339 wildfires and 10 million people at risk of floods: Climate hazards in the US today

·2-min read
339 wildfires and 10 million people at risk of floods: Climate hazards in the US today

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.

Not all extreme weather is due to the climate crisis – but a hotter planet leads to a higher rate of dangerous conditions. 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 Thursday, there were 339 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 69,908 acres and spurred evacuations near Lake Tahoe. The blaze, just 20 per cent contained, has become California’s largest of the year.

In Oregon, the Cedar Creek Fire has burned through 93,109 acres and filled skies across the state with smoke. Evacuations are still in place for some areas near the flames.

More than 10 million Americans are under flood alerts – both in the middle of the country and along the coasts.

In northeastern Minnesota, storms could cause floods, as up to two inches (five centimetres) of rain have already fallen in some areas, with another 1.5 in (four cm) possible, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

In scattered areas of Florida, Texas and South Dakota, flooding is possible along some rivers that could reach high water levels.

Tropical Storm Fiona is also heading straight for Puerto Rico. Up to 10 in (25 cm) of rain are possible in the eastern part of the island, with up to six in (15 cm) elsewhere, NWS warns. Wind gusts are forecast to reach up to 75 miles per hour (121 kilometres per hour) as the storm makes landfall on Saturday.

The National Hurricane Centre warns that rains could produce local flash floods, especially in cities. The island, and other nearby regions of the Caribbean, are currently under a tropical storm watch and a flash flood watch.

Finally, drought continues to plague much of the country, especially in the West. More than 113 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.