Category Archives: air quality / visibility

Fires in Russia and China

Fires in Russia and China : Natural Hazards.

Fires in Russia and China

acquired October 8, 2011 download large image (5 MB, JPEG)
acquired October 8, 2011 download GeoTIFF file (35 MB, TIFF)
acquired October 8, 2011 download Google Earth file (KMZ)

Smoke clouds the skies across northeastern China and southeastern Russia in this image taken on October 8, 2011, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Widespread fires are marked in red.

The dry, windy weather of autumn created hazardous fire conditions in northeast China. On October 9, officials in Heilongjiang province raised the fire alert level to its second-highest level, said Xinhua news. Russian officials, meanwhile, reported monitoring four large wildfires in the Far Eastern Federal District, which includes the area shown here.

  1. References

  2. EMERCOM of Russia. (2011, October 10). Fire situation as of 06:00 10.10.2011. Accessed October 10, 2011.
  3. Xinhua. (2011, October 9). Hundreds evacuated for grassland fire in NE China. China Daily. Accessed October 10, 2011.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Aqua – MODIS

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Release : January 19, 2017
Country : United States of America.
Production Company : Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Blinding Edge Pictures.
Language : English.
Runtime : 117 min.
Genre : Horror, Thriller.

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Climate change set to increase ozone-related deaths over next 60 years, scientists warn

Climate change set to increase ozone-related deaths over next 60 years, scientists warn.

ScienceDaily (Sep. 27, 2011) — Scientists are warning that death rates linked to climate change will increase in several European countries over the next 60 yrs.

A new study, which is being presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Amsterdam, predicts that Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal will see the biggest climate-induced increase in ozone-related deaths over the next 60 years.

The research is part of the Climate-TRAP project and its health impact assessment lead by Prof Bertil Forsberg from the Umea University in Sweden. The aim is to prepare the health sector for changing public health needs due to climate change.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change that has occurred since the 1970s caused over 140,000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004. In addition to its impact on clean air, drinking water and crop production, many deadly diseases such as malaria and those which cause diarrhea are particularly sensitive to climate change.

In this new research, the scientists used emission scenarios and models to assess the health impacts of a changing climate. They took projections from two greenhouse gas emission scenarios, A2 and A1B, and two global climate models, ECHAM4 and HADLEY, to simulate how the various future ozone levels are affected by climate change.

They compared four periods: baseline period (1961-1990); the current situation (1990-2009); nearer future (2012-2050); and further future (2041-2060).

The findings revealed that since 1961, Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands and the UK have seen the biggest impact on ozone-related deaths due to climate change. The results predicted that the biggest increase over the next 50 yrs is likely to be seen in Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal, who could expect an increase of between 10 and 14%. However, Nordic and Baltic countries are predicted to see a decrease over the same period.

Dr Hans Orru, air pollution expert from the Umea University and University of Tartu in Estonia, explains: “Ozone is a highly oxidative pollutant, linked with hospitalisations and deaths due to problems with the respiratory system. Ground-level ozone formation is due to rise as temperatures increase with climate change. The results of our study have shown the potential effects that climate change can have on ozone levels and how this change will impact upon the health of Europeans.”

Professor Marc Decramer, President of the ERS, said: “Outdoor air pollution is the biggest environmental threat in Europe. If we do not act to reduce levels of ozone and other pollutants, we will see increased hospital admissions, extra medication and millions of lost working days. As part of the European Respiratory Roadmap, which was launched last month, the ERS is calling for a collaborative approach between health professionals and policy makers, to protect vulnerable populations from the damaging effects air pollutants can have.”

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by European Lung Foundation, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Construction drives China's 'carbonizing dragon'

A ‘carbonizing dragon’: Construction drives China’s growing CO2 emissions.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2011) — Constructing buildings, power-plants and roads has driven a substantial increase in China’s carbon dioxide emission growth, according to a new study involving the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Fast growing capital investments in infrastructure projects led to the expansion of the construction industry and its energy and CO2 intensive supply chain, such as steel and cement production. As a result of this transformation of China’s economy, more and more CO2 was released per unit of gross domestic product — a reversion of a long-term trend.

