317 wildfires and 14 million people at risk of floods: Climate hazards in the US today

·2-min read

The climate crisis is going to create all kinds of disasters in the coming decades as greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, heat up the planet and send the atmosphere into chaos.

The consequences of that crisis are already plaguing millions of people in the US, as wildfires, hurricanes, drought and heatwaves sweep through the country.

Now, the federal government is tracking the full extent of extreme weather in the country on a daily basis — emphasising just how exposed the country is to climate disaster.

On Wednesday, there were 317 active wildfires burning across the US, mainly in the West. That includes 91 large fires, which alone have burned through more than 850,000 acres — larger than Yosemite National Park.

In northern California, the Mosquito Fire has reached 58,544 acres and spurred evacuations near Lake Tahoe. And in Oregon, the Cedar Creek Fire has burned through 92,548 acres and filled skies across the state with smoke.

More than 14 million Americans are also under flood alerts. In northern Washington, thunderstorms on Wednesday night could cause flash floods — as could storms in parts of Nevada, Utah and northwest Arizona.

In scattered portions of Florida and Texas, flooding is possible along some rivers, many of which have already reached high water levels. Parts of Florida should expect up to four inches of rain over the next three days.

After weeks of heatwaves on the West Coast, the country is finally free of extreme heat alerts. But temperatures will reach above 90F (32C) over the next few days in much of the southwest US.

Finally, drought continues to plague much of the country, especially in the West. More than 114 million Americans are currently living in drought conditions.

This includes parts of California, Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Oregon which are under “exceptional drought” — the most extreme drought level, creating serious challenges for farmers and a very high risk of wildfires.

Parts of the northeast US are also facing dry weather, with some areas along the New England coast seeing “extreme drought”.

A UN climate science panel has warned that hazards like drought, heatwaves, floods, wildfires and intense storms are all likely to become more intense in the coming decades as the planet heats up.