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EU assists #Sweden in fighting #ForestFires

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The European Commission has helped mobilize two firefighting planes from Italy via the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism, following a request for assistance from Sweden due to the very high forest fire risk that the country is facing. This is the second time this summer Sweden has asked for support, due to heavy fires this year.

In addition, the EU's emergency Copernicus Satellite mapping system has been activated to help the Swedish civil protection authorities. "The European Union stands in full solidarity with Sweden. Our thoughts are with all the people affected and also with first responders and the firefighters working to tackle the fires. I thank Italy for its immediate offer of two planes. This is solidarity in a Europe that protects," said Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides.

The planes will arrive tonight and start operating immediately and continue to do so as long as necessary. The Commission's Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre is closely monitoring the situation in Sweden and the forest fire risk across Europe.

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Photos and video stockshots of the Emergency Centre are available, as well as a MEMO 'Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works'.

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Climate change

Copernicus: A summer of wildfires saw devastation and record emissions around the Northern Hemisphere

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The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service has been closely monitoring a summer of extreme wildfires across the Northern Hemisphere, including intense hotspots around the Mediterranean basin and in North America and Siberia. The intense fires led to new records in the CAMS dataset with the months of July and August seeing their highest global carbon emissions respectively.

Scientists from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) have been closely monitoring a summer of severe wildfires which have impacted many different countries across the Northern Hemisphere and caused record carbon emissions in July and August. CAMS, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the EU, reports that not only large parts of the Northern Hemisphere were affected during this year’s boreal fire season, but the number of fires, their persistence and intensity were remarkable.

As the boreal fire season draws to a close, CAMS scientists reveal that:

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  • Dry conditions and heatwaves in the Mediterranean contributed to a wildfire hotspot with many intense and fast developing fires across the region, which created large amounts of smoke pollution.
  • July was a record month globally in the GFAS dataset with 1258.8 megatonnes of CO2 released. More than half of the carbon dioxide was attributed to fires in North America and Siberia.
  • According to GFAS data, August was a record month for fires as well, releasing an estimated 1384.6 megatonnes of CO2 globally into the atmosphere.
  • Arctic wildfires released 66 megatonnes of CO2 between June and August 2021.
  • Estimated CO2 emissions from wildfires in Russia as a whole from June to August amounted to 970 megatonnes, with the Sakha Republic and Chukotka accounting for 806 megatonnes.

Scientists at CAMS use satellite observations of active fires in near-real-time to estimate emissions and predict the impact of resulting air pollution. These observations provide a measure of the heat output of fires known as fire radiative power (FRP), which is related to the emission. CAMS estimates daily global fire emissions with its Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) using the FRP observations from the NASA MODIS satellite instruments. The estimated emissions of different atmospheric pollutants are used as a surface boundary condition in the CAMS forecast system, based on the ECMWF weather forecast system, which models the transport and chemistry of atmospheric pollutants, to predict how global air quality will be affected up to five days ahead.

The boreal fire season typically lasts from May to October with peak activity taking place between July and August. In this summer of wildfires, the most affected regions were:

Mediterranean

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Many nations in eastern and central Mediterranean suffered the effects of intense wildfires throughout July and August with smoke plumes clearly visible in satellite imagery and CAMS analyses and forecasts crossing the eastern Mediterranean basin. As southeast Europe experienced prolonged heatwave conditions, CAMS data showed daily fire intensity for Turkey reaching the highest levels in the GFAS dataset dating back to 2003. Following the fires in Turkey, other countries in the region went on to be affected by devastating wildfires including Greece, Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Fires also hit the Iberian Peninsula in August, affecting vast parts of Spain and Portugal, especially a large area near Navalacruz in the Avila province, just west of Madrid. Extensive wildfires were also registered east of Algiers in northern Algeria, CAMS GFAS forecasts showing high surface concentrations of the polluting fine particulate matter PM2.5.

Siberia

While the Sakha Republic in northeastern Siberia typically experiences some degree of wildfire activity every summer, 2021 has been unusual, not just in size but also the persistence of high-intensity blazes since the beginning of June. A new emissions record was set on 3rd August for the region and emissions were also more than double the previous June to August total. In addition, the daily intensity of the fires reached above average levels since June and only began to subside in early September. Other areas affected in Siberia have been the Chukotka Autonomous Oblast (including parts of the Arctic Circle) and the Irkutsk Oblast. The increased activity observed by CAMS scientists corresponds with increased temperatures and decreased soil moisture in the region.

