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Climate Change Fuelling Colorado Wildfires – June 27th, 2013

38.0N 108W

June 28th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Fires, Image of the day VIIRSSuomi-NPP

USA – June 26th, 2013

Smoke billows forth from wildfires blazing in the forests of the Rocky Mountains, in the state of Colorado, USA. These fires have already consumed 125 square miles and are zero percent contained.

What’s propelling these fires are dry conditions made worse by strong winds and an ongoing spruce-beetle infestation. The beetles tunnel under bark, laying eggs that will eventually kill trees. Scientists have reached a consensus that climate change is to blame:

North America is witnessing the largest pine-beetle epidemic in recorded history. From Canada’s Yukon Territory to New Mexico, pine trees by the hundreds of millions are succumbing to a fungus that the beetles carry. The pine needles of infected trees first turn a violent red, then they fall, and, finally, the dead tree topples over. Year by year, communities have watched a scourge advance across mountainsides and through neighborhoods, trees turning from green to red to gray. The beetles now attack 12 pine species, from the high-elevation whitebark pine to the lower-elevation ponderosa and piñon. The blight has devastated 3.3 million acres in Colorado alone since the 1990s.

Beetles kill, die off, and regenerate, all of which is part of a lodgepole pine forest’s natural life cycle. But human activity helped set the stage for the current epidemic. Decades of fire suppression have left the West with dense stands of vulnerable, elderly trees. Climate has also played a role. Frigid winters that usually kill the beetles have become, over the past 20 years, the exception rather than the rule. Earlier snowmelt and longer summers have altered the beetles’ range and life cycle; they now attack pines at higher altitudes and latitudes, and they reproduce twice a year instead of once. Earlier springs and a series of dry years have also weakened trees, turning them into ideal beetle food (click here for more information).

Fires in Colorado and New Mexico, USA

36.9N 106.5W

June 24th, 2013 Category: Fires, Volcanoes MODISAqua

USA – June 24th, 2013

Several wildfires can be seen burning in the forests of Colorado (above) and New Mexico (below), USA, in this image. Winds are carrying the thick plumes of smoke towards the northeast. In the full image, another blaze can be seen west of the Carrizozo lava field.

Fire Between Colorado Springs and Denver, USA

38.8N 104.8W

September 30th, 2012 Category: Fires

USA – September 16th, 2012

Smoke from a fire in Colorado, located about halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs, fans out and billows in a northeasterly direction, contributing to a larger, smoky haze over the western United States of America (click here for previous images).

Squirrel Creek Fire in Wyoming, USA Only 6% Contained – July 4th, 2012

43.3N 108.8W

July 4th, 2012 Category: Fires, Image of the day

USA – July 2nd, 2012

The thick plume of smoke in the upper right quadrant, blowing towards the south, originates from the Squirrel Creek Fire in Albany County, Wyoming, USA. Visible to the east, across the entire right half of the image, is a cloud of smoke, probably not only released into the atmosphere by the Wyoming fire, but also by wildfires burning across the state of Colorado.

The Squirrel Creek Fire started on June 30, 2012, around 1:00 p.m. Its cause is still under investigation. Although previously reported as 7000 acres in size, more accurate mapping has shown that the actual size is around 6,700 acres. The blaze is only 6 percent contained at this time. Yesterday, the Squirrel Creek Fire grew slightly to the west and to the north along Sheep Mountain.

Sangre de Cristo Range Cutting Diagonally Across Colorado, USA – December 12th, 2011

37.5N 105.4W

December 12th, 2011 Category: Deserts, Image of the day, Mountains

USA- December 11th, 2011

Cutting diagonally across this orthorectified image of Colorado, USA, is the Sangre de Cristo (Christ’s Blood) Range. It is a narrow mountain range of the Rocky Mountains running north and south along the east side of the Rio Grande Rift.

The mountains extend southeast from Poncha Pass for about 75 miles (120 km) through south-central Colorado to La Veta Pass, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of Walsenburg, and form a high ridge separating the San Luis Valley on the west, in which many circular fields are visible, from the watershed of the Arkansas River on the east.

Upon opening the full image, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve can be seen at the western base of the mountains (lower right). The park stretches across about 85,000 acres (340 km², 130 mi²). It contains the tallest sand dunes in North America, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley. Many individual rows of dunes can be observed in the full image.