EYE-WITNESS TO WILDFIRES

04/01/2013 11:08

            Chief of Fire and Aviation Management Yosemite National Park, Kelly Martin, will be the speaker at the Forum open to the public at the HCC Conference Center, Thursday, April 4, 2013, on the topic “Wildfire in a Changing Environment: Fire’s critical role on our landscapes in the face of global climate change.”

            Kelly Martin, Freeport native and daughter of Pat and Mickey Martin, will share her insights regarding her observations on the trials and tribulations of the wildland fire culture, as well as its relation to global climate change. Kelly earned her degree in Environmental Education from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin and started her National Park Service career at Apostle Islands National lake shore on Lake Superior. She then went on to work for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, and presently serves on incident command fire teams as a fire behavioral analyst.

            In the region where we live, fires are a threat to forestland, especially during dry seasons. Our history includes large prairie fires that had a role in our landscape. Today, keeping necessary controlled burns of prairie grasses from spreading continues to be a threat.  But for most of us, our experience with acres of burning landscape as it occurs in the wildlands of western U.S is limited to news coverage.

            In Northwest Illinois we live with changing weather patterns usually focused on our local weather. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/)  looks ahead using today’s technology to predict weather conditions three months at a time with varying levels of certainty. The Outlook is based on a number of factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensus among climate forecast models. NOAA issued the three month U.S. Spring Outlook on March 21, 2013 , stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States and that river flooding is likely to be worse. Next outlook April 4th

            That’s the weather, the short term picture. Climate is determined by the changing weather patterns around the world over history and an understanding of the natural forces at work in the atmosphere that determine what we can expect in the future. For example: ice core measurements reveal that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least 800,000 years; for every 2 degrees F of warming we can expect to see a 200-400 % increase in the area burned by wildfire in parts of the western United States. Get more climate change facts and answers to common questions at www.epa.gov/climatechange/facts.html.

            Don’t miss this chance to get firsthand observations at the Forum, April 4, 7:30 at HCC.

 

Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 03/27/13 (for publication on 03/30/13 in the Journal-Standard, Freeport, Illinois). Della can be reached at info@stephensonswcd.org

 

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