Rare MN winter brush fire danger; Alarming Russian climate news

0 snow cover in the Metro, Rochester & St. Cloud on December 27th!

2″ snow depth at Duluth

4″ snow depth at International Falls

“Brown Winter” so far:

It’s a “brown winter” so far for most of Minnesota. Yes, there’s barely enough snow cover in the north woods around Ely and the BWCAW to enjoy some traditional winter acticities, but most of the state is snow free as of December 27th.

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Check out Tuesday MODIS Terra 1000 meter satellite image taken over Minnesota. Youc an clearly see the brown landscape and lack of snow cover. I can’t recall a year with this little snow cover in Minnesota on this date.

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NASA Terra MODIS image Tuesday. Note the lack of snow on brown ground. Clouds appear white on the right hand side of image.

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Rare winter brush fire danger:

Monday’s record warmth and winds triggered a large brush fire that consumed 750 acres in northwest Minnesota. This is almost unheard of in December in Minnesota.

The details on the unusual and unseasonable brush fire danger from the Minnesota DNR.

DNR urges caution with fires; burning permits now required

“Winter is usually a time of low fire danger in Minnesota, but this winter is different, with snow drought in most of the state. Fuels such as grasses and brush, which are usually covered with snow, are freeze-dried and available to burn this winter. Because of these conditions, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking people to be careful with fire, to check previous fires for possible rekindling, and make sure they get a burning permit before burning vegetation.

On Monday, 750 acres burned near the northwestern Minnesota city of Gully, in Polk County. The fire burned rapidly through wooded areas due to dry fuels and high winds. That fire is now contained, and firefighters are mopping up heavy fuels today. Fighting fires in the winter is difficult, however. Due to cold weather and low wind chill temperatures, firefighter frostbite and freezing pumps are concerns.

Burning restrictions will change as weather conditions and snow cover change. Burning permits are required whenever there is less than three inches of continuous snow surrounding a planned burn area. Right now, with the exception of Cook County in northeastern Minnesota, burning permits are needed for debris and vegetation burning. Permitted burning hours vary by geographical area. Campfires are allowed without burning permits.

For information about burning permits, contact a local DNR Forestry office or check the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov and search for burning permits.”

The lack of snow cover means plenty of tinder dry fuels are exposed to burn these days. Even with winter temps, fires that get started can grow, especially on windy days. Not that you would do it, but this is not the year to burn your Christmas tree outside in greater Minnesota!

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Abundant dry fuels are exposed, and ready to burn this year near the weatherlab and in much of Minnesota.

Huge “methane fountains” discovered in Russian Arctic:

Oh boy, this story is easy to make fun of…but scientists with the Russian Academy of Sciences are alarmed at the discovery of huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean seabed.

Methane is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas that CO2.

The fear here is that these newly discovered plumes are releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere, and that that could lead to “raipd and severe climate change.”

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Environment | Climate Change Shock as retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas

Russian research team astonished after finding ‘fountains’ of methane bubbling to surface

“Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.”

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.”

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