North America

Large scale wildfires have been burning in western regions of North America throughout July and August affecting several Canadian provinces as well as the Pacific Northwest and California. The so-called Dixie Fire which raged across northern California is now one of the biggest ever recorded in the state’s history. Resulting pollution from the persistent and intense fire activity affected the air quality for thousands of people in the region. CAMS global forecasts also showed a mixture of smoke from the long-running wildfires burning in Siberia and North America travelling across the Atlantic. A clear plume of smoke was seen moving across the north Atlantic and reaching western parts of the British Isles in late August before crossing the rest of Europe. This happened as Saharan dust was travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic including a section over southerly areas of the Mediterranean resulting in reduced air quality. 

Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist and wildfire expert at the ECMWF Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said: “Throughout the summer we have been monitoring wildfire activity across the Northern Hemisphere. What stood out as unusual were the number of fires, the size of the areas in which they were burning, their intensity and also their persistence. For example, the wildfires in Sakha Republic in northeastern Siberia have been burning since June and only started receding in late August although we have been observing some continuing fires in early September. It’s a similar story in North America, parts of Canada, the Pacific Northwest and California, which have been experiencing large wildfires since the end of June and beginning of July and are still ongoing.”

“It is concerning that drier and hotter regional conditions - brought about by global warming - increase the flammability and fire risk of vegetation. This has led to very intense and fast-developing fires. While the local weather conditions play a role in the actual fire behaviour, climate change is helping provide the ideal environments for wildfires. More fires around the world are anticipated in the coming weeks, too, as the fire season in the Amazon and South America continues to develop,” he added.

More information on wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere during summer 2021.

The CAMS Global Fire Monitoring page can be accessed here.

Find out more about fire monitoring in the CAMS Wildfire Q&As.

Copernicus is a component of the European Union’s space programme, with funding by the EU, and is its flagship Earth observation programme, which operates through six thematic services: Atmosphere, Marine, Land, Climate Change, Security and Emergency. It delivers freely accessible operational data and services providing users with reliable and up-to-date information related to our planet and its environment. The programme is coordinated and managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with the Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), EU Agencies and Mercator Océan, amongst others.

ECMWF operates two services from the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation programme: the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They also contribute to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS), which is implemented by the EU Joint Research Council (JRC). The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 34 states. It is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its member states. This data is fully available to the national meteorological services in the member states. The supercomputer facility (and associated data archive) at ECMWF is one of the largest of its type in Europe and member states can use 25% of its capacity for their own purposes.

ECMWF is expanding its location across its member states for some activities. In addition to an HQ in the UK and Computing Centre in Italy, new offices with a focus on activities conducted in partnership with the EU, such as Copernicus, will be located in Bonn, Germany from Summer 2021.


The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service website.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service website. 

More information on Copernicus.

The ECMWF website.

Twitter:
@CopernicusECMWF
@CopernicusEU
@ECMWF

#EUSpace

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Disasters

Fire in North Macedonian COVID-19 hospital kills at least 14

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Fourteen people were killed and 12 seriously injured when a fire broke out in a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients in the North Macedonian town of Tetovo late on Wednesday (8 September), the Balkan country's health ministry said today (9 September), writes Fatos Bytyc, Reuters.

The prosecutor's office said DNA analyses would be needed to identify some of the victims, all of them patients in a serious condition. No medical staff were among the victims.

The total of 26 patients were accommodated in the COVID-19 hospital at the time of the fire, said Health Minister Venko Filipce.

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"The remaining 12 patients with life-threatening injuries are being taken care at the Tetovo hospital," Filipce said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the fire was caused by an explosion, and that the investigation was under the way. Local media said that a canister with oxygen or gas may have exploded.

A hospital for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients is seen after a fire broke out, in Tetovo, North Macedonia, September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Local media showed images of a huge blaze which broke out around 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) at the hospital in the town's west as firefighters raced to the scene. The fire was extinguished after a few hours.

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The accident occurred on the day when North Macedonia marked the 30th anniversary of its independence from the former Yugoslavia. All official celebrations and events were cancelled on Thursday, said the office of President Stevo Pendarovski.

Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in North Macedonia since mid-August, prompting the government to introduce stricter social measures such as health passes for cafes and restaurants.

