Earth Month, Day 11: Fire and Ice

Two stories for your reading and listening pleasure on this Monday morning installment of Earth Month. kirk sieglerFirst, from Kirk Siegler with NPR, a look at how researchers are trying to unlock the mysteries of wildfire, as fire season bears down on the Southwest:

Ahead of Wildfire Season, Scientists Study What Fuels Fires

As fire managers in the drought-stricken Southwest gear up for another long and expensive wildfire season, federal fire scientists are trying to better understand the physics behind what makes blazes spread.

At a U.S. Forest Service fire lab in Riverside, Calif., a team of scientists is conducting daily experiments over the next few months on different fire behavior conditions. They hope to hand off their findings to fire managers, who have to make the quick decisions on where to deploy resources that could protect lives and property.

The centerpiece of the lab is a 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high wind tunnel and inside is a layer of wood shavings meant to mimic a dry, forest floor. Above them, resting on a shelf, are freshly picked green shrubs, the live green trees in this soon-to-be simulated forest fire.

"OK, collect in three, two, one. Start!" shouts lab technician Christian Bartolome, a graduate student at nearby UC Riverside... Read more.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY-aH1XYoIc?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

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Lizzie GrossmanAnd Elizabeth Grossman writes in High Country News about the risk oil spills pose to people living in the Arctic:

The Growing Concern about Arctic Oil Spills

Standing on the snowy  shore of the Bering Sea in the village of Gambell, Alaska (population 681) on a blindingly bright but frigid day, I watched skiffs load and launch for the first whale hunt of 2014. Ice piled high along the shoreline and the horizon was rimmed with sea ice beyond the open water. A cluster of snow-machines was parked above the beach as boat crews arrived and families and dogs watched the action. Life centers on the ocean here so it’s appalling to imagine what would happen if this community that sits on the western edge of St. Lawrence Island were to find itself beset by an oil spill... Read more.