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News articles on fires
Mongabay.com news articles on fires in blog format. Updated regularly.
(03/10/2014) Two scientists are calling on researchers, NGOs, and governments to begin studying the impact of burning forests and peatlands in Indonesia on the already-threatened marine ecosystems of Southeast Asia. Every year, Indonesian farmers set forests, vegetation, and peatlands alight to clear them for agriculture, often palm oil, and pulp and paper plantations. Not only do these practices destroy hugely-diverse tropical forests, but the resulting haze spreads to many parts of Southeast Asia, threatening regional health and impacting economies. Now, a new paper argues that the sinister impacts of Indonesia's burning may extend as far as the oceans.
Peatlands biosphere reserve facing severe encroachment in Sumatra
(03/06/2014) An important reserve that contains a block of fast-dwindling lowland swamp forest in Riau Province is facing an onslaught of encroachment for illegal oil palm plantations, worsening choking haze in the region, reports Mongabay-Indonesia.
NASA photo reveals ongoing haze problem in Sumatra
(03/01/2014) A new satellite image released by NASA highlights Indonesia's ongoing problem with haze caused by land-clearing fires set across carbon-dense peatlands on the island of Sumatra.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2013
(12/10/2013) 1. Carbon concentrations hit 400ppm while the IPCC sets global carbon budget: For the first time since our appearance on Earth, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius higher. Meanwhile, in the slow-moving effort to curb carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crafted a global carbon budget showing that most of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left untouched if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Deforestation may hurt U.S. agriculture, affect monsoon cycle
(11/04/2013) Unchecked deforestation will have far-reaching impacts on temperature, rainfall, and monsoon cycles in regions well outside the tropics, affecting agriculture and water availability, warns a new report published by Greenpeace International. The report is a synthesis of dozens of recent scientific papers that assess the effects of forest cover loss on weather patterns, local climate, and agricultural productivity.
June fires concentrated in peatlands, burned 1,500 sq km in Sumatra
(10/16/2013) Fires that sent a choking haze across Singapore and Malaysia in June burned some 1,500 square kilometers in Riau Province and were predominantly concentrated on peatlands, reports the World Resources Institute (WRI).
500 fires rage across Sumatra
(08/29/2013) Nearly 500 fires are burning across the Indonesian island of Sumatra, raising fears that choking air pollution could return to Singapore and Malaysia.
Fires burning again in Sumatra, triggering haze alerts in Malaysia
(07/23/2013) Deforested areas and degraded peatlands are again burning on the island of Sumatra, triggering haze alerts in nearby Malaysia, despite last week's commitment by regional authorities to address the ongoing fire problem in Indonesia.
Yukon Flats experiencing more wildfires now than in the last 10,000 years
(07/22/2013) The Yukon Flats area of Alaska is today burning more frequently and severely than it has in the last 10,000 years, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Looking at charcoal fragments from 14 deep lakes in the region, scientists were able to reconstruct the fire history of this particular forest, which covers around 2,000 square kilometers. Scientists have long warned that as the temperature worldwide continue to rise from climate change, wildfires are likely to become more common.
Haze summit proposes sharing concession data, but keeping it hidden from the public
(07/17/2013) A high-level meeting to discuss approaches for curbing fires that drive haze over Southeast Asia ended today with a recommendation that governments establish a haze monitoring system that would share detailed land-use and concession maps to help coordinate action against companies that set illegal fires, reports the World Resources Institute (WRI).
Palm oil body, Greenpeace spar over Indonesia fire blame
(07/16/2013) Greenpeace and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets criteria for greener palm oil production, are caught up in a row over the origin of fires that cast a pall over Sumatra, Singapore, and Malaysia last month. The dispute started when media outlets, based on independent analysis of satellite data, identified several members of the RSPO as possible culprits in the fires in Riau Province. Greenpeace said the findings indicated that the RSPO is failing to hold its members accountable for burning. The activist group also criticized the RSPO for not expressly prohibiting deforestation and conversion of peatlands.
Haze fires concentrated in deforested peatlands, not forest areas, confirms satellite analysis
(07/10/2013) A new mapping tool based on NASA satellite data confirms that the majority of fires that drove the recent haze over Sumatra and Malaysia were concentrated in deforested peatlands and scrub, rather than natural forest areas.
Wilmar to cut off suppliers found to be setting fires
(07/01/2013) Wilmar International Ltd., the world’s largest palm oil trader, will sever ties with any Indonesian suppliers found to be using fire illegal to clear land or manage their plantations, reports Bloomberg.