The country of 2 million reported 701 new coronavirus infections and 24 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The town of Tetovo, mainly inhabited by ethnic Albanians, has one of the country's highest number of coronavirus cases.

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Disasters

In Ida's wake, Louisiana faces a month with no power as heat soars

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South Louisiana braced for a month without electricity and reliable water supplies in the wake of Hurricane Ida, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US Gulf Coast, as people faced suffocating heat and humidity, write Devika Krishna Kumar, Nathan Layne, Devikda Krishna Kumar in New Orleans, Peter Szekely in New York, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey, Maria Caspani in New York and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Maria Caspani and Daniel Trotta.

The storm killed at least four people, officials said, a toll that might have been much larger if not for a fortified levee system built around New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago.

(Graphic of Hurricane Ida hitting Gulf Coast)

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By early Tuesday, about 1.3 million customers were without power 48 hours after the storm made landfall, most of them in Louisiana, said PowerOutage, which gathers data from U.S. utility companies.

Officials were unable to complete a full damage assessment because downed trees clogged roads, said Deanne Criswell, chief of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Compounding the suffering, the heat index in much of Louisiana and Mississippi reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), the National Weather Service said.

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"We all want air-conditioning ... Even if you have a generator, after so many days they fail," said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

"Nobody is satisfied" with the estimate that power might not be restored for 30 days, he added, expressing hope that the 20,000 line workers in the state and thousands more en route could finish sooner.

President Joe Biden offered federal help in restoring power during a call with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and the chiefs of two of the Gulf Coast's largest utilities, Entergy (ETR.N) and Southern Co (SO.N), the White House said.

At Ochsner St. Anne Hospital southwest of New Orleans, 6,000-gallon tanker trucks pumped fuel and water into tanks to keep its air-conditioning running. The medical center closed to all but a few emergency patients.

New Orleans' restaurants, many shut ahead of the storm, also face an uncertain future because of a lack of electricity and facilities, reviving memories of the difficulties that plagued businesses for weeks in the wake of Katrina.

"This is definitely feeling like Katrina," said Lisa Blount, a spokesperson for the city's oldest eatery, Antoine's, which is a landmark in the French Quarter. "To hear the power is potentially out for two to three weeks, that is devastating."

Even the power generators were hazardous. Nine people in St. Tammany Parish northeast of New Orleans were taken to hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas-fueled generator, media said.

A man walks past a damaged electric line in a street after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. August 30, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello
A destroyed car is seen under the debris of a building after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, U.S., August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Roughly 440,000 people in Jefferson Parish south of New Orleans may be without electricity for a month or more after utility poles toppled, Councilman Deano Bonano said, citing comments by power officials.

"The damage from this is far worse than Katrina, from a wind standpoint," Bonano said in a telephone interview.

Among the four dead were two killed in the collapse of a southeastern Mississippi highway that critically injured 10 more. One man died attempting to drive through high water in New Orleans and another when a tree fell on a Baton Rouge home.

Swampy areas south of New Orleans took the brunt of the storm. High waters finally receded from the highway to Port Fourchon, Louisiana's southernmost port, leaving a trail of dead fish. Seagulls swarmed the highway to eat them.

Port Fourchon suffered extensive damage, with some roads still blocked. Officials were only letting through emergency responders to Grand Isle, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. It could take weeks for roads to be cleared, they said.

A line of cars stretched at least a mile from a gas station stocked with fuel in Mathews, a community in Lafourche parish.

More than half the residents of Jefferson Parish rode out the storm at home, Bonano said, and many were left with nothing.

"There are no grocery stores open, no gas stations open. So they have nothing," he said.

The weakened remnants of the storm dumped heavy rain in neighboring Mississippi as it traveled toward Alabama and Tennessee. Heavy rainfall and flash flooding were possible on Wednesday (1 September) in the mid-Atlantic region and southern New England, forecasters said.

Sheriff's deputies in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana were investigating the disappearance of a 71-year-old man after an apparent alligator attack in the flood waters.

The man's wife told authorities that she saw a large alligator attack her husband on Monday in the tiny community of Avery Estates, about 35 miles (55 km) northeast of New Orleans. She stopped the attack and pulled her husband from the water.

His injuries were severe, so she took a small boat to get help, only to find her husband gone when she returned, the sheriff's office said in a statement.

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