Archive | Trees & Forestry

Volcano Devastated India 73,000 Years Ago

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Nov. 24 (UPI) — An Australian-led study has provided evidence a super-sized volcano eruption 73,000 years ago deforested much of central India.

The study led by Professor Martin Williams of the University of Adelaide shows the eruption of the volcano Toba, located on the island of Sumatra, ejected about 192 cubic miles of ash into the atmosphere, leaving a crater — now the world’s largest volcanic lake — that’s 62 miles long and 21 miles wide. Ash from the event has been found in India, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea.

The researchers said the bright ash ejected from Toba reflected sunlight off the landscape and volcanic sulfur aerosols impeded solar radiation, initiating an “instant ice age” that lasted about 1,800 years.

University of Illinois anthropology Professor Stanley Ambrose, a principal investigator of the study, said a carbon isotope analysis showed forests that covered central India when the eruption occurred disappeared for at least 1,000 years afterward.

“This is unambiguous evidence that Toba caused deforestation in the tropics for a long time,” Ambrose said, noting humans were close to extinction following the disaster, which might have forced the ancestors of modern humans to adopt new cooperative strategies for survival that eventually permitted them to replace Neanderthals and other archaic human species.

The research is reported in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Other, Radiation, Solar, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Google Maps Program to Aid Tropical Rainforests

LONDON, Nov. 20 (UPI) — A proposed Google program would allow anyone with Internet access to spot illegal logging in tropical rainforests and report it, the company said.

The program, to be released next year, would let so-called armchair detectives report their findings to an agency monitoring whether countries were meeting their commitments to reduce deforestation, The Times of London reported Friday.

Countries allowing illegal deforestation would lose their share of a new $30 billion global fund established to pay nations for leaving forests standing. The fund — Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation — is to be approved at the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, said Google executive Philipp Schindler.

Schindler spoke Thursday at a seminar on deforestation in London attended by Britain’s Prince Charles and leaders of several rainforest countries, including Guyana and Brazil.

Frequently updated satellite photos in the Google program will allow comparisons with historical images and let those viewing the images spot rainforest destruction almost as soon as it happens, Schindler said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Rancho Mission Viejo Brush Fire Contained

RANCHO MISSION VIEJO, Calif., Nov. 19 (UPI) — Firefighters contained a stubborn southern California brush fire that burned 145 acres near a scenic highway but threatened no homes, fire officials said.

Four firefighters were slightly injured fighting the Rancho Mission Viejo, Calif., blaze, Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Capt. Greg McKeown said.

At one point flames reached 15 feet high, but hand crews using shovels and chainsaws spent several nights hacking through dense brush to cut containment lines around the blaze, the Orange County Register reported.

A helicopter dropped fire retardant on a burning ridge south of State Route 74, known as the Ortega Highway, part of the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway.

Fire officials originally said the blaze scorched 250 acres, but the damage was downgraded to 145 acres after crews with mapping technology flew over the fire, McKeown said.

Authorities believe the fire was sparked accidentally Monday morning when a tractor crashed into a power pole off the highway, sending downed power lines into dry brush.

Commuters on the highway reported the fire was quickly spreading over the steep hillsides, the newspaper said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Science, Space, & Technology, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Wildfire Smoke Patterns to Be Analyzed by University of Maryland Researchers

BALTIMORE, Nov. 19 (UPI) — Researchers at the University of Maryland say they will use a cluster of IBM computers to analyze wildfire smoke patterns to provide real-time assessments.

The scientists said the goal of the project is to provide fire and public safety officials with a real-time assessment of a wildfire, allowing them to make more informed decisions on public evacuations and health warnings.

IBM officials said current analysis of smoke patterns is limited to weather forecasting data that’s updated every six hours, observations from front-line workers and low resolution satellite imagery. The new research uses a cluster of IBM computers to instantly process the massive amounts of data available from drone aircraft, high-resolution satellite imagery and air-quality sensors. That, IBM said, will not only help firefighters control the blaze more efficiently, but also to deliver more informed decisions on public evacuations and health warnings.

During the past year, the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center said there have been more than 76,000 individual wildfires across the nation, consuming approximate 5.8 million acres. The agency says wildfires are expected to increase, due to drier conditions produced by climate change and population growth.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Population Growth, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Southern California Fire Nearly Contained in Rancho Mission Viejo

RANCHO MISSION VIEJO, Calif., Nov. 17 (UPI) — Firefighters in Southern California have contained 75 percent of a brush fire that burned more than 250 acres in Rancho Mission Viejo, authorities said.

The fire was contained late Monday to Verdugo Canyon at least two miles from any homes and was expected to be fully contained Tuesday by bulldozers and firefighters working through the night, The Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

Helicopters and planes were assisting with water drops that slowed the fire’s expansion.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries while trying to contain the blaze in steep terrain amid heavy brush that had not burned in 40 years, said Capt. Greg McKeown of the Orange County Fire Authority.

