10/03/2010 - 01:26.
What does climate change look like? The people of Boulder know only too well, having just dodged Colorado's worst wildfire ever - the Fourmile Canyon Wildfire.
The people of Fourmile Canyon - especially those who lost nearly 200 homes - are now climate change experts, as their sun-drenched, parched, droughted Rocky Mountain paradise went up in flames that rode hot dry winds across over four square miles of pristine forests, for days... just a few weeks ago.
The residents whose homes survived are certainly thanking God or their lucky stars... and the firecrews who worked for endless days to control and stop this blaze, which could have escaped into neighboring valleys and spread for as far as the eye may see... it was stopped just as it jumped Sunshine Canyon Road below... just a few 1000 yards from the peak of the valley and gateway to the next valley...
When I was there photographing, crews were just starting to really clear the wreckage, and the natural beauty will never be the same... as beautiful as are the remains. It is not unnatural for dry places like this to burn from lightening strikes, in periodic cycles, clearing old brush and trees and starting life cycles anew... it is humans who are opposed to wildfires.
But climate change is bringing higher average temperatures, drier weather for sustained periods, and so more, worse wildfires like this one, that was feared to spread into the city of Boulder proper... the guest house where I stayed was poised for evacuation, just days before I arrived. It could well have looked like this, if the winds had blown the wrong ways.
The map below shows the close proximity of the Fourmile Canyon Wildfire to the city of Boulder (the street grid on the right), as the red dots represent homes destroyed by the fire just a few miles to the west. If the fire had jumped east, with strong winds behind it, flames could easily have spread the few miles to the city and caused immeasurable harm.
As it was, the fire cause great disaster, as shown in these photographs taken about 10 days after the fire was finally under control...
Regarding whether climate change is a factor in such catastrophic natural disasters of this year... an excellent report by NASA's top climatologist, Dr. James Hansen - “How Warm Was This Summer?”, confirms that 2010 is expected to equal the hottest year on record, resulting in more extreme natural disasters worldwide this year, and forecasts worse impacts of climate change several years into the future, predicting "it is likely that 2012 will reach a record high global temperature." Meaning:
Regarding whether climate change is a factor in catastrophic natural disasters of this year... like the flood in Pakistan... and the heat wave in Russia and drought in Colorado, which each resulted in major wildfires... Hansen writes:
In other words... "if the question were posed as "would these events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?", an appropriate answer in that case is "almost certainly not." That answer, to the public, translates as "yes", i.e., humans probably bear a responsibility for the extreme event."
As you may see from these photos, 100s of acres were burned... but you can't burn a cemetery.
This wildfire was actually set by a firepit that was started by a volunteer fireman, who thought he had extinguished his blaze... it was brought back to life and spread by hot dry winds several days later.
While nearly 200 homes were lost, nobody was killed or injured... nature here shall be reborn... as I was shooting I noticed grasshoppers living among the ashes.... and there are many mountains of Colorado still to burn or save, depending on man.