July 30 – August 18, 2014

Canada, in particular western Canada, has had a bizarre summer.  Calgary, Edmonton, and other major cities frequently contend with smoke, a problem that this writer has never seen, despite living in Calgary for more than a decade.  The intense smoke came from forest fires in Banff and Jasper National Parks, as well as some fires near Kelowna, BC.  Even the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have been coping with massive fires.  More than 7 million acres, (2.8 million hectares) have burned in those two territories.  No death or injuries have been reported from any fire, though the smoke in much of western Canada has been difficult for those with asthma, emphysema and other cardiovascular diseases.  Sweden also has its hands full putting out fires.  If 1968 was the year the world caught fire, this is shaping up to be the year the world reignited.  With huge swaths of California bone dry and several neighbouring states all under serious drought conditions, we are likely to see the western US light up like its neighbour to the north.  The big problem for the US is that Canada is very sparsely populated in comparison.  Canada has a few large cities where most of the population tends to congregate, with vast stretches of wilderness.  The US is more densely populated, so a fire season like the one in Canada could be far more devastating in the US.

Flame retardant applied after burning
Photo: Jodde Mason
Firefighters uses measures such as flame retardants to try to control burns. The red covering the trees is this retardant.


In other news, a heatwave in Japan has caused the deaths of 15 people, with thousands more being hospitalized.  A landslide in Nepal and India have killed at least 38 people, eight of those in Nepal.  Both landslides were triggered by torrential, unrelenting rains.  Late season floods in Europe have claimed the lives of at least seven people.  An additional 13 people were killed in Varna, Bulgaria due to flash floods.  While western Canada has seen its most fiery summer in years, Bulgaria has seen its wettest summer in years.  A massive rain fuelled landslide in Switzerland caused a train to derail, resulting in several injuries to a contingent of the 200 passengers.  There is severe flooding in Portland, Maine, as well.  Stay tuned for a special on glaciers and why they are important.

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