Sunday, May 15, 2016

Science On

Thanks, Kelly, for your great update yesterday!   Athabasca has been our home for a long long time and I look forward to joining Kelly and Hope on Tuesday to start our field season.  Our hearts go out to the people of Fort McMurray, many of whom still do not know if they have homes still standing or a place to return to.  They all wait for word that they can head back to Fort McMurray to see what the fire has left them.

We, too, await word.  We are starting our field season, and it is shaping up to be an odd and possibly treacherous one.  Field work, in general, trends to the tenuous, and we have had to wait to get up to some of our sites before because of fire, but this year is beyond precedent.  We have two sites that may have burned.  We won’t know until we show up.  One is just south of the airport and one is just north of Anzac.  The MODIS satellite imagery has them both questionable. Our sites are the green dots in purple lettering.
Two of our bogs (green dots) amid a see of yellow, orange, and red dots indicating age of fire with red being most recent...  Image was taken off Google Earth May 5th.  The fire has spread into and off the borders of this image since.
This fire season is already in full swing and it is only May.  This year it officially started in March, and since then, the area has seen 30+C weather and a paucity of rain.  The fire threat is Extreme for all of our field sites currently, and the Fort McMurray fire is still burning, and, as of this morning, is just over 251,000 hectares large with several areas still out of control.  There are currently over 1,000 firefighters and firefighting personnel, 134 pieces of heavy equipment, 39 helicopters, and 11 airtankers working on this wildfire, alone.  It remains impressive and devastating and we are holding our collective breath.

All this being said, we are still looking forward to the new field season and I’m excited to get the crew together to start our work this year in the Boreal.  We return to the house where we were last year, and are lucky to do so.  Our colleagues have not been so lucky – some of whom have lost houses in Fort Mac or the ability to get up to the area to do any of their research.  At least we have several projects still in unburned areas and we can start our work.  I expect there may be some camping happening in the Fort Mac area this summer, as housing will be terribly tight.

We will be sure to keep an eye and nose to the sky and earth as we roll from site to site this summer - especially paying close attention to where we park hot trucks.  Bogs tend to hold onto fire deep into the peat, and so we will be vigilant and mindful of the potential for fires everywhere.   For now, we will do our best to keep the science moving forward.  Sites have burned in the past and sites will burn again in the future and there is always room for more questions to be answered.  So…. With that in mind: 

 Science on, crew!  

We hope to be diligent about our updates this year, so stay tuned!

Posted by Kim

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