Florida Emergency Declared as More Than 100 Wildfires Burn Across the State

The effects of global warming on temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture are turning many of our forests into kindling during wildfire season.The Union of Concerned Scientists

*****

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency yesterday as a deepening drought and above average temperatures sparked a large wildfire outbreak.

(Florida is now under a state of emergency due to widespread wildfires.)

Over 100 wildfires across the state have now burned 20,000 acres, destroyed 19 homes, and blanketed dense population centers like Orlando with smoke. Moderate to severe drought conditions cover 42 percent of the state. And the result is the worst fire season since 2011 — a record outbreak for Florida which burned over 200,000 acres during the year.

So far for 2017, about 2.5 times the area of land that burns during a usual wildfire season by mid April has already been consumed.  Fires are now burning from one end of Florida to the other:

“From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we’re seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said.

(Moderate to severe drought across 42 percent of Florida is increasing fire risk. The dry season for this region typically lasts until June when Atlantic moisture arrives — bringing with it more frequent thunderstorms. Image source: The U.S. Drought Monitor.)

Florida wildfire season typically runs year-round. However, January to June sees higher fire risk as drier conditions settle in. Summer rains tend to tamp down fires during the hotter months as oceanic and gulf moisture flows increase.

This year, record to near record warm sea surface conditions in the Gulf of Mexico have helped to lock in warmer to much warmer than average temperatures over Florida from January to April. These warmer than normal temperatures have helped to promote drought onset during the dry season.

(As global temperatures have increased, so too have the number of acres burned by wildfires. Image source: US EPA.)

Climate change also plays a role by increasing rates of drought onset, by pushing average temperatures higher, and by generally amplifying wildfire risk. Like many places, Florida has probably been rendered more vulnerable to wildfires by a warming primarily brought on by fossil fuel burning. And it is also a sad irony that the present Governor has outlawed the use of the words climate change in government communications due to a harmful political ideology which has decided to deny the basic science of human-caused warming (Trump has issued similar gag orders). A backward and reactionary policy that renders Florida less able to mitigate and respond to disasters related to human-caused climate change.

Presently, drought conditions are not as intense as those that contributed to the severe 2011 wildfire outbreak. However, forecasters are calling for little rain over the coming week and continued warm to warmer than normal weather. If this weather continues, the present Florida drought is likely to worsen — along with the fire risk.

(UPDATED)

Links:

The U.S. Drought Monitor

Florida Governor Declares State of Emergency as Destructive Wildfires Rage Across State

Polk County Emergency Management

Florida Wildfire State of Emergency

Is Global Warming Fueling Increased Fire Risks?

Leave a comment

33 Comments

  1. Suzanne

     /  April 12, 2017

    One bright spot from the Land of Denial..where our Governor will not even let the term Climate Change be used in any official capacity….This week Senator Nelson did meet with leaders in Palm Beach County to discuss SLR:

    Local scientists say climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed with South Florida in jeopardy of rising sea levels.

    Monday those scientists brought their concerns to Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

    The field hearing for the Senate Commerce Committee is about accepting the fact that sea levels are rising and there’s no other place in the world in more danger than South Florida.

    “It’s on their doorstep,” says Dr. Ben Kirkman, a scientist at the University of Miami.He says sea levels could rise as much as two feet by 2060.

    Kirkman says local governments are taking steps.

    “Miami Beach has been putting in a pumping station. There’s new resiliency officers in Dade County. There’s the four-county compact looking into sea level rise,” says Kirkman.

    Senator Nelson says the key is making this a non-political issue.

    See more here: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/weather/scared-sea-level-rise-issue-prompts-senate-hearing-west-palm/pLjIv5luRoyFPcPm9N39KK/
    ______________________________
    Okay it’s not much…but I will take whatever hope I can get..
    Living in this state with the “denial-ism” has been extremely difficult. However, it is getting harder and harder for those in power to deny, when the effects of CC are being seen here, especially in S. FL with increasing regularity.

    And I can guarantee you, Governor Voldemort has declared this state of emergency with the wildfires, but will NEVER EVER say that CC has anything to do with it. He is just awful…in every way..and now he is “filling his coffers’ to run against Sen. Nelson in 2018…UGH!

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 12, 2017

      Damn…sorry this post was so long…did not realize I had “copied” the entire article..Yikes!

      Reply
    • The more they deny now, the more they’ll have to answer for later. At some point, denial becomes a legal issue — both as liability and as criminality. We’ve already crossed that line, but the question is how far do they intend to go?

