Spain–– Towering flames raced through mountain forests by the glitzy Spanish resort of Marbella on Friday, killing at least one person, injuring five and sending thousands fleeing. Hundreds of fire-fighters, reinforced by emergency military personnel and backed by 31 planes and helicopters, battled the blaze that was fanned by hot, dry winds in southern Spain, officials said.
Flames danced high above the tree tops, lighting up the sky in the early hours as a 12-kilometre (seven-mile) line of fire glowed across the Sierra Negra mountains by the Costa del Sol resort. The inferno, which forced up to 5,000 people from their homes, according to media, killed one man, left a couple with major burns, and sent a mother and her two children scurrying into a cave to escape the danger.
One elderly man apparently made a fatal error of returning to his home near Marbella after he and his wife were evacuated the previous night, a spokesman for the Andalusia regional government told AFP. His burnt corpse was found near the charred remains of the house, and fire-fighters were searching the rubble in case his wife had also perished, the spokesman said. “It seems that they went back at their own risk,” he said. “The house is charred and collapsed, so the fire-fighters are going through the rubble because there is a possibility that the woman could have died, but that is not confirmed.”
The couple were not identified. Another five people were taken to hospital, among them a Spanish couple being treated in Marbella for major second- and third-degree burns over about two-thirds of their bodies, the spokesman said. A 40-year-old mother and her two children, one aged three and the other 11, took refuge from the inferno in a cave, and were now recovering in hospital, where they were given oxygen and treated for bruises.
Their injuries were not considered serious, officials said. The inferno broke out Thursday afternoon and rapidly gained strength into the night. In the early hours of the morning, the wind died down and a brief sprinkling of rain fed hopes for relief. But an AFP photographer said the wind blew hard again later in the day as temperatures rose. Thick smoke hung over town of Ojen in the same region, and swirled around small white villages nestled in the mountains. Cinders floated in the air. “Around Ojen it is all completely charred,” the photographer said.
The resort’s sandy beaches and vibrant night life attract about 1.5 million foreign tourists a year, mostly Britons but also Nordic visitors and Germans, French, Italians, Dutch and Belgians. More than 800 people were now engaged in the struggle against the fire, said the head of the Andalusia regional government, Jose Antonio Grinan, expressing hope the situation would improve during the day. Spain is at particularly high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years, and blazes have broken out in various parts of the country in recent days. Flames destroyed more than 153,000 hectares (378,000 acres) of land between January 1 and August 26, three times the amount during the same time last year and the highest amount in a decade, according to agriculture ministry figures. When the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWithin 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWhen the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Within 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles. “For the first time we were able to measure these warming effects minute-by-minute as the fire progressed,” said CIRES scientist Dan Lack, lead author of the study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers also were able to record a phenomenon called the “lensing effect,” in which oils from the fire coat the soot particles and create a lens that focuses more light onto the particles. This can change the “radiative balance” in an area, sometimes leading to greater warming of the air and cooling of the surface. While scientists had previously predicted such an effect and demonstrated it in laboratory experiments, the Boulder researchers were one of the first to directly measure the effect during an actual wildfire. Lack and his colleagues found that lensing increased the warming effect of soot by 50 to 70 percent. “When the fire erupted on Labor Day, so many researchers came in to work to turn on instruments and start sampling that we practically had traffic jams on the road into the lab,” Lack said. “I think we all realized that although this was an unfortunate event, it might be the best opportunity to collect some unique data. It turned out to be the best dataset, perfectly suited to the new instrument we had developed.” The instrument called a spectrophotometer can capture exquisite detail about all particles in the air, including characteristics that might affect the smoke particles’ tendency to absorb sunlight and warm their surroundings. While researchers know that overall, wildfire smoke can cause this lensing effect, the details have been difficult to quantify, in part because of sparse observations of particles from real-world fires. Once the researchers began studying the data they collected during the fire, it became obvious that the soot from the wildfire was different in several key ways from soot produced by other sourcesdiesel engines, for example. “When vegetation burns, it is not as efficient as a diesel engine, and that means some of the burning vegetation ends up as oils,” Lack said. In the smoke plume, the oils coated the soot particles and that microscopic sheen acted like a magnifying glass, focusing more light onto the soot particles and magnifying the warming of the surrounding air. The researchers also discovered that the oils coating the soot were brown, and that dark coloration allowed further absorption of light, and therefore further warming the atmosphere around the smoke plume. The additional warming effects mean greater heating of the atmosphere enveloped in dark smoke from a wildfire, and understanding that heating effect is important for understanding climate change, Lack said. The extra heating also can affect cloud formation, air turbulence, winds and even rainfall. The discovery was made possible by state-of-the-art instruments developed by CIRES, NOAA and other scientists, Lack said. The instruments can capture fine-scale details about particles sent airborne by the fire, including their composition, shape, size, color and ability to absorb and reflect sunlight of various wavelengths. “With such well-directed measurements, we can look at the warming effects of soot, the magnifying coating and the brown oils and see a much clearer, yet still smoky picture of the effect of forest fires on climate,” Lack said. CIRES is a cooperative institute of CU-Boulder and NOAA.