Recently China became the world’s largest consumer of energy and emitter of CO2, overtaking the US. Previously the country’s greenhouse gas emissions growth was driven by rising consumption and exports. Today this growth is offset by emission savings from efficiency increases, but these savings are being hindered by the building of infrastructure — which is important as it dictates tomorrow’s emissions, the international team of researchers concludes.

The study, entitled “A ‘Carbonizing Dragon’: China’s fast growing CO2 emissions revisited”, is published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. It emphasizes that putting a low carbon infrastructure in place in China as well as other emerging and developing economies from the beginning is a key global challenge to avoid ‘carbon lock-in’ — where a country could be stuck on a path of high emissions — which would have a significant and persistent impact on future emissions.

“The carbon intensive nature of capital investment in heavy industry, large infrastructure building projects, and energy production, might be hard to avoid as China tries to instigate a virtuous cycle of high rates of investment and economic growth,” explained Giovanni Baiocchi, from Norwich Business School at UEA and the lead UK author of the study.

“The high levels of CO2 emissions from capital investment might only be temporary as, with economic development, investment moves into more high-tech and greener technologies,” added Dr Baiocchi, a senior lecturer in business and climate change. “However, it is crucial that China now invests in the right kind of infrastructure to limit the growth of CO2 emissions that causes global warming. The type of infrastructure put in place today will also largely determine future mitigation costs.”

The study’s lead author Jan Minx, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Technical University of Berlin, said: “Up to 2002 there has been a race between consumption growth and efficiency gains. However, the recent rise in emissions is completely due to the massive structural change of China’s economy. Emissions grow faster and faster, because CO2 intensive sectors linked to the building of infrastructure have become more and more dominant. China has developed into a ‘carbonizing dragon’.”

The researchers conducted a ‘structural decomposition’ analysis of input-output data for 1992 to 2007 — the most recent official data available — which allowed them to assign changes in emission over time to a set of drivers such as consumption growth, efficiency gains or structural change.

They found that emissions almost tripled between 1992 and 2007, growing by about four billion tonnes, with 70% of this growth happening between 2002 and 2007. The average annual CO2 emission growth alone in this period was similar in size to the total CO2 emissions in the UK. While exports showed the fastest CO2 emission growth at one point, capital investments and the construction industry then overtook.

According to the study another important driver of emissions is urbanization — emissions from household consumption are more significant than the sheer growth of population or even the decreasing household size. When people move from the countryside to the city lifestyle changes take place. Urban dwellers, for example, tend to seek gas heating and electricity and also depend more upon a transport infrastructure to get to work, all of which implies a higher per capita carbon footprint.

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Japan struggles to rebuild

Insight: Japan struggles to rebuild, leaving lives in limbo | Reuters.

Severe storms hit the Midwest on Saturday and are expected later in the Northeast, where flash flooding killed at least four people in Pittsburgh on Friday.

Heavy rains submerged cars in flood water that was nine feet deep in places in Pittsburgh, authorities said.

A mother and her two daughters died when water engulfed their vehicle in a low-lying section of the city’s Washington Boulevard near the Allegheny River.

Kimberly Griffith, 45, and her daughters Brenna, 12, and Mikaela, 8, were pronounced dead at the scene, a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said.

The water pinned their vehicle to a tree and they were unable to escape, authorities said.

Also recovered after the flood was the body of Mary Saflin, 72, who had been reported missing earlier, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.

The Philadelphia area was also soaked by heavy thunder showers Friday, bringing a record rainfall of 12.95 inches for August, close to the record for any month, according to NWS meteorologist Lee Robertson.

The previous record is from September 1999, set when a hurricane pushed rainfall to 13.07 inches.

