A single wildfire last summer destroyed at least 10% of the world’s giant sequoia trees, a new report found

In this April 22, 2021, photo provided by Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, fire scientists make measurements and assessments of a giant sequoia tree following the 2020 Castle Fire that burned within Sequoia National Park, Calif.

  • A massive California wildfire last summer destroyed more than 10% of the world’s giant Sequoia trees
  • A new report obtained by the Visalia Times-Delta determined that the event was caused by climate change-drought.
  • The damage is noteworthy, in part, because the towering trees are well-adapted to fire.
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More than 10% of the world’s mature giant sequoia trees were destroyed by a California wildfire that swept through the Southern Sierra Nevada last year, according to a new draft report prepared by the National Park Services.

The Visalia Times-Delta newspaper obtained a copy of the report, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or made publicly available.

Researchers determined that the Castle Fire, which charred hundreds of square miles in Sequoia National Park, destroyed between 7,500 and 10,000 of the massive trees, the outlet reported. The study found that the ravaged trees accounted for 10% to 14% of the world’s total sequoia population.

“The loss of 7,500 to 10,600 large giant sequoias, many of which are likely thousands of years old, is devastating,” Dr. Christy Brigham, the study’s lead author and chief of Resources Management and Science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, told CNN. “These trees are irreplaceable in our lifetimes.”

Experts determined the event was a result of climate change-driven drought and fire suppression efforts undertaken during the massive California bushfire that began last August after a lightning storm.

In this April 22, 2021, photo provided by Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, is a stand of burned sequoias in the Board Camp Grove in Sequoia National Park, Calif., following the 2020 Castle Fire.

Brigham told the Visalia Times-Delta that the numbers are still preliminary, and starting next week, teams of scientists will venture to the worst-hit groves for the first time since the fire stopped burning.

“I have a vain hope that once we get out on the ground the situation won’t be as bad, but that’s hope – that’s not science,” she told the outlet.

But the extent of the damage is noteworthy, in part, because the sequoia trees are well adapted to fire. The giant trees, which can reach heights of 300 feet, require fire to crack open their cones, releasing seeds that help the species reproduce.

But an influx in regional droughts and changing fire suppression norms in the area have been “very bad” for the towering trees, Brigham told the newspaper.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon have conducted controlled burns for the past six decades in order to keep the forest healthy. Brigham said the park will need to burn nearly thirty times the average of a thousand acres a year to get the forest back to health.

In this April 22, 2021, file photo, provided by the National Park Service, shows a smoldering tree in Sequoia National Park, Calif.

Brigham told the Visalia Times-Delta that she hopes last year’s fire shocks lawmakers into action allocating resources for forest management and fire prevention.

Scientists are currently targeting the most at-risk areas in the grove in an attempt to prepare for another possible wildfire, which grows more and more likely among one of the driest years on record in the Sierra.

Conditions in the park remain so dry, that an enormous tree was found still smoldering and emitting smoke in Sequoia National Park last month, nearly a year after the wildfire devastated the region.

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A bad hurricane season could be the next headache for businesses already facing a supply shortage

iota monday morn
Satellite imagery captures Hurricane Iota bearing down on Nicaragua as a Category 5 hurricane on November 16, 2020. NOAA/NASA

  • It will be another active year for hurricanes following 2020’s record-breaking season.
  • The storms could cause problems for already struggling supply chains like lumber, oil, and pork.
  • “It’s a significant risk that all businesses need to be thinking about right now,” said AccuWeather.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A bad Atlantic hurricane season may be the next disruption to the supply chain.

“It looks like another active year,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter, “which is not good news.”

Items from lumber and housing supplies, to toilet paper and tampons, to gas and plastics, to pork and chicken, have been plagued by shortages caused by a sting of factors: Supply chains snarled in the coronavirus pandemic, backed-up ports, reverberations from the February Texas freeze, the Suez Canal blockage, worker scarcity, and the temporary shutdown of a vital oil pipeline, among other issues.

Though meteorologists aren’t predicting the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, will be as record-breaking as 2020, they’re saying the number of named storms and hurricanes will be higher than in a normal year.

DTN, a Minnesota-based analytics firm, is predicting 20 named storms, compared to the annual average of 12. Of those, nine will be hurricanes, and four will be major hurricanes of category 3 or stronger. AccuWeather had similar predictions of 16 to 20 named storms, seven to 10 becoming hurricanes, and three to five to becoming major hurricanes.

