“The largest Grand Strand wildfire in more than 30 years continues to burn this morning, creating billows of smoke so thick that roads are closed and visibility is near zero in areas north of Myrtle Beach. Officials say it might be days before the fire, which destroyed 70 homes and damaged 100 more early Thursday, can be brought under control,” reports the Charlotte Observor.
At about 7:30 Friday morning the SC Forestry Commission estimated the fire was about 40 percent contained. The Commission’s spokesperson added, “that could all go out the window” if winds start blowing Friday.
In a landmark study, Fire in the Earth System, published today in Science Magazine (membership required) a team of twenty-two scientists argue, “Fire influences global ecosystem patterns and processes, including vegetation distribution and structure, the carbon cycle, and climate. Although humans and fire have always coexisted, our capacity to manage fire remains imperfect and may become more difficult in the future as climate change alters fire regimes.“
According to a Scientific American review of the study, “‘This is a critical move away from the thinking that fires are just a disaster,’ says David Bowman, a professor of forest ecology at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, and a lead author of the report. Taken in isolation, each conflagration can cause massive human, economic and natural devastation, but as a broader force fire wields a much larger power”
SCIAM continues, “Across the globe, fires have been getting larger and stronger. ‘We are witnessing an increasing instance of these megafires,’ says Thomas Swetnam, director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona. This year alone has seen an increase in both the magnitude and deadliness of conflagrations sweeping Australia and the U.S. Southwest. In the past 20 years, the area scorched by fire in the western U.S. was six times greater than in the two decades that preceded it. These infernos are in large part a result of longer, drier summers, which are only poised to get worse with climate change, Swetnam explains.”