Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Fort McMurray during the good times

Fort McMurray: Oil sands boomtown

Boom times,time town

2013
Fort McMurray, Alberta is the epicenter of oil sands mining and people from around the world have flocked to find jobs. High wages have inflated the cost of living and some struggle to manage the money they make. Some people spend too much on entertainment or get caught up in drug use. Others, though, have found success and are building new lives in Fort McMurray

The fires of the Himalayas

The Fires of Climate Change are Burning the Himalayas


3 May, 2016
It’s the highest mountain range in the world. Featuring peaks that scrape the sky, dwindling glaciers, and lush forests, these gentle giants are essential to the prosperity and stability of one of Asia’s greatest lands. For rainwater and glacial melt flowing out of the Himalayas feeds the rivers that are the very life-blood of India and her 1.25 billion people.
A major fire in the forests at Ahirikot in Srinagar, Uttarakhand state, India, Monday, May 2, 2016. Massive wildfires that have killed at least seven people in recent weeks were burning through pine forests in the mountains of northern India on Monday, including parts of two tiger reserves.(Press Trust of India via AP) INDIA OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO ARCHIVE
A major wildfire burns through the forests of Ahirikot in Srinagar, India on Monday, May 2, 2016. Massive wildfires that killed at least seven people over recent days burned through pine forests in the Himalaya mountains of northern India on Monday. (Image source: Press Trust of India)

But in 2016, amidst what is likely to be the most intense period of extreme heat to ever impact India, the Himalayas are burning.

Extreme Heat, Drought Kills Hundreds, Displaces Farmers, Puts Towns on Life Support

Throughout April and into early May temperatures have soared to well above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C) and to sometimes higher than 122 F (50 C) all across the broad plains at the feet of the Himalayas. There, water stress now affects more than 330 million people. There, water trains are now necessary to keep whole towns from suffering dehydration. Farmers who have seen fields transformed into a baked white hard-pan are migrating to the cities in search of food, water and work. And armed guards now patrol the local water sources in regions hardest hit by the drought — preventing private farmers from stealing public water supplies for their crops.

The temperatures are so high that more than 300 people have now perished as a result of heat injuries. And Indian officials have now banned cooking during the day in an effort to reduce loss of life. But today the forests themselves are cooking as the air is filled with the smoke of more than 21,000 fires burning upon the flanks of India’s great mountain ranges.
21,000 Himalayan Wildfires

The fires began as early as February after a dry Winter and two years of depleted monsoonal rains. They continued to build through March and April. State firefighters were called up to combat the blazes, but to no avail. The fires kept growing and expanding. By last week the fires had begun to rage out of control — threatening 84 villages and enveloping more and more of the precious natural forest reserves that India has worked so hard to husband. By Monday, seven people had been killed by the fires and two endangered tiger preserves had been partially consumed.

Himalayas Burning
Massive plume of smoke from Himalayan wildfires becomes visible in the LANCE MODIS satellite shot on May 1, 2016. For reference, bottom edge of frame is about 600 miles.

Now conditions are so extreme that an army of 9,000 firefighters, including helicopter fire suppression craft, have been mobilized by the government of India in a desperate effort to beat back the flames. Blazes that are belching out thick clouds of smoke that now choke the airs over 1,000 miles of the Indian subcontinent, the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, Thailand and Cambodia. A thickening slate-gray pall that is clearly visible in the satellite picture above.
In total, more than 21 districts in two Indian states are now affected by the most intense fire situation to strike India since 2012 and what could well become the worst burning season India has ever experienced. Already, number of fires started in the first four months of 2016 exceed the total number of fires during all of 2015. And India’s hottest months — May and June — are still ahead. So despite a massive firefighting effort, weather conditions will only continue to worsen during the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, the monsoonal rains, if they do muster sufficient strength to alleviate the drought, will not arrive in the mountains until late June or early July.
A Context of Climate Change

Weak monsoonal rains over the past two years have contributed to 2016’s severe drought and related wildfires. And a strong El Nino has likely abetted this monsoonal weakening. However, increasing global temperatures set up an overarching trend of heating and drying throughout India. One that is, all-too-likely, the larger driver of this year’s drought and burning. For these days, atmospheric temperatures are high enough to weaken the Southeast Asian Monsoon even without the influence of El Nino. In addition, rising temperatures over India have their own localized drying effect. In the Himalayas, a warming of about 0.6 degrees C per decade since 1977 has generated a decline in glaciers. This decline causes mountain streams and rivers to dwindle — increasing both drought and fire risk. The added heat also increases the rate of evaporation — parching the soil.