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  April 12, 2017

        I just can’t see the rationality for the denial in a state such as ours where the negative effects are now displayed. Also, I am, as are other environmentalists, at war down here with FP&L who has made it so difficult to invest in renewables…and also with the Sabal Trail pipeline. That pipeline is an absolute horror show. So tired of fighting against ….STUPID and GREED. (sigh)

        Reply
        • Thank you for your work, Suzanne. I wish we had a thousand more like you :). It’s the only way we’re going to get things done the right way here in the US of A.

      • Ridley Jack

         /  April 12, 2017

        What is best case sceaniro and worst case scenairo regarding sea level in miami/southbeach by sea level rise projections?

        Reply
        • Ridley Jack

           /  April 12, 2017

          By 2050

        • Likely best case by 2050 1 foot. Likely worst case by 2050 10 feet. Most likely range by 2050 2-7 feet. Varies by location. Parts of South Florida likely to see 3 feet or more by 2050, for example.

        • Suzanne

           /  April 12, 2017

          Short answer…in the next few decades..a foot or two. By 2100, 3-5 feet (and these are of course just rough estimates). But even worse…here in S.FL is our limestone soil..and it porous nature. As the Seas rise..it will contaminate our fresh water aquifers..
          Here is a short but worthwhile video that is relatively new by Yale Climate Connections:

        • Future estimates for sea level rise vary widely. The IPCC prediction remains for 3 feet this Century (my opinion is this is too conservative). The US Coast Guard predicts 4-6 feet by end Century. Other predictions that include ice sheet response can range as high as 15-20 feet by end Century. Mid Century estimates are even more difficult due to the fact that ice sheet response rates are critical to the estimate.

        • Likely best case 3 feet by 2100. Likely worst case 20 feet by 2100. Most likely range 5-12 feet by 2100 (including moderate to substantial ice sheet response).

        • Suzanne

           /  April 12, 2017

          And honestly..even the “best” case scenario is going to be catastrophic. So for me the numbers are almost secondary because most areas down here will be uninhabitable with the salt water intrusion, etc. Throw in the fact, that it will be nearly impossible to get a 30 year mortgage, probably within the next few years. I just don’t see a lot of solutions for us down here is S. Florida. We are the country’s “canary in the coal mine” to my way of thinking, because you can down here and “see the effects of CC right now”. Millions of Floridians will be CC refugees.

        • wili

           /  April 12, 2017

          I’m sure Suzanne knows this, but just in case others didn’t know…that porous limestone she’s talking about makes it impossible for any solutions involving dikes, no matter how massive…the sea water will just seep under it through the porous stone and come up the other side. There really is no solution there but retreat…and perhaps some houses on stilts that can be made to continuously get taller???

  2. climatehawk1

     /  April 12, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  3. Suzanne

     /  April 12, 2017

    Not to belabor the SLR issue..but here is another local media story from a couple of years ago. This is not in some far away place…this is Miami Beach:

    Reply
    • It’s not belabored at all. A very important issue.

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  April 12, 2017

        Well then…it you really want to “wade into the weeds” 🙂 of how SLR effects S.Fl..this is a great 25 minute locally produced documentary from about 3 years ago..that really lays out our local challenges in terms of our geology…flood management…flood insurance….politics, etc.

        Reply
    • NS Alito

       /  April 13, 2017

      Things are happening so fast (SLR, ice sheets collapsing, coral bleaching, etc.) that whenever follow a link to a global warming article or video, the first thing I do is check the date on it. An article from 2010, say, might warn about something happening by 2020 that’s already happening *now*.

      Reply
  4. Jeremy in Wales

     /  April 12, 2017

    Hats of to you Robert your output of articles has been prodigous.

    One of your replies, to Robert Price I believe, back on 8 April got me thinking:

    “Energy independence would do wonders for reducing our trade deficit. We can reliably do this with renewables. In addition, if we continue on a path for renewable energy leadership, we can really benefit from helpful new industries that actually serve to make the world a healthier place. It’s just that we need to get a move on because we’re pretty far behind the 8 ball on climate change right now.”

    Not that I disagree with the points but I think the majority of US citizens do not appreciate the totally unusual position that the US Dollar holds in the world, being the base currency for the majority of the transactions in Hydro-carbon trades. It creates a demand for US Dollars, from the rest of the world, that makes no reference to how the US economy actually performs, but more importantly gives an immense amount of power to your politicians and the 1%. They are doing everything they can to maintain that.
    When the world moves to renewables that power evaporates and the uni-polar world is no longer.
    That world is definetly getting closer as in the last week I have seen a Tesla and a Nissan Leaf electric cars in my little part of the cefn wlad (back country).

    Reply
    • The petro-dollar is a post World War II anachronism that is mostly archaic to foreign trade at this time. The prevalence of the dollar as a foreign currency medium and the related US influence on trade is more closely tied to the vitality of the U.S. economy and to the perception of the U.S. as a force for benevolence and stability in the world. A U.S. that aids its allies, that helps the poor, that responds to climate change and that engages to shore up destabilized regions will do a great deal to strengthen the dollar as a currency.