The economic impact from last year’s hurricane season, which had six category 3 or higher storms, was about $60 to $65 billion in damage and losses, according to AccuWeather.

“The combination of another enhanced hurricane season and the threat of landfall across a big section of the East Coast of the US this year will be disruptive to the supply chain,” said Renny Vandewege, a leading weather expert at DTN.

Read more: Morgan Stanley says the stock market is flashing early warning signs of weakness as businesses face supply shortages. It recommends investors make these 4 trades to avoid the risks ahead.

Vandewege said the storms are more likely to favor the East Coast this year, compared to 2020, when the Gulf Coast felt a heavier impact.

The storms could “disrupt really anything that’s being imported in,” Vandewege said.

“We’re already having a months-long backup at the Port of Los Angeles, and then if we had also the same thing on the East Coast for an extended period of time, it could phenomenally exacerbate product shortages,” said Chris Wolfe, chief executive officer of logistics company PowerFleet.

Storms affect a state’s big industries, too. Along the Texas gulf coast, hurricanes can have an impact on the chemical and the oil and gas industries. A storm there could echo issues that arose from the Texas freeze in February and the six-day Colonial Pipeline shutdown that caused gas prices to surge and prompted some East Coast residents to panic-buy gas.

The forestry industry could be “deeply impacted” as well, Vandewege said. “There’s been shortage on building materials, and that could be enhanced even more if we’re seeing key manufacturing areas shut down around Louisiana and Alabama” because of a hurricane.

Pork, which is heavily produced in North Carolina and other southern states, has faced shortages in the past year, as well, thanks to the pandemic.

When hurricanes, like Florence in 2018, have struck the state in the past, thousands of hogs died. Other livestock and agriculture are also at risk when hurricanes hit.

“There’s huge pork production, chicken production, all the way through the South,” Wolfe said, so storms “could dirsupt food supplies.”

Porter from AccuWeather also noted that the West Coast could see another damaging wild fire season, and he said companies have to prepare ahead of time. “It’s a significant risk that all businesses need to be thinking about right now,” he said. “What’s their vulnerabilities and plan to mitigate.”

Climate change and extreme weather events topped the World Economic Forum’s list of biggest global risks in 2020. That was no surprise to Porter, who said, “people are getting negatively impacted almost on a daily basis by weather events. He said for businesses, the supply chain is a “major component” of that.

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An enormous Sequoia tree is still smoldering and emitting smoke months after California’s devastating wildfires

smoldering tree in Sequoia National Park
A smoldering tree in Sequoia National Park, California, on April 22, 2021.

  • A tree in California’s Sequoia National Park is still smoldering months after a disastrous wildfire.
  • The tree is still burning from the Castle Fire which tore through the region in August 2020.
  • Embers inside the tree still continued to smolder even through the winter’s rain and snowfall.
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An enormous tree has been found still smoldering and emitting smoke in California’s Sequoia National Park, months after historic wildfires devastated the region last August.

Officials discovered the tree, located in the Board Camp Grove, while surveying different areas of the park to determine the effects of the 2020 Castle Fire, according to a statement from the National Park Service.

The Castle Fire, which was sparked by a lightning bolt last summer, burned down more than 270 square miles of land before it was contained in December, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Photos of the tree show it spouting small plumes of smoke in the middle of a brown and blackened forest. Researchers say they discovered embers still burning inside the tree, which appear to have stayed there despite rain and snowfall in the winter.

But this persistent burning isn’t unusual. Mike Theune, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks told the Guardian that the inside of a tree can act like a wood-burning stove, feeding the fire enough oxygen for it to survive for long periods of time.

Theune added it was important to remember that many of the sequoias – the largest tree in the world in volume with an immense trunk – in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains had survived millennia of extreme weather, forest fires, and droughts, he told the Guardian.

“The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle Fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” said Leif Mathiesen, the assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, according to the Guardian. “With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer.”

Firefighters were battling nearly 100 major blazes across the West Coast last summer. Climate scientists have warned that these giant blazes will only become more frequent as the planet warms.

California’s nine largest wildfires ever have all occurred since the year 2000, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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