As more storms were forecast for the region Sunday, the NWS warned in a flood advisory that nearly half of all flood fatalities are vehicle-related.

“As little as six inches of water will cause you to lose control of your vehicle,” the NWS stated.


The Weather Channel forecast more storms from the Great Lakes to the Central Plains into Saturday night.

One man died as storms and a tornado roared across northern Wisconsin Friday night, cutting an 8-mile-wide swath 65 miles north of Green Bay and taking out power to around 2,000 homes, officials said.

Douglas Brem, 43, was staying in a rented trailer at a recycling center in the path of the storm, which caused extensive damage to homes, Marinette County Coroner George Smith said.

A fierce thunderstorm in the Chicago area Saturday suspended the Chicago Air & Water Show until about 2 p.m., leaving time for a condensed show. The two-day free annual event was expected to attract around 2 million spectators.

Saturday’s thunderstorm threat will shift to the Northeast Sunday.

The Southeastern Virginia Hampton Roads region was spared from severe storm activity, but smoke from a 6,000-acre fire in the Great Dismal Swamp continues to plague the region down into North Carolina.

Virginia’s Environmental Quality Department downgraded Friday’s air quality red alert in some areas to orange, advising of possible health problems for sensitive individuals.

(Additional reporting by John Rondy in Milwaukee, Cynthia Johnston in Las Vegas, Matthew A. Ward in Chesapeake, Va., David Warner in Philadelphia; Writing by Molly O’Toole and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton)



<span class="articleLocation”>More than five months after a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a deadly tsunami ravaged Japan’s northeast coast, the nation has yet to come up with a detailed action plan and the money needed to rebuild the devastated areas.

The following is a summary of where Japan’s rebuilding efforts stand.


— About 15,690 were killed, 4,740 are missing, and 5,710 were injured.

— Many of about 5.6 million residents of the three prefectures worst hit by the March disaster have lost their homes and the number of evacuees peaked at more than 475,000 on March 14.

— Some 9,900 still live in evacuation shelters while 34,100 are staying in hotels or with relatives or friends and about 40,000 live in temporary housing.

— Japan’s northeast is aging faster than other area of a country whose population is already graying at a rapid pace. By 2030, 31.6 percent of the population is expected to be above 65 in Tohoku, whereas the country-wide estimate is 29.6 percent.

According to BNP Paribas estimates the region’s working population shrunk 8.4 percent over the past 15 years and is expected to decline by further 12.6 percent over the next decade.


— The quake and tsunami left an estimated 22.6 million tonnes of rubble in the coastal towns. Out of that, nearly half has been moved to temporary storage destinations.

— By end-August, the government aims to remove debris from areas where people live and work and this goal is likely to be met. But removal of all rubble and dismantling of damaged buildings will take months, if not years, and the government aims to dispose the stored rubble by end of March, 2014.


— The quake and tsunami destroyed supply chains given that the northeast is home to many manufacturers. Japan’s gross domestic product fell 0.9 percent in the first quarter, tipping the economy into its second recession in three years. But in the second quarter, the economy shrank much less than foreseen as companies made strides in restoring output and is expected to bounce by 1.2 percent this quarter — probably the best performance among major industrialized nations.

— The government initially estimated the material damage from the March 11 disaster at 16-25 trillion yen ($190-$300 billion) but later lowered it to 16.9 trillion yen ($210 billion). The estimated damage is roughly double that from the 1995 Kobe earthquake.


— The government enacted its first extra budget of 4 trillion ($50 billion) in May, and its second emergency budget of 2 trillion ($25 billion) in July.

— The government hopes to pass the third extra budget by the end of September under a new prime minister, though whether this can materialize so quickly is unclear.


— Northeast Japan is known for fishing and farming. Damages in the fishing industry are estimated at 1.23 trillion yen. About 320 fishing ports, or 11 percent of all fishing ports in Japan, have been closed due to the March disaster and it would take at least another decade for full operations to resume at these ports.

