Welcome to the future

As I’m writing this, it’s early in the morning and the mercury is already past 70˚ F. It’s raining here, like it has been on and off this entire week, much to the chagrin of many Coloradans, I’m sure. The rain is probably keeping the temperature down a bit, but once the clouds finish their job, we’re headed to a steamy high above 90˚ F. I’m not alone. A heat wave is currently baking much of the country, though unlike where I live, many regions haven’t been soaked with rain.

Temperature anomaly, June 2012NASA/Jesse Allen

In southeastern Wisconsin, my parents say it hasn’t really rained there since Memorial Day. The prairie plants that dot their front yard—normally verdant even in dry weather—are wilting from lack of water.

Prairie plants withered by droughtPaul De Chant

One local farmer said he would need at least 3 inches of rain to save his crops.

Corn plants withered by droughtPaul De Chant

Then there’s Florida. In in some parts of the state, Tropical Storm Debby has dumped over 26 inches of rain. Sinkholes have swallowed roads, and 50 miles of Interstate 10 had to be closed due to flooding.

Debby floods FloridaDVIDSHUB


Back in Colorado, my sister says she has two reasons to be grateful for air conditioning—it prevents both heat and smoke from suffusing her apartment.

Smoke from the High Park FireDVIDSHUB

Firefighters battling the High Park FireThe National Guard

Aerial view of the Little Sand WildfireU.S. Department of Agriculture

Heat isn’t the only culprit behind the wildfires. This year’s early snowmelt in the mountains—early by two weeks—is also to blame, scientists say. The bark beetles that have ravaged the state’s pine and spruce forests may also increase the odds of fire, but the interactions between bug and flame aren’t entirely sorted out yet.

Aerial support, High Park FireThe National Guard

Scorched earth, High Park FireU.S. Department of Agriculture

Meanwhile halfway around the world in Siberia, wildfires have been raging uncontrolled for six months.

Siberia fires, June 2012NASA/Jeff Schmaltz

Welcome to the future.

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