Chinchaga Firestorm

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Chinchaga Firestorm by Mind Map: Chinchaga Firestorm

1. Aspects

1.1. Climate Change

1.2. The Chinchaga Firestorm created an uptick of carbon into the atmosphere, which links to an increase in global warming.

1.3. All species were affected by the fire, given that if mobile they had to leave the area due to warming temperatures, or if non-mobile they did not have time to adapt to their environment and therefore they face extinction

1.4. Climate change itself increases the rage of fires, and is inversely increased by the fires.

1.5. Carbon from forest fires can accelerate Arctic melting, even in long range cases. In a scenario where the fires occur closer to the Arctic, melting and thus the destruction of local biodiversity can be accelerated, as supported by evidence found in NASA's research. "Deposition of pyrogenic black carbon to snow and ice surfaces decreases surface albedo and may accelerate melting" (A NASA based perspective on POLARCAT Science during IPY 2007-8, page 5).

1.6. Biomass burning, as in the event of a forest fire, has an effect on climate change and the surrounding environment. Specifically, air pollution and greenhouse gasses.

1.6.1. "Combined with biomass burning, which is increasingly acknowledged to be an important but poorly characterized factor in atmospheric and climate processes [e.g., Lindesay et al., 1996; Kasischke and Penner, 2004], extreme pyro‐convection may now represent an important, recurring mechanism contributing to troposphere to stratosphere exchange" (Fromm et al., Pyro‐cumulonimbus injection of smoke to the stratosphere).

1.6.2. "Pyro‐convection is naturally associated with abundant pollutants such as CO, NOx, and smoke, [so] the potential for significant atmospheric impact is potentially much greater than for 'regular' convection" (Fromm et al., Pyro‐cumulonimbus injection of smoke to the stratosphere). In forest fires, pollutants are released into the atmosphere and further contribute to climate change.

2. Direct Effects

2.1. "The boreal forest is particularly unique because it is designed by nature to burn. It is truly a pyrogenic forest, where fire, as a persistent evolutionary pressure, favours plants and animals with specific survival traits. Some species are thus dependent on fire for their survival" (Tymstra, The Chinchaga Firestorm, page xix).

2.2. The shrub Ceanothus in the Chinchaga forest is dependent on fire, heat resistant, and feeds local species like elk and deer. Fire is part of nature's processes and this normally contributes to a healthy ecosystem, but the Chinchaga fire was overall damaging because of its severity and the length of time that it burned.

2.3. Although Ceanothus is heat resistant, it is only heat resistant up to a certain temperature for a certain length of time- of which the firestorm surpassed, effectively eliminating the shrub's chance for reproduction after the fire, which is when it would normally reproduce and grow its range.

2.4. In places both local and distant from the fire, the effects were felt. The fire left a smog in the atmosphere that reached across the ocean to Europe and across the continental United States, affecting nearly every living creature in the range of this smoke.

2.4.1. The smoke from the fire stayed in the atmosphere, creating warming conditions and trapping greenhouse gasses. In addition it created widespread respiratory issues for any animal who happened to breathe in the smoke.

3. Biodiversity

3.1. Climate change and forest fires in particular have an affect on biodiversity in that they are typically detrimental to an ecosystem's range of biodiversity- although some species rely on forest fires to reproduce, such as the Ceanothus shrub found in the Chinchaga region.

3.2. However, the Chinchaga firestorm was overall devastating to local populations because of its severity and length. It blazed for months and destroyed many sections of the ecosystem in an uncontrolled manner, even having a destructive smoke range far from the original area of the fires- reaching all the way across the ocean to parts of Europe and inflicting haze and smog related issues to animals there.

3.3. The animals directly in the Chinchaga region were forced to leave or face extinction if they were nonmobile, thereby lessening the local populations and biodiversity of the area.

4. Remediation

4.1. The environment has remediated itself in the 70 years following the fire without significant human intervention - following the fire and during it, humans remained largely uninvolved in trying to stop the fire. It was allowed to burn freely without firefighter intervention, meaning that its impact was large and largely undocumented.

4.2. "The Alberta firefighting policy allowed the Chinchaga Firestorm to continue to burn once it crossed the British Columbia–Alberta border and entered the Chinchaga River Valley in Alberta. Because fires in the NAFD located more than 16 km from the Mackenzie Highway were not included in the annual report statistics, the Alberta fire history database for the period prior to 1953 is incomplete" (Tymstra, The Chinchaga Firestorm, page 130).

4.3. "[The fire's] effects were felt as far away as Europe, yet it was lost to the official Alberta record for years because it was a “ghost fire,” one that need not be fought because it wasn’t within 10 miles of a road. It didn’t even get a name at the time, although it was the largest fire North America’s recorded history" (Killian, Lessons of a Forgotten Firestorm, page 2).

4.4. Following the fires, settlers trying to clear land by setting forest fires were prosecuted for not getting permission from forestry agents to do so, which would have caused unaccounted for biodiversity damage. Those who had obtained permits were given rules to follow but these rules were seldom fulfilled. Also, according to Tymstra, although the Chinchaga fire was considered a "ghost fire", outside of the area in which firefighters patrolled and therefore out of their control, it did in fact "burn into firefighting protection area when it first crossed the provincial boundary" (The Chinchaga Firestorm, page 128). He attributes this to human clerical error, of which someone was likely trying to keep "bad news" out of annual fire reports.