As a result, the current drought, heatwaves, and wildfires in India occur in a context of human-caused climate change. Hitting an intensity we would not have seen in the world of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Thus, fossil fuel burning has, almost certainly, set the stage for the unprecedented conditions that India is now experiencing today. Conditions that will continue to worsen as more hothouse gas emissions hit the world’s airs. The current crisis in India should, therefore, not be viewed as temporary, but as part of an ongoing trend.
Links:
Hat tip to Redsky
Hat tip to TodaysGuestIs


Radio Eco Shock Radio on Tar Sands fire


Fort Mac Fire - What did they think was going to happen?

Fort McMurray Alberta, the hub of the Tar Sands, was evacuated today due to encroaching fires. It was 32 degrees C, about 90 F, insane heat for early May. All part of changes to Arctic and sub-Arctic due to melting sea ice, scientists like Jennifer Francis say.

Tune in to my Radio Ecoshock show blog at ecoshock.info



Nature Bats Last

Karma.




The high temperature there is 89°F today and is expected to be the same tomorrow. In early May, at 53° N. Latitude

"It would seem the worst has happened. The tar sands have caught fire"

Once the fire is in the tar sands they may NEVER put it out

"Let's not forget that if the fire gets in to the tar sands they may NEVER put it out"

--KevinHester

Take this as an example - 

Strongman mine fire still burning after 17 years



12 November, 2013

The smouldering underground fire that has been burning in the old Strongman Mine since August 1996 has forced workers at the small-scale open-cast mining operation above to take precautions..

Solid Energy spokesman Bryn Somerville said the mining team at the site, in the Nine Mile valley, was regularly working through areas of heated rock and coal so special care was needed in the planning and operation of mining activity.

The company also had consent to divert water from the site to cool areas of heating underground.

The underground fire has raged for 17 years, despite Solid Energy's best efforts to extinguish it. They have tried to quench it, injected grout barriers, removed coal ahead of the fire areas and attempted to starve it of air, all without success.

A comment on my blog -


"This probably won't happen, as the energy density of the tar sands bitumen is near that of white bread. Coal on the other hand, is relatively dense."

We might never know?

80,000 evacuated in Port McMurray

This appears to be the latest

80,000 evacuated as fire threatens city

An uncontrolled wildfire is spreading in the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, forcing 80,000 residents to flee for safety.

3 May, 2016

Alberta is racing to evacuate thousands of people as an uncontrolled wildfire burns near Fort McMurray, in the heart of Canada's oil sands region, forcing residents to flee north to safety.

Alberta appealed for help from other provinces and Ottawa to help fight the fire and airlift people from the city. Local authorities issued a mandatory evacuation order for all of Fort McMurray, which affects the city's 80,000 residents.

Thousands of people are fleeing Fort McMurray in Canada as a fire threatens the city.
Thousands of people are fleeing Fort McMurray in Canada as a fire threatens the city. Photo:SCREENSHOT/ CBC video

The 2650 hectare fire, which was discovered on 1 May, has closed off the main southern exit from the city, prompting residents to head north towards the oil sands camp.

"This is the biggest evacuation we have seen in the history of the province in terms of fire," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said at a news conference.

"We need to find more camps, we have secured spaces for about 6000 people, we know we need to find more and that work is underway," Notley said.

Suncor Energy said evacuees were welcome at its Firebag oil sands facility, while Canadian Natural Resources Ltd said it was working to ensure any affected CNRL workers and their families could use its camp.

Ms Notley said there were no injuries or casualties in the fire, adding that oil sands operations were also unaffected.

A number of flights from Fort McMurray airport were cancelled and the airport advised passengers to check with their airlines for updates.

