US suffers from forest fires and science explains why

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Every year the US is prone to experiencing an intense wave of forest fires, this 2020 was no exception and the catastrophe has been devastating.

Every year wildfires leave a trail of devastation in the United States (USA) but there is more to the science behind the fires and their deadly “anatomy”.

And it is that these forest fires occur in undeveloped lands such as forests, grasslands and bushes; They include both wildfires and prescribed fires, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Citing data from 2000 to 2017 based on Wildfire Management Information (WFMI) and the United States Forest Service Research Data File, the National Park Service reports that nearly 85% of wildfires are caused by humans.

Human-caused fires are the result of unattended bonfires, burning debris, use and malfunction of equipment, neglectful discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.

Natural fires

Although the devastating wildfires are almost entirely caused by humans themselves, lightning can also cause fires, as seen in recent ones in California.

“Fires are often started by unusually long-lasting hot flashes,” explains the National Park Service. NASA notes that forest fires caused by lightning often occur in remote areas that are not easily accessible.

Higher temperatures that are related to drought can also increase the risk of fire, which thrives in dry and arid conditions.

“Weather and environmental conditions, such as drought, winds, and extreme heat, can cause a fire to spread more rapidly,” explains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on its website.

Oxygen, heat and fuel are the three factors necessary for combustion and flame production, says the National Forest Fire Coordinating Group. “Eliminating any of the three factors causes the production of flames to cease,” he explains.

Wildfires can spread quickly, consuming everything in their path. Flames can travel up to 14 mph, according to National Geographic. Wind-blown embers can help fires “jump” out of rivers and areas that have been cleared of “fuel” such as brush.

The key parts of wildfire anatomy are defined as bay, finger, head, flanks, back, island, and point of origin. A bay is “a marked notch on the perimeter of the fire, usually located between two fingers,” according to the Nova Scotia government website, while a finger is an elongated burned area or areas that extend from the main body of the fire. .

The head of the fire is defined as the “part of the perimeter of the fire that has the highest rate of spread and frontal intensity of the fire, which is generally located on the leeward side and / or upward slope of the fire.”

The back of the fire is the part of the perimeter opposite the head and the flanks are the areas of the perimeter between the head and the back “approximately parallel to the main direction of spread,” according to the Nova Scotia government.

Islands are areas of “unburned fuel” within the perimeter of the fire and the point of origin is defined as the location or locations within the perimeter of the fire where ignition first occurred.


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