      Reply
  5. Zyg Evershed

     /  April 12, 2017

    Meanwhile, Events in Europe seem to be taking a rapid turn towards trying to protect the world from further global warning.

    “Artificial island is planned on Dogger Bank for cheaper wind power
    The island sounds “out of science fiction”, says one of the developers, but could help provide cheap and clean energy to millions.
    14:24, UK,
    Monday 13 March 2017
    A group of European firms have announced plans to build an artificial island they say could provide power for 80 million homes. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    Video:
    Artificial island could provide power for millions of homes

    By Sharon Marris, News Reporter

    A group of European firms are planning to build an artificial island that could provide power for tens of millions of homes.

    The 2.5 square mile island will have a harbour, runway and homes and will be built at Dogger Bank, a large sandbank in a shallow part of the North Sea, about 62 miles from England’s east coast.

    The island will serve as a hub for thousands of wind turbines and solar panels and, with the island being in a relatively shallow part of the North Sea, building wind turbines will be easier.

    Electricity from the island hub will be sent via sea cables to several nearby countries, including Britain.

    Also set to benefit are the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Belgium.

    A group of European firms have announced plans to build an artificial island they say could provide power for 80 million homes. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    Image:
    The island will have a harbour, runway and homes. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    Wind turbine parks from several nations could be linked to the island, turning offshore parks into “coastal parks”.

    That will mean long cables won’t be needed and moving the energy will be cheaper.

    Staff, equipment and assembly workshops would be stored on the island, also keeping costs down.

    Danish firm Energinet.dk will work with the German and Dutch branches of TenneT to build the island and the three will sign a deal at the North Seas Energy Forum in Brussels on 23 March.

    The next step is a feasibility study.

    A group of European firms have announced plans to build an artificial island they say could provide power for 80 million homes. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    Image:
    The island could provide power for millions of homes. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    Torben Glar Nielsen, Energinet.dk’s technical director, said in a statement that the island “could make the wind power of the future a lot cheaper and more effective”.

    To the Copenhagen Post, he added: “We haven’t let our fantasy gain the upper hand, although it may sound a little crazy and like something out of science fiction.

    “We who have the responsibility of transporting the electricity generated by offshore wind turbines back to land and the consumers must constantly push and make sure that the price continues to fall.

    “That requires innovative big-scale solutions, and an energy hub in the North Sea is worth thoroughly looking into.”

    A group of European firms have announced plans to build an artificial island they say could provide power for 80 million homes. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    Image:
    Britain is among the countries that could benefit. Pic: TenneT (Dutch TSO)
    The company’s chief executive Peder Ostermark Andreasen said: “Offshore wind has in recent years proved to be
    increasingly competitive and it is important to us to constantly focus on further reduction in prices of grid connections and interconnections.

    “We need innovative and large-scale projects so that offshore wind can play an even bigger part in our future energy supply.”

    Reply
  6. wili

     /  April 12, 2017

    Heatwaves continue to punish India…45 C likely (113F) in Sindh…in April! They’ve had temperatures of above 40 C (104 F) across much of the subcontinent now for over a week.

    http://dunyanews.tv/en/Pakistan/383327-Intense-heat-wave-to-continue-in-Karachi-today

    Reply
  7. Jeremy in Wales

     /  April 12, 2017

    I am going later next month to the Hay Literature Festival and have booked a seat on a talk being given by Peter Wadhams on his book The End of Ice. There is likely to be a question and answer session at the end – any suggestions for a question to pose him?

    Reply
  8. wili

     /  April 12, 2017

    IIRC, a predicted, and I believe already measured, consequence of GW is an increase in lightning strikes. This is obviously a feedback because more lightning means more fires means more CO2 in the air…

    But increased incidence of lightning also represents a more immediate feedback, since lightning is a big source of NOx in the atmosphere, nitrogen oxides being particularly strong GHGs.

    Reply
  9. Globally fires are increasing over past ten years or so. US graph shows higher average during recent past. Fires being reported from Australia too. Another signal of global warming and climate change. Fires should be used as a metric for an integrated model for climate change. Other metrics: temperature, rain, snow, floods, sea level, ocean temp, pole cap areas, ice/snow on mountains, water in rivers, acquifier levels, drought, famines, dying fauna and flora, ocean and water living organisms, storms, tornadoes, speed of hurricanes, lightning strikes…few more could be added.

    Reply
  1. To 15 April – nuclear and climate news « nuclear-news
  2. The week that has been in nuclear and climate news | Nuclear Australia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: