Science

US in the grip of ‘extreme heat wave’ and California wildfire alarm

Published: 24.07.2022 – 08:07Modified: 07/24/2022 – 08:21

The United States is facing extreme heat this weekend, with temperatures expected to peak on Sunday, as the state of California has been hit by an “explosive” wildfire particularly threatening Yosemite National Park and its giant sequoias.

After Europe and India, the USA. An “extreme heat wave” hit tens of millions of Americans this weekend, with many temperature records expected in the center and northeast, and wildfire spreading alarmingly across California.

An “oak fire” that authorities are calling “explosive” broke out on Friday, July 22, in Mariposa County, near Yosemite National Park and its giant sequoias.

It has already moved about 4,800 acres, destroying ten properties and damaging five others, according to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection bulletin Saturday.

Several roads were cut and evacuations were ordered in several areas, while an “extreme activity” fire involving more than 500 firefighters was out of control on Saturday, according to the same source.

Over 6,000 people evacuated

Officials cited by the Los Angeles Times estimated that it would likely take a week to trace it.

More than 6,000 people were evacuated, a California fire department spokesman said, adding that officials from various departments flocked from across the state to lend a helping hand.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a “state of emergency” in Mariposa County on Saturday due to a situation of “extreme danger to life and property.” This allows, in particular, to free up funding.

>> Read also: “European countries are being tested by heat waves that are becoming more intense and frequent”

According to UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, the fire “spread significantly in almost all directions” “in conditions of high fuel and severe drought.”

“It looks like the series of relatively small, non-destructive wildfires that California has suffered this season has come to an end,” he added on Twitter.

The American West has already seen wildfires of exceptional magnitude and magnitude in recent years, with a very noticeable lengthening of the fire season, a phenomenon scientists have linked to climate change.

Heat wave spread to several states

Eyewitnesses have posted images on social media of a huge, spectacular swirl of thick smoke rising from the forest, similar to a tornado, a dangerous pyrocumulus phenomenon capable of starting a fire.

This fire is one of the most dramatic effects of the heat wave affecting the United States this weekend, in a localized area between California and Oregon in the west, but much more extensively in the center and northeast.

Temperatures in these two regions are not expected to peak until Sunday at the earliest. “From the southern plains to the east, temperatures will be extremely severe,” the National Weather Service (NWS) announced on Saturday evening, also warning of severe thunderstorms.

>> See: “In the pictures: France, Spain, Greece, Morocco… With heat, Europe and the Maghreb are on fire”

The suffocating heat was especially felt in the capital, Washington, where temperatures flirted with the symbolic 100-degree Fahrenheit (38-degree Celsius) threshold it was set to reach or exceed on Sunday for the first time in years.

Not spared and New York, where the temperature is approaching 35 degrees.

Temperatures can also reach 43 degrees in parts of Utah (west), Arizona (south) and the northeast, according to the NWS.

The heat wave has already led to an increase in calls to emergency services due to the discomfort associated with high temperatures.

“Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. It far outstrips any other nature-related killer,” Joseph Kralicek, director of the local emergency management agency in Tulsa, Oklahoma, told CNN.

Heat emergency

In Boston, where Mayor Michelle Wu has declared a “heat-related emergency” to open municipal cooling sites and extend swimming pools, it could be 37 degrees on Sunday.

This week, U.S. President Joe Biden reiterated the “clear and immediate danger” posed by climate change, “an existential threat to our country and the world.” But his wiggle room in Congress and the Supreme Court is limited.

This year, the planet has already recorded several heat waves, for example, in July in Western Europe or in India in March-April. According to scientists, their multiplication is a sure sign of climate change.

In June 2021, an extremely rare “heat dome” wreaked havoc on the west coast of the US and Canada, killing more than 500 people and starting major fires in temperatures approaching 50 degrees.

With AFP

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