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Scientists warn of ‘zombie fires’ in the Arctic

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Dormant “zombie fires” scattered across the Arctic region — remnants of record blazes last year — may be coming to life after an unusually warm and dry Spring, scientists warned Wednesday.

“We have seen satellite observations of active fires that hint that ‘zombie’ fires might have reignited,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist and wildfire expert at the European Union’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service.

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The hotspots, which have yet to be confirmed by ground measurements, are particularly concentrated in areas that burned last summer.

The year 2019 was marked by fires unprecedented in scale and duration across large swathes of Siberia and Alaska.

In June — the hottest on record, going back 150 years — the blazes are estimated to have released 50 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, equivalent to Sweden’s annual emissions.

“We may see a cumulative effect of last year’s fire season in the Arctic which will feed into the upcoming season, and could lead to large-scale and long-term fires across the same region once again,” Parrington said.

The risk of wildfires increases with hot weather and low humidity, and Europe in particular has seen record temperatures for March and April this year.

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“There has been tremendous warmth in the Arctic that will have led to a lot of drying, making the peat soils ripe to burn,” Mike Waddington, an expert on watershed ecosystems at McMaster University in Canada, told AFP.

“A zombie fire is a fire that continues to burn underground and then reignites on the surface after a period of time,” Waddington explained.

– ‘Holdover fires’ –

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Embers deep in organic soils such as peat lands can spark into flames weeks, months and even years later.

Scientists monitoring Alaska have seen a similar phenomenon.

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“Fire managers noted increasing occurrences where fires survive the cold and wet boreal winter months by smoldering, and re-emerged in the subsequent spring,” the Alaska Fire Science Consortium, grouping four universities and research institutes, reported in their Spring 2020 newsletter.

Since 2005, scientists on the ground in Alaska have identified 39 such “holdover fires”, as they are also called.

Matching these observations with satellite data, they found that most of the fires were too small — less than 11 hectares, and in most cases less than one — to be detected. But seven of them were visible from space.

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Last year’s massive blazes were fueled by record heat. Parts of Siberia and Alaska were up to 10 degrees Celsius warmer than normal for weeks at a time.

Temperatures in Greenland accelerated melting of the island’s kilometers-thick ice sheet, resulting in a net loss of 600 billion tonnes of ice mass for the year — accounting for about 40 percent of total sea level rise in 2019.


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‘It’s a disgrace’: Conservative torches Trump and the GOP — saying they’ve betrayed voters

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In 2012, Stuart Stevens served as the chief strategist for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and tried to prevent President Barack Obama from winning a second term; in 2020, he is a Never Trump conservative who is rooting for former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. And when Stevens appeared on MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” on Thursday night, August 6, he stressed to host Brian Williams that many GOP incumbents — from President Donald Trump to members of Congress — could be in trouble in November.

Promoting his new book, “It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump,” Stevens told Williams, “This is a very negative environment for Republicans…. There are external forces out there that make this a very tough race for incumbents in the Republican Party.”

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Mask-hating Trump supporter banned from local store after she ‘rammed someone with a cart’: report

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A woman who was permanently banned from entering a local hardware store for refusing to wear a face mask tells Vox that she's proud that her defiance of public health standards got her kicked out.

In an interview, a Wyoming resident named Jacqueline says that her local Menards home and garden store has told her that she is no longer allowed to shop there for refusing to wear a face mask on two separate occasions.

Although she was still allowed to shop at the store after the first time she came in without a face mask, she was permanently given the boot when she got into a physical altercation with an employee during her second trip to the store.

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Expert: NRA had to be obliterated by New York for one very important reason

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The New York attorney general's aggressive moves against the National Rifle Association might have been handled by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a former federal prosecutor.

State attorney general Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the powerful lobbying group over claims of rampant fraud, but former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade's new column for The Daily Beast calls out the Justice Department's inaction.

"Like other cases of corruption, this easily could have been framed as a criminal case," McQuade wrote. "Filing false registration and disclosure documents as part of a scheme to defraud can serve as the basis for federal mail or wire fraud, and often does in public corruption cases. When I served as a federal prosecutor, my former office brought public corruption cases on such theories in similar cases in which officials misused funds for personal benefit."

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