Indonesia NGOs call on govt to investigate 117 companies for alleged involvement in forest fires
(06/28/2013) As forest fires on the island of Sumatra continue to blanket parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore with a thick haze, a coalition of civil society groups has called on Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment to investigate timber and palm oil companies they believe may be behind the fires.
Indonesia to spend $10M on cloud-seeding scheme to slow haze
(06/27/2013) The Indonesian government will spend 100 billion rupiah — $10 million — on a cloud-seeding scheme to reduce the haze plaguing Sumatra, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Cause of haze? Up to 87% of recent deforestation in fire zone due to palm oil, timber
(06/26/2013) New analysis of land cover in Riau Province reveals the outsized role industrial plantations play in driving deforestation and associated haze. The analysis, conducted by Eyes on the Forest, finds that up to 56% of deforestation in Riau between 2007 and 2012 can be linked to timber plantations for pulp and paper production. The figure for oil palm plantations may be as high as 31%.
Palm oil companies linked to haze see share prices drop
(06/24/2013) Three firms linked to fires in Sumatra saw their share prices decline since the haze crisis worsened a week ago.
Greenpeace releases dramatic pictures of haze and fires in Indonesia (photos)
(06/24/2013) Greenpeace has released a series of photos from the front lines of the peat fires that are casting a pall of haze and triggering health warnings across Singapore and Malaysia. The images were taken by Getty photographer Ulet Infansasti in Sumatra, where the fires are burning. Analysis of NASA hotspot data has revealed that the majority of fires are occurring within plantation concessions operated by palm oil and timber companies.
5 RSPO companies linked to haze
(06/24/2013) Five members of the Roundtable and Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will be asked to submit digital maps of their plantations after media reports linked them to fires in Sumatra that are driving the haze across Singapore and Malaysia. The RSPO has given the companies — PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, Tabung Haji Plantations, Sinar Mas, Kuala Lumpur Kepong, and Sime Darby — 48 hours to submit maps of their plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan so the eco-certification body can compare them to fire hotspot data from NASA and NOAA.
Indonesia drops water bombs on fires, may resort to cloud-seeding
(06/22/2013) In an effort to control peat fires casting a pall of haze over neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia is using airplanes to drop water across hotspots in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra, reports AFP. Officials say they may try cloud-seeding — dumping silver iodide at high altitude — if current fire-fighting efforts fall short.
Singapore air pollution hits worst level on record, government blames palm oil and timber plantations in Sumatra
(06/21/2013) Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index hit the highest level on record Friday as 'haze' driven by fires burning across plantations, peatlands, and forest areas continued to rage across Sumatra. The air pollution gauge touched a record 400 at 11 am local time on Friday, according to the National Environment Agency's website. The level is considered "very unhealthy" with people advised to 'minimize all outdoor exposure' and wear masks when outside.
Singapore chokes on haze from deforestation fires
(06/17/2013) Singapore and Malaysian officials have asked Indonesia to take 'urgent measures' to address forest fires in Sumatra that are sending choking haze northward, reports AFP.
Amazon fire risk on the rise, says NASA
(06/09/2013) The Amazon rainforest is facing a higher risk of fires this dry season, warns a fire prediction system developed by researchers using NASA and NOAA data.
NASA: 3% of Amazon rainforest burned between 1999-2010
(06/08/2013) 33,000 square miles (85,500 square kilometers) or 2.8 percent of the Amazon rainforest burned between 1999-2010 finds new NASA-led research that measured the extent of fires that smolder under the forest canopy.
Scientist: Australia taking 'calculated actions' to push Leadbeater's possum to extinction
(06/06/2013) Australia's leading scientific expert on the endangered Leadbeater's possum has publicly lambasted the Victorian state government, claiming it is the first ever domestic administration to take "calculated actions" that it knew could wipe out a threatened species. In a letter published in the respected journal Science, Prof David Lindenmayer, of the Australian National University, states that "government-sanctioned legal logging of the reserve system will signiﬁcantly increase the chance of extinction of Leadbeater’s possum."
Frequent understory fires change rainforest community composition
(04/24/2013) Frequent understory fires change the composition of rainforest plant communities, potentially altering the capacity of forests to regenerate, finds a study published in special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Burned rainforest vulnerable to grass invasion
(04/24/2013) Rainforests that have been affected by even low-intensity fires are far more vulnerable to invasion by grasses, finds a new study published in special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The findings are significant because they suggest that burned forests may be more susceptible to subsequent fires which may burn more intensely due to increased fuel loads.