— About 2.6 percent of the total farm area in Japan, or 23,600 Ha, has been washed away or submerged due to the disaster.


— The Japanese Red Cross Society has so far collected 259 billion yen in relief money. Out of this, about 48 percent has been distributed to disaster victims, while the remaining amount is stuck at overburdened local governments.

(Sources: The Cabinet Office’s Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, Environment Ministry, Fukushima Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Statistics Bureau, Fisheries Agency, Farm Ministry, Japanese Red Cross Society, Cabinet Office, National Police Agency, Tohoku Trade department)

(Reporting by Yuko Takeo; Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota)


Alaskan Volcano Gearing Up For Big Explosion?

Alaskan Volcano Could Be Gearing Up For Big Explosion | Care2 Causes.

44 comments Alaskan Volcano Could Be Gearing Up For Big Explosion


A volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands has been erupting since the end of July, and could be gathering steam for a much more severe explosion.

According to scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), the Cleveland Volcano, a 5,676-foot peak located about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage has been seeping magma for several days. But this activity could only be a precursor to an explosive event powerful enough to send ash into the atmosphere.

“The dome, if it continues to grow, could plug up the crater, creating pressure that could result in “a fairly sizable explosion that could throw ash up to flight levels,” said John Power, scientist in charge at the observatory, a joint federal-state operation.

Observers on a August 8 NOAA flight photographed a small, dark-colored dome centered at the bottom of the summit crater. In the last clear satellite view of the summit on August 9 the lava dome was about 60 meters (197 feet) in diameter.

Location of Cleveland volcano and other Aleutian volcanoes with respect to nearby cities and towns.

The volcano is situated on Chuginadak Island which is currently uninhabited, so no humans are in immediate danger even if the volcano does produce a bigger eruption. The closest community to the volcano is Nikolski, an Aleut village of about 20 people located 45 miles to the east. However, the island does lie directly in the North America-to-Asia flight corridor used by major airlines.

Powers also said that the secretion of lava and the building of a bigger dome is uncharacteristic for the Cleveland Volcano, but big explosions of other Alaskan volcanoes have occurred following  a dome-building event.

The observatory says the last significant eruption of the 5,676-foot volcano began in February 2001 and eventually produced a lava flow that reached the ocean.

You can keep up with the Cleveland Volcano’s progress at the AVO website.

Read more:

Fires in Eastern Russia

Fires in Eastern Russia : Image of the Day.

Fires in Eastern Russia

acquired July 28, 2011 download large image (3 MB, JPEG)
acquired July 28, 2011 download GeoTIFF file (34 MB, TIFF)
acquired July 28, 2011 download Google Earth file (KMZ)

192 fires burned throughout the Russian Federation on July 28, 2011. Most of the fires burned in the northwest, but the fires in the Far East were far more impressive from space.

This image, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite, shows fires burning in parts of Khabarovsk, Amur, and Sakha (Yahkutiya) on July 28, 2011. The large image (download) shows many more fires across the broader region. The fires are marked in red. The Russian government reported 19 large fires in this region on July 28, and RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency, reported 41 fires on July 29.

While the fires are widespread, it is the dense smoke that stands out. The fires are not threatening any settlements, according to the Russian government, but the smoke poses its own risks. Smoke carries tiny particles that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system.

It’s not possible to tell from the image how the fires started, but 90 percent of the fires that start within 90 kilometers of a settlement in Russia are caused by people. Beyond that point, 40 percent of the fires are set by people and 60 percent are caused by lightning.

The Russian government has dedicated 7,328 people to fighting wildfires throughout the country. Weather conditions in the Far East were challenging.