A tractor clearing brush may have started the fire when it crashed into a power pole Monday, McKeown said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Critical Wildfire Warnings for California's Inland Empire and San Diego County

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 15 (UPI) — Critical fire conditions were prevalent in California’s Inland Empire and San Diego County Sunday, officials said.

The National Weather Service was expected to issue red flag warnings for the area with wind gusts of more than 35 mph likely to blow through the Cajon Pass and the Santa Ana mountains and then spread throughout the area, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Coupled with the high winds, air humidity was also expected to be exceptionally low, reaching to below 10 percent, the newspaper said.

Fire watches further north in Los Angeles and Ventura counties were canceled Sunday afternoon, the Times said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Trees & Forestry, Wind0 Comments

Terrain Impeding Wildfire Fight in San Diego Area

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 8 (UPI) — A fire official in San Diego said firefighting efforts against a wildfire in the California city’s Del Cerro area is being impeded by terrain.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque said despite the use of 15 drops of fire-suppressing gel on the wildfire Saturday, the blaze still burned in the deep vegetation of a Del Cerro valley, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

“It’s difficult terrain,” Luque said. “It’s hard for crews to get in there.”

Officials said Saturday night the blaze grew to nearly three acres north of Interstate 8.

Two helicopters and three brush rigs were helping nearly 45 firefighters attempt to control the wildfire Saturday, the Union-Tribune said.

Luque said the fire being investigated as having a suspicious origin, adding the canyon where the fire is burning is home to a homeless camp.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Indoor Plants Rated as Top Indoor Air Cleaners

ATHENS, Ga., Nov. 5 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have come up with five ornamental plants that do a superior job of removing indoor air pollutants.

The study of 28 types of plants, published in HortScience, found Hemigraphis alternata, known as purple waffle plant; Hedera helix or English ivy; Hoya carnosa or variegated wax plant; and Asparagus densiflorus or Asparagus fern had the highest removal rates for all five volatile organic compounds introduced.

Tradescantia pallida or Purple heart plant was rated superior for its ability to remove four of the volatile organic compounds.

Study leader Stanley J. Kays of the University of Georgia in Athens placed plants in gas-tight glass jars, exposing them to benzene, octane, toluene and alpha-pinene. The researchers analyzed air samples and then classified plants as superior, intermediate and poor in their ability to remove the five volatile organic compounds from the air.

“The volatile organic compounds tested in this study can adversely affect indoor air quality and have a potential to seriously compromise the health of exposed individuals,” Kays said in a statement.

Kays said benzene and toluene are known to originate from petroleum-based indoor coatings, cleaning solutions, plastics, environmental tobacco smoke and exterior exhaust fumes seeping into buildings; octane from paint, adhesives and building materials; TCE from tap water, cleaning agents, insecticides and plastic products; and alpha-pinene from synthetic paints and odorants.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollutants, Buildings, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Chicago Christmas Tree Expected to Stand More than 56 Feet Tall

CHICAGO, Nov. 3 (UPI) — Chicago’s huge Christmas tree, made up since 1955 of many small trees, this will year be a single blue spruce donated by a Chicago-area family, officials said.

Harlan and Carol Weivoda, of Palos Heights, Ill., said their acre of land was crowded with trees, so they contacted the city through its Web site to offer a 56-foot tall tree, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday.

“We were looking for a tree. It was the prettiest we found,” Mary May, of the Office of Special Events, said.

New York’s Rockefeller Center, which puts up a single large tree every year, suggested keeping the Chicago tree under 60 feet so that during transport to its Daley Plaza display site, its girth would fit under the “L” tracks that surround the downtown area, Ann Hickey, Special Events program coordinator said.

Harlan Weivoda said the tree is a Christmas gift to his home town. “I remember going downtown to see the Christmas lights. I remember seeing the pope in Grant Park. I’ve always loved the city,” he said.

The tree will be decorated with 7,000 energy-saving LED lights donated by Underwriters Laboratories.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Office, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Typhoon Ketsana Reveals Illegal Logging in Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam, Oct. 31 (UPI) — Typhoon Ketsana, which hit Vietnam in late September, revealed illegal logging when logs were swept down flooded rivers, forestry officials say.

Le Nho Nam, director of the forest protection unit in Phuoc, told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network logs from his area, one of the country’s last stands of old-growth forest, were identified 60 miles away. He said some were almost certainly from trees cut down illegally in the protected forest, IRIN reported Friday.

Phanh Tham Lam, Nam’s counterpart in Quang Nam province, said deforestation increased the devastation from typhoon flooding.

Much of the illegally cut timber goes to the furniture industry. With $2.8 billion in sales annually, it has become one of the Southeastern Asia country’s biggest export sectors.

Some forests have also been cleared for hydroelectric power plants.

About 78 percent of the old-growth forest in the country has been cut in the past 20 years.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Hydroelectric, Regional, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

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