Featured video: stemming human-caused fires in the Amazon
(04/09/2013) A new series of 5 films highlights how people use fire in the Amazon rainforest and how such practices can be mitigated. Collectively dubbed "Slash & Burn" each film explores a different aspect of fire-use in the Amazon. In recent years the Amazon has faced unprecedented droughts, possibly linked to climate change and vast deforestation, making the issue of human-started fires even more important.
Forests under fire: Australia's imperiled south west
(03/05/2013) In the far southwestern corner of Western Australia, beyond the famed wineries in the shadow of the Margaret River, lies an ecosystem like no other, the South West ecoregion. This part of Australia has been identified as one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, home to rare endemic flora and fauna like the Carnaby's black cockatoo, numbat (banded anteaters), woylie (brush-tailed bettong), mainland quokka and over 1500 plant species, most found nowhere else. Unfortunately, this unique habitat is being increasingly fragmented and its inhabitants threatened by a number of forces, including climate change, dieback, fires and logging. And, on the eve of the Western Australia's state elections, the future of the South West hangs in the balance.
Cute koalas have become 'urban refugees'
(01/28/2013) According to Susan Kelly, koalas have become "urban refugees," under siege by expanding cities that bring with them deforestation, dogs, traffic, and other ills for native wildlife. Director of Global Witness, and writer, producer and director of the new documentary Koala Hospital, Kelly has spent 3 years working to understand the rising threats to one of the world's most beloved marsupials. While Koala Hospital highlights the many perils facing koalas, including climate change due to record fires across Australia, it also looks at the efforts of individuals who work to save koalas one—by—one at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, taking in patients who have been orphaned, hit by cars, scarred in fires, or attacked by dogs.
Australia reels from record heatwave, fires
(01/09/2013) Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
Fires burn over a third more land than estimated
(01/02/2013) Scientists currently detect fires around the world using moderate resolution satellite imagery, however a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that this tool misses many of the world's smaller fires, which add up.
Obama breaks climate silence at press conference
(11/14/2012) At a news conference today, a question by New York Times reporter Mark Landler pushed President Obama to speak at some length about climate change. In his answer, Obama re-iterated his acceptance of climate science and discussed how progress on tackling climate change might proceed in his second term, though he also noted that he wouldn't put action on the climate ahead of the economy. President Obama made a small reference to climate change in his victory speech following his historic re-election last Tuesday, but his answer today was the most the president has talked about the issue at any length since at least Hurricane Sandy.
It's not just Sandy: U.S. hit by record droughts, fires, and heatwaves in 2012
(11/05/2012) As the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy—killing over 100 people and producing upwards of $50 billion in damage along the U.S. East Coast—has reignited a long-dormant conversation on climate change in the media, it's important to note that this is not the only weird and wild weather the U.S. has seen this year. In fact, 2012 has been a year of record-breaking weather across the U.S.: the worst drought in decades, unprecedented heatwaves, and monster forest fires. While climatologists have long stated that it is not yet possible to blame a single extreme weather event on climate change, research is showing that rising temperatures are very likely increasing the chances of extreme weather events and worsening them when they occur.
Climate change causing forest die-off globally
(09/09/2012) Already facing an onslaught of threats from logging and conversion for agriculture, forests worldwide are increasingly impacted by the effects of climate change, including drought, heightened fire risk, and disease, putting the ecological services they afford in jeopardy, warns a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Pictures of the day: NASA captures stunning images of U.S. wildfires at night
(08/21/2012) NASA is now able to capture satellite images of wildfires—at night. Using the The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (S-NPP), which has instruments that are particularly sensitive to light, NASA was able to take images of fires burning nocturnally across the American West in what has been a record year, to date, for fires in the country.
Key mammals dying off in rainforest fragments
(08/15/2012) When the Portuguese first arrived on the shores of what is now Brazil, a massive forest waited for them. Not the Amazon, but the Atlantic Forest, stretching for over 1.2 million kilometers. Here jaguars, the continent's apex predator, stalked peccaries, while tapirs waded in rivers and giant anteaters unearthed termites mounds. Here, also, the Tupi people numbered around a million people. Now, almost all of this gone: 93 percent of the Atlantic Forest has been converted to agriculture, pasture, and cities, the bulk of it lost since the 1940s. The Tupi people are largely vanished due to slavery and disease, and, according to a new study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, so are many of the forest's megafauna, from jaguars to giant anteaters.
Burning forests in Southeast Asia increases mortality rates in the region
(08/13/2012) Clearing forests and other vegetation with fire in Southeast Asia can kill, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The research found that fire-induced air pollution, including fine particulates and a rise in ozone, could be linked to thousands of deaths during El Nino years when dry conditions worsen human-set fires. The pollution was found to be worst over Malaysia and Indonesia, the latter where the vast majority of the fires are set.
