wildfires

Burning Passion: Photographer Noah Berger on Shooting Fire

Noah Berger admits he wasn’t the most diligent student when he attended UC Berkeley back in the early 1990s. He simply didn’t feel cut out for academe. In fact, there was only one thing that really engaged his interest during his freshman year in 1992: taking photographs for the Daily Californian.

Editor’s Note: Up in Smoke

One day, California will fall into the sea. That’s what we used to say, anyway.

It’s an idea that goes back to huckster-clairvoyant Edgar Cayce. It had nothing to it, of course, but has kept circulating. I suppose that’s partly because so many people are jealous of California—from the beginning an imagined paradise, the domain of Queen Calafia—but also because the state really is a dangerous place, given to flooding and drought, eruptions and landslides, earthquakes and fire.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

High-Risk Housing Developments Fan the Flames for Wildfire

The world certainly seems more flammable these days. Thousands of homes were lost last year in Sonoma County alone, and wildfires have raged across California all summer. And not just in California: Records from the federal National Interagency Fire Center show that U.S. acreage burned in wildfires leaped from 1.8 million in 1995 to 10 million in 2017.

Reading Roundup: Volcanic Umbrellas, Student Oscars, More

Volcanic Umbrella

When Mt. Pinatubo exploded in the northern Philippines in 1991, it spewed millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. For nearly two years, that sunlight-blocking plume acted as a sort of volcanic “umbrella,” cooling the Earth by almost 1 degree Fahrenheit. As climate change increasingly alters our lifestyles and embeds itself into our collective consciousness, geoengineering—in this case, humans playing volcano to replicate this cooling event—became a fascinating idea.

Reading Roundup: Probing the Sun, Draining the Swamp, and More

Hot Hot Heat

This Saturday, NASA plans to launch the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft designed to touch the edge of the solar corona, the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun. It will be the first-ever spacecraft to enter into the orbits of Venus and Mercury, a feat scientists have dreamt of for decades.

Reading Roundup: Facebook, Fires, Fashion, and More

Freaky Fires

While it’s not news that the golden state has taken on a crackling red hue from recent wildfires, reports of the fires’ behaviors are blazingly bizarre.

It’s been commonly observed by firefighters that fires slow down at night, according to Scott L. Stephens, UC Berkeley professor of fire science. But a number of recent fires have said “to hell with the slow burn!” and begun spreading quickly even when the sun goes down.

I Thought I Knew What It Was Like to Be Displaced. I Was Wrong.

As the late, great Tom Petty put it, you don’t have to live like a refugee. Except, of course, when you do, as I recently found out.

Or at least, like an evacuee, which can feel distinctly refugee-esque to a citizen of a developed country who has never been forced to leave home and possessions due to conflict or natural catastrophe.

Fried to a Crisp: Why Some Experts Say We Must Burn the Trees to Save the Forests

The recent rains have blunted the psychological impact of California’s four-year drought, washing down the streets, perking up the landscaping, and heightening anticipation for a stormy El Nino-driven winter. We know, however, that one wet year is highly unlikely to end water shortages. What we may not fully grasp is that the damage done to the state’s forests is so far reaching that it may be permanent.

Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game

If you have the feeling that “wildfire season” is anything but seasonal these days, you’re right. Drought and climate change are combining to make wildfires a year-round phenomenon in the Golden State and much of the West, a trend that already is changing the character of our forests and straining government budgets.

Fire Fallout: Cal expert sees “cascading” loss of wildlife

From Mount Diablo to the Sierras, a significant portion of California’s woodlands are going up in smoke. The impacts on humans are, of course, distressing. And as we’ve reported, the trend of bigger, hotter wildfires bodes to change the essential composition of California’s wildlands: Mixed coniferous forests are likely to contract, while grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands will probably expand.

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