NASA and the U.S. Forest Service are playing with a new toy that could significantly aid firefighters as the intensity and frequency of wildfires continues to grow as the climate warms.
Ikhana has the ability to take infrared photographs and send information from fires in real-time, without endangering a pilot. It's taking its first test flights this month, after its maiden voyage 10 days ago, according to a story in today's San Bernardino County Sun. Tools like Ikhana will be needed more and more in a warmer world.
Global warming has already been linked to increased fire activity in the Western United States, and scientists say more intense and frequent wildfires are likely if the climate change goes unabated. As snow dwindles in mountains, valleys dry out faster in the summer. Couple that with excessive heat and potentially long dry spells, and the conditions are set for wildfire -- whatever the source of the spark that starts it.
This year's fire season has seen 64,158 large fires claim 6,645,305 acres -- nearly 30% more than the 10-year average, according to the latest tally from the National Interagency Fire Center. The year-to-date fire seasons for the past four years have been well above the 10-year average. There are currently 44 fires burning 44 large fires burning 1,847,282 acres in 13 states, according to the center.
The hottest hot spots continue to be in Idaho, with nine fires, and Montana, with 17. The services if Ikhana, in other words, can't come soon enough. This map shows most of the large wildfires burning now across the United States. Click the map for more detailed information.
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