The blaze, which started southwest of Fort McMurray, spread rapidly on Tuesday to the outskirts of the city, forcing the evacuation of the downtown area and almost every community in the lower town on the banks of the Clearwater and Athabasca rivers.

"There's lots of smoke, its quite bad and hanging over the city. Where there are trees in the distance you can see the fire," Fort McMurray resident Nick Sanders said as he was packing up to leave downtown.


Earlier, TV footage and photographs on Twitter showed flames and smoke billowing over the city and traffic heading north on the highway to safety, while CTV News reported a trailer park had been destroyed.

"My thoughts are with people affected by the fire in Fort McMurray tonight. Stay safe and remember to follow evacuation orders," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.

By late afternoon, the fire had blocked off one major route out of town, closing Highway 63 south of downtown.

Some residents were evacuated to Noralta Lodge, an oil sands camp 21 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

"Tomorrow is expected to be a more intense burning day than today is," said Bruce Mayer, assistant deputy minister of Alberta's Forestry Division.

Mr Mayer said that nine air tankers, more than a dozen helicopters and more than 100 firefighters were battling the fire.

Earlier on Tuesday authorities said the wildfire jumped the Athabasca river and breached Highway 63, the main artery south from the isolated city, which is located around 430 km northeast of Alberta's capital, Edmonton.

Authorities are now expecting a cold front to reach Fort McMurray by Wednesday afternoon (local time), bringing increased winds that will make tomorrow a more difficult fire fighting day than today.

After a mild winter with lower-than-average snowfall and a warm spring, Alberta is much drier than normal for this time of year, raising the prospect of a long and expensive wildfire season.

Most oil sands facilities are to the north and east of the city, with the closest being Suncor Energy's base plant roughly 30 km away. A Suncor spokesman said there were no current impacts on operations.

Will Gibson, a spokesman for the Syncrude project, which has its facility around 40 km north of the city, said operations were unaffected.

A spokesman for pipeline company Enbridge Inc, which has crude and condensate pipelines in the region, said the company was monitoring the situation but there were no impacts so far.

This is the second major fire around the city in less than a year. Last May, wildfires in the area led to the evacuation of hundreds of workers from Canada's energy heartland, leading to a 9 percent cut in Alberta's oil sands output at the time.

-Reuters

The latest as of 17:00 NZT




Catastrophic wildfires in Alberta to flee from Port McMurray

"The worst environmental disaster in Canadian history is happening right now.

"The Athabasca tar sands are on fire. 

"Fort McMurray is built on top of the tar sands."

Please Get Us Out” — Freak Alberta Wildfire Threatens to Engulf City of Fort McMurray, 61,000 Forced to Evacuate


Emergency situation now developing in Fort McMurray, Alberta where a massive wildfire in this near-Arctic zone is  engulfing the city. This is a very dangerous developing situation that includes multiple structure fires. More updates to follow





Conditions Consistent With Climate Change Fans Massive Fire Near City Made by Tar Sands Production

Yesterday, a massive, out of season, wildfire began to encroach upon the City of Fort McMurray, Alberta — a region of Canada known for its production of the hothouse gas emitting tar sands. The fire, now estimated to cover more than 2,600 hectares, last night jumped the Athabasca River and, with a switch in the wind toward the southwest, began to approach the city.

Today, these southerly winds running up behind a high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream pushed temperatures into the upper 80s and lower 90s (F) — readings that are about 30-35 degrees (F) above average for this time of year — over a broad swath of Northwestern Canada. The heat-baked air wrung out moisture and drew humidity readings into the very dry 20 percent range. For this region of Canada, these are highly abnormal conditions consistent with weather pattern alterations forced by human-caused climate change.
(It was hotter in Northwest Canada today than it was in the Central US. Extreme heat related to human-forced warming that contributed to a dangerous developing fire situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

To the north, a very early recession of sea ice in the Beaufort and opening up of waters there likely assisted this Jet Stream anomaly, extreme high temperatures, and hot southerly winds that pushed fire conditions in Alberta to unprecedented levels. The south winds, far, far hotter than normal temperatures and very low humidity contributed to a very dangerous situation fanning flames as they encroached upon the city — burning structures, igniting oil fires and forcing motorists to abandon their vehicles.

