Devastating wildfires are sweeping across wide sections of the parched West.
On Monday, there were 107 active large fires burning across 13 states. The Dixie Fire in northwestern California is now the largest fire in the country, outpacing the massive Bootleg Fire in Oregon by more than 75,000 acres.
The Dixie Fire, which is only 21 percent contained, also is the largest single fire ever to tear through California, scorching nearly a half-million acres as of Monday. The largest fire ever in California was the 2020 August Complex Fire, which burned more than 1 million acres, but a "complex fire" is a coalescence of several blazes into one.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, as of Sunday afternoon 876,055 acres had already burned across the state, a more than 200 percent increase compared with acres burned by this same time last year.
Smoke was blanketing portions of the Rockies and Northern Plains on Monday and was predicted to waft into the Great Lakes region by Tuesday. Air quality has been reduced so drastically, meteorologists advised people to remain indoors as much as possible, and keep air purification devices on.
The heat and lack of rain isn't just fueling the wildfire threat, but also threatening the water supply. The largest reservoirs in the country are falling to record low levels. Lake Mead, Lake Powell, Lake Oroville and Great Salt Lake have all reported record lows over the past few weeks — and are still dropping —threatening critical hydroelectric power output and water supplies.
And with yet another heat wave looming this week, conditions aren't expected to improve much.
About 11 million people were under excessive heat watches across the Pacific Northwest, stretching from just north of San Francisco to the Washington-Canada border. The heatwave is expected to peak mid- to late week, when temperatures could spike more than 20 degrees above average. Nearly three dozen high temperature records could be set.
Portland is expected to hit back-to-back readings of 104 degrees on Thursday and Friday. Although not nearly as hot as the record high of 116 set earlier this summer, the hot weather is still an anomaly in the Pacific Northwest where the temperature is usually in the high 70s and low 80s this time of year. The extreme heat and low humidity through the week will enhance the drought that currently afflicts over 95 percent of the West, and may cause current wildfires to spread and spark new wildfires.
Wildfires are erupting across the world, including across portions of Turkey, Greece and Italy. Greece is experiencing its most severe heatwave in 30 years.
This comes as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its first major comprehensive publication since 2013. Built upon the contributions of more than 230 international scientists, the report provides the strongest case yet that human emissions have already caused irreparable harm to the earth's atmosphere, ocean and land, jeopardizing its fragile ecosystems. The assessment predicts that in just 10 years, the global temperature will likely soar above the critical 2 degree C (3.6 degrees F) level set by the Copenhagen Summit and Paris Accords. Such a rise will result in more frequent and more severe wildfires and floods, likely plunging the planet into irreversible peril.
Read the full report here.