Hundreds of hotspots burn Tesso Nilo National Park, threatening elephants
(08/08/2012) From June to July, hundreds of fires spread in Tesso Nilo National Park in Indonesia. Based on the data from World Wide Fund for Wildlife (WWF) Program-Riau, fire hotspots reached their peak in the third week of June. As of early July, fires, which were triggered a month earlier, could not be totally extinguished.
Extreme heatwaves 50 to 100 times more likely due to climate change
(08/05/2012) A recent rise in deadly, debilitating, and expensive heatwaves was caused by climate change, argues a new statistical analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Climatologists found that extreme heatwaves have increased by at least 50 times during the last 30 years. The researchers, including James Hansen of NASA, conclude that climate change is the only explanation for such a statistical jump.
NASA images reveal massive forest die-off from tiny beetle
(07/31/2012) Satellite images highlighted by NASA this week reveal a massive forest die-off in Colorado due to severe pine park beetle infestations.
Half of tropical forest parks losing biodiversity
(07/25/2012) Governments have set up protected areas, in part, to act as reservoirs for our Earth's stunning biodiversity; no where is this more true than in the world's tropical forests, which contain around half of our planet's species. However a new study in Nature finds that wildlife in many of the world's rainforest parks remains imperiled by human pressures both inside and outside the reserves, threatening to undercut global conservation efforts. Looking at a representative 60 protected areas across 36 tropical nations, the scientists found that about half the parks suffered an "erosion of biodiversity" over the last 20-30 years.
Map reveals sharp increase in U.S. fires since 2001
(07/24/2012) A new map using NASA data reveals an increase in the severity of fires in the United States since 2000.
Experts: sustainable logging in rainforests impossible
(07/19/2012) Industrial logging in primary tropical forests that is both sustainable and profitable is impossible, argues a new study in Bioscience, which finds that the ecology of tropical hardwoods makes logging with truly sustainable practices not only impractical, but completely unprofitable. Given this, the researchers recommend industrial logging subsidies be dropped from the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program. The study, which adds to the growing debate about the role of logging in tropical forests, counters recent research making the case that well-managed logging in old-growth rainforests could provide a "middle way" between conservation and outright conversion of forests to monocultures or pasture.
Deja vu: U.S. undergoes hottest 12 months on record...again and again
(07/12/2012) According to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Climatic Data Center, the last twelve months have been the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. This record, set between July 2011 through June 2012, beat the last consecutive twelve month record set only a month earlier between June 2011 and May 2012, which in turn beat the previous record holder, you guessed it: May 2011 through April 2012.
As U.S. sees record heat, extreme weather pummels 4 continents
(07/10/2012) It's not only the U.S. that has experienced record-breaking extreme weather events recently, in the last couple months extreme weather has struck around the world with startling ferocity. In addition to the much-covered heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts in the U.S., killer floods struck India, the worst drought yet recorded plagued South Korea, and massive forest fires swept through Siberia to name just a few.
Scientist: 'no doubt' that climate change is playing a role in U.S. fires
(07/02/2012) A noted climate scientist says there is 'no doubt' that climate change is 'playing a role' in this year's series of record fires in the western U.S. A massive wildfire in Colorado has forced the evacuation of 36,000 people, destroyed over 300 homes, and killed two people. The devastation wrought by the Waldo Canyon Fire even prompted a visit form U.S. President Barack Obama. But this is not the only epic fire in the U.S. this year: less than a month before the Colorado disaster, New Mexico experienced its largest fire on record in Gila Nation Forest; the conflagration burned up 247,000 acres (100,000 hectares). Other major wildfires have occurred in Utah and Wyoming, as well as other parts of New Mexico and Colorado.
Despite moratorium and investigation, fires rage in key Sumatran peat swamp
(06/29/2012) Several fires are burning in a contested concession within Aceh Province's Tripa peat swamp raising questions about the efficacy of a high-profile investigation by Indonesian authorities, say environmentalists.
Pictures: Drought, high heat and winds fuel massive fires in Colorado
(06/28/2012) Lightning strikes have blatantly ignored the warnings of park service officials in Colorado, setting off the 87,000 + acre High Park fire, the 20,000 + acre fire near Pagosa Springs, and a more recent wildfire just outside Boulder.
Indonesian fires trigger haze alerts in Malaysia
(06/24/2012) Fires set for land clearing in Indonesia triggered health warnings in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia last week, reports the Associated Press.
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