  1. References

  2. AIRNow. (n.d.). Smoke from agricultural and forest fires. Accessed July 31, 2011.
  3. EMERCOM of Russia. (2011, July 29). Fire situation on the territory of the Russian Federation. Accessed July 31, 2011.
  4. RIA Novosti. (2011, July 29). Firefighters continue to battle wildfires in Russia’s Far East. Accessed July 31, 2011.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Warming Arctic releases frozen organic air pollutants

Warming Arctic releases frozen organic air pollutants – environment – 28 July 2011 – New Scientist.

  • 28 July 2011

Air pollutants emitted decades ago are coming back to haunt us. As the Arctic warms, persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, trapped in snow and ice are being re-released. This unwelcome return has been suspected for some time but is now confirmed by 16 years’ worth of data.

POPs travel around the globe on winds, build up in food and water supplies, and accumulate in animal body fat. They have also been linked to serious human health problems, including cancer, and can be passed from mother to fetus. They have been banned under the Stockholm convention since 2004.

The new study looked at air concentrations of POPs up to 2009 in Svalbard, Norway, and in Canada’s Nunavut province, and found an increase since 2000 (Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1167).

Despite progress, huge fire near Los Alamos mostly out of control

Despite progress, huge fire near Los Alamos mostly out of control –

fire still blazes out of control


  • NEW: The Las Conchas fire is 19% contained as of Sunday night
  • Air quality is expected to be “very unhealthy” Monday in parts of New Mexico
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory will reopen to employees Wednesday
  • Roadblocks are lifted around Los Alamos, N.M., allowing evacuees to come home

(CNN) — Despite relatively favorable conditions and some progress, a massive wildfire continued to burn Sunday night in northern New Mexico — threatening national forests, archaeological sites and structures while causing air quality problems around the state.

The Las Conchas fire scorched more than 120,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 buildings by late Sunday, the federal Incident Management Team reported on its website.

The damage has occurred in the span of one week, with New Mexico State Forester Tony Delfin announcing Sunday night that it began June 26 when strong winds knocked down an aspen tree. The tree caught fire after falling on a nearby power line, then hit the ground and sparked nearby vegetation.

Brad Pitassi, an Incident Management Team spokesman for the Southwest, stressed that the fire remains “very active,” as it was only 19% contained by Sunday night.

Air conditions will be “very unhealthy” Monday because of the fire, with its ill effects felt in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Espanola, Taos and other communities, according to a press release from federal agencies associated with the firefight. Authorities are encouraging the elderly, children and those with heart or lung disease to stay indoors.

Still, for all the continued challenges, firefighters made some significant progress over the weekend.

Most notably, Los Alamos County Police Chief Wayne Torpy announced that all but two roadblocks around the county were lifted by 8 a.m. Sunday, allowing roughly 10,000 residents to come back to town. The decision was made after a positive assessment from the Incident Management Team that is coordinating the fight.

The move came after relatively favorable weather conditions — including fairly high humidity and weak winds — in recent days, said Pitassi.

“We’ve been really encouraged the last 48 hours,” he said.

The evacuees’ return, Pitassi noted, was largely due to progress subduing flames on the southwest edge of Los Alamos. But a lot of work remains to be done, with firefighters viewing battling the blaze — like many others like it around the region — as “marathons, not sprints,”

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Pitassi said. “This will take a long time to contain.”

Since starting last week, the Las Conchas fire quickly expanded into the Santa Fe National Forest and Jemez Ranger District. It spread rapidly due to strong winds, high temperatures and dry conditions that have similarly fueled dozens of other fires around the region.

The fire has since engulfed much of the national forest, the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Park.

It also prompted the closure of Los Alamos National Laboratory. On Saturday the state of emergency for the lab was lifted, and the lab announced Sunday that it will reopen to employees Wednesday. At no time were nuclear or hazardous materials on site threatened, the laboratory said in a statement, adding it was moving into an “operational recovery mode.”

More than 2,100 personnel are battling the fire, with 81 fire engines, 30 water tenders, 18 helicopters and eight bulldozers also being utilized in the effort.