All Fort McMurray City Residents Ordered to Flee

As of latest reports, all of Fort McMurray’s city proper has been placed under mandatory evacuation orders. That makes for a total of more than 60,000 people evacuated. Including outlying suburbs, the city includes 100,000 souls — a number of whom may also be forced to leave as the evening progresses.
Many residents, like Jenine in the tweet above, had to scramble to vehicles as fires approached their neighborhoods, spurring some to turn to social media in order to plea for assistance. The proximity of the flames was so close that many residents were unable to bring any personal belongings. With the entire city being ordered to evacuate, both lanes of Highway 63 are being used for outbound traffic. Even so, motorists remain stuck in gridlock or stop and go traffic and have been forced to drive through billowing smoke and along beside the raging fires. Some vehicles stalled in the hot winds — leaving highway 63 strewn with empty cars, trucks, and buses.
Huge Mobilization Underway, But Much of the City May Succumb to the Fire

Firefighters, who earlier today acknowledged the severity of the situation, are now scrambling to deal with numerous blazes entering the town. Social media imagery now shows gas stations, stores, and homes all being encroached upon or engulfed by the growing fires. As of current reports, numerous structures including a trailer home community, a Super 8 Motel, and multiple homes including that of one city official have burned. Unfortunately, given the severity of the situation, the number of burned structures is likely to grow as the evening progresses.

(MODIS satellite shot of Fort McMurray Fire and smoke plume earlier today.)

Considering the massive pall of smoke covering Fort McMurray and the fact that firefighters have been overwhelmed by the intensity of the fires — leaving some structures to burn — the situation appears to have grown completely out of control. National officials are scrambling to allocate more resources to what is a very difficult and dangerous situation. A national emergency has been declared and an outpouring of assistance and resources is now aimed in the direction of Fort McMurray.
(Best hopes and prayers to everyone involved in this terrible situation. Please stay safe and stay tuned to official broadcasts for updated information on fires and evacuations.)
Links:


LIVEBLOG: Updates on the Fort McMurray wildfires


The situation in Alberta has been changing quickly.

Here is the latest, according to Alberta Emergency Alert: "All of Fort McMurray is under a mandatory evacuation order including Saprae Creek. The Reception Centre at MacDonald Island has been evacuated, with those evacuees sent to the Anzac Recreation Centre. The Fort McMurray International Airport remains open at this time."





"All of Fort McMurray is under an evacuation order. It would seem the worst has happened. The tar sands have caught fire. "



The Twitter feed for CBC is covering the event HERE


Latest alert as of 9:13. Officials say go to Anzac evac centre. McDonald Island evac centre now being evacuated



Officials say 18,000 evacuees are travelling south to #yeg . Another 17K have moved north from #ymm . 9K to Lac La Biche. & 8K to Anzac.#CBC

Retweeted by warnicam

"Let's not forget that if the fire gets in to the tar sands they may NEVER put it out


---KevinHester

Take this as an example - 


Strongman mine fire still burning after 17 years



The smouldering underground fire that has been burning in the old Strongman Mine since August 1996 has forced workers at the small-scale open-cast mining operation above to take precautions.

Solid Energy spokesman Bryn Somerville said the mining team at the site, in the Nine Mile valley, was regularly working through areas of heated rock and coal so special care was needed in the planning and operation of mining activity.

The company also had consent to divert water from the site to cool areas of heating underground.

The underground fire has raged for 17 years, despite Solid Energy's best efforts to extinguish it. They have tried to quench it, injected grout barriers, removed coal ahead of the fire areas and attempted to starve it of air, all without success....{ }

Ed Suominen
Karma.
The high temperature there is 89°F today and is expected to be the same tomorrow. In early May, at 53° N. Latitude.





'This is as bad as it gets': 

Super 8 hotel burns behind 

Global News reporter during 

broadcast


A Super 8 hotel in Fort McMurray burns behind reporter Reid Fiest, as he struggles with wildfire smoke during his live report for Global National. The out-of-control fire nearly doubled in size overnight, sending thousands of residents fleeing as officials issued a mandatory evacuation. 

For more info, please go to http://www.globalnews.ca