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Articles on Wildfires

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A helicopter drops water on a forest fire in Alaska. Michael Risinger/U.S. Army National Guard

As extreme fires transform Alaska’s boreal forest, deciduous trees put a brake on carbon loss and how fast the forest burns

A new study finds more deciduous trees like aspen are growing in after severe fires in the region, and that has some unexpected impacts.
In a year tied for the warmest on record globally, the U.S. was hit with costly hurricanes, wildfires, storms and drought. AP Photo/Noah Berger and Gerald Herbert

After a record 22 ‘billion dollar disasters’ in 2020, it’s time to overhaul US disaster policy – here’s how

NOAA released its list of climate and weather disasters that cost the nation more than $1 billion each. Like many climate and weather events this past year, it shattered the record.
Sampling wildfire smoke sometimes means sticking a tube out the window of an airplane. Brett Palm/University of Washington

Wildfire smoke changes dramatically as it ages, and that matters for downwind air quality – here’s what we learned flying through smoke plumes

Thousands of chemical compounds in wildfire smoke are interacting with each other and sunlight as the smoke travels. For people downwind, it can become more toxic over time.
Heat-damaged plastic pipes can continue to leach chemicals into water over time. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Plastic pipes are polluting drinking water systems after wildfires – it’s a risk in urban fires, too

A new study shows how toxic chemicals like benzene are leaching into water systems after nearby fires. The pipes don't have to burn – they just have to heat up.
A mixed-conifer forest in the central Sierra Nevada after restoration, with unthinned forest in the background. Roger Bales

Restoring California’s forests to reduce wildfire risks will take time, billions of dollars and a broad commitment

Restoring western forests – thinning out small trees and dead wood – is an important strategy for reducing the risk of massive wildfires. But these projects aren't fast, easy or cheap.
A red hazy sunset over Indiana caused by wildfire smoke from the Western U.S. SOPA Images/LightRocket va Getty Images

How can smoke from West Coast fires cause red sunsets in New York?

Last week, much of the Midwest and eastern US experienced hazy skies and red sunsets. The cause was smoke transported from the Western US by the jet stream and spread as far as Boston and even Europe.
An airtanker drops retardant to help stop the spread of the 2015 Eyrie Fire in the foothills of Boise, Idaho, which was ignited by sparks from construction equipment. Austin Catlin, BLM/Flickr

Humans ignite almost every wildfire that threatens homes

Wildfires aren't always wild. Many of the most expensive and damaging fires happen in suburban areas, and nearly all blazes in these zones are started by humans.

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