Some 20 archaeologists are also part of the team, charged with identifying and helping to minimize damage from spreading fires or suppression efforts. At least one is assigned to each bulldozer and road grader, one of a host of measures taken to protect archaeological sites, according to the Incident Management Team. The fire already burned over many such sites in the area, which is known for its Native American history.

Citing National Weather Service forecasts, Pitassi said temperatures in the fire zone were expected to peak between 80 and 90 degrees “over the next day or so.” Humidity was expected to be between 18% and 26% Sunday before rising slightly over the next 24 hours. Winds will be between 3 to 15 mph, except in deeper canyons where they could blow as fast as 25 mph.

While one of the largest and least contained currently, the Las Conchas fire is just one of dozens still burning in the United States, especially in the southwest. Several of those are also in New Mexico, including the 10,000-acre Pacheco fire about 25 miles west of Los Alamos and the Donaldson fire near Hondo that has charred 96,745 acres and is 50% contained.

Pitassi said that a combination of “extremely dry fuels,” rugged terrain, strong winds and very warm temperatures have led to a “record-breaking year” for wildfires in the United States — and one that still has no clear end in sight.

“We’ve had almost a perfect-storm scenario,” he said. 

Los Alamos fires continue to rage, officials remain hopeful

Los Alamos fires continue to rage, officials remain hopeful –

(CNN) — Against the backdrop of a fire-tinted evening sky, Los Alamos, New Mexico, Fire Chief Doug Tucker told reporters that Wednesday was make-it-or-break-it and he was pleased with the progress firefighters made against a stubborn, destructive raging blaze.

“It makes me feel sad to see the plume behind me,” he said, motioning to the grey mass of smoke that dominated the horizon. “But … we’re in the best shape since this thing started.”

The Los Alamos fire, which is officially called the Las Conchas fire, sparked the evacuation of nearly 10,000 people from the town of Los Alamos. Officials estimated the fire consumed an additional 15,000-20,000 acres Wednesday — bringing the total to about 90,000 acres — but they remained optimistic.

Jerome MacDonald, operations section chief for the multi-state southwest area Incident management team, said fire officials plan to flank the fire on the east side Thursday in an attempt to curb high winds predicted from the southwest.

Concerns were raised that the wildfire could put the Los Alamos National Laboratory at risk, as well as waste or other toxic materials stored at the lab.

Wildfire threatens Los Alamos lab
Wildfire inches closer to Los Alamos lab

But Tucker said that the waste is stored in drums that are kept on a blacktop with no vegetation around and are safe from fire. If the fire should get too close to the drums, firefighters were ready to use foam to ensure that nothing would be released into the environment, he said.

The Las Conchas Fire began on private land Sunday and expanded into the Santa Fe National Forest and Jemez Ranger District, according to InciWeb, an online database that keeps track of natural disasters such as fires and floods.

The fire was 3% contained Wednesday.

In a news statement released Wednesday, the Santa Fe National Forest and Valles Caldera National Preserve said that parts of both preserves would close to the public until the fire is more controlled.

Parts of the national forest have been placed under “stage III” fire restrictions, meaning all areas are off-limits for use unless otherwise posted.

The Las Conchas Fire touches the south border of the lab’s 40-square-mile facility, and comes close to the west border, according to Tucker.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez warned citizens to avoid using fireworks on the July Fourth holiday and the rest of the season.

The Las Conchas Fire is one of several burning in the region.

The Donaldson and Game Fires south of the town of Hondo and U.S. Highway 70 have merged into one fire that has consumed an estimated 15,000 acres and is 0% contained, according to the New Mexico Fire Information website.

Evacuations were ordered for Alamo Canyon Wednesday as the Donaldson fire continues to threaten parts of Lincoln County.

The Pacheco Fire continues to burn in the Pecos Wilderness, two miles north of the Santa Fe Ski Basin. It has scorched 10,000 acres since it began June 18.

The blaze was 20% contained early Wednesday, but it’s likely to continue growing, according to InciWeb.