Russia is Burning
August 9, 2010 10:37 PM   Subscribe

The worst heatwave in 1000 years has led to half of Russia being on fire.
posted by divabat (104 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Quick, divert the floods from Pakistan.
posted by the noob at 10:39 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Big Picture coverage.
posted by rtha at 10:44 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I question whether literally "half of Russia" is on fire.

From the comments:

The fire situation in Russia is genuinely bad...that said, I suspect this map is misleading because each reported fire, large or small, is marked by the same sized icon. This is a common problem in mapping systems.

That siad, this is absolutely awful. I can't imagine the suffering.
posted by orange swan at 10:44 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The best coverage I've found in Anglophone media has been on Wikipedia. I've been flabbergasted how poorly this has been covered in by English-language newspapers.
posted by Kattullus at 10:54 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Inhofe cackles from within his igloo.

(then again, do not mistake weather for climate, as some did this past winter)
(although, see also global temperature anomaly maps for this winter, and predictions regarding winter storm intensity increases)
posted by redbeard at 10:55 PM on August 9, 2010


Most of what I've heard about what's going on in Russia right now has been from Russian friends on facebook, not any newspapers or media or etc. Which is kind of sad, really.

Also, I hate to kinda hijack the thread here, but does anyone know what this guy's hat is called? I'd take it to AskMefi but I just used up my question earlier today
posted by Venadium at 11:00 PM on August 9, 2010


Can anyone tell me what's going on in this video that was linked from There Live. Why are these guys driving through the fire? Are they escaping?
posted by Kattullus at 11:06 PM on August 9, 2010


I question whether literally "half of Russia" is on fire.

I found picture #11, a 900km-wide satellite photo, on rtha's link above pretty useful for getting a grip on the extent and density of the fires. Look for the areas outlined in red.

Also, am I alone in that this post is my first exposure to this pretty bad news? I'm more than a little disappointed in news media's (non-)coverage of this.
posted by The Potate at 11:07 PM on August 9, 2010


Here's a crazy video of some dudes driving through the fire. They start driving at 0:38.
posted by malapropist at 11:09 PM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Putin had transferred responsibility for fighting fires to those renting state property and the subjects of the federation, with the assumption that owners or renters would spend the money necessary to prevent forest fires, however the reality in Russia was that companies were seeking to make quick profits and so neglected forest fire fighting. Putin's spokesman stated "this is a well functioning system which only needs some minor adjustments".

doin a heckuva job ownership society ololololololololololol
posted by Azazel Fel at 11:09 PM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]




That said, this is absolutely awful.

Oh, it's better than that. Referring to a non-English language news source:

Ryssland varnar nu för att radioaktiva partiklar kan föras upp i luften om de bränder som uppstår i Bryanskområdet når platser där nedfall från Tjernobyl förgiftat marken.

Loose translation: "If the fires reach the area around Chernobyl, it will spread radioactive particles along with the smoke."

Putin has put a stop to grain exports (these fires are caused by drought which is also affecting farmers) and residents of Moscow haven't seen the sun in a month.

On the bright side, the wind turned Monday and residents of Moscow have received a brief reprieve.

Now maybe someone reading the American newspapers can fill me in on what Snookie has been up to.
posted by three blind mice at 11:15 PM on August 9, 2010 [27 favorites]


Venadium: but does anyone know what this guy's hat is called?

It looks like a Lenin's Cap, with extra proletariat styling.
posted by hanoixan at 11:15 PM on August 9, 2010


Also, man, Russia on fire, Pakistan flooding, the Gulf drenched by hurricanes . . . But personally, I'm not too worried about Mother Nature's climate-change-induced apocalyptic fits. I live twenty minutes from South Jersey so I fully expect her righteous fury to pass me by--the concentrated mass of animal print, hairspray, and sequins would confuse and deter even the most dedicated avenger.
posted by schroedinger at 11:21 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the fires reach the area around Chernobyl, it will spread radioactive particles along with the smoke.

Uh, I have nothing to actually say about that, but I figured it bore repeating. Geeze.
posted by threeants at 11:30 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


At this rate, we might not make it long enough for the phytoplankton shortage to kill us.

I want my parents' apocalypse. Nuclear annihilation is at least instantaneous. Millennials get to spend decades watching the earth die screaming.
posted by zjacreman at 11:32 PM on August 9, 2010 [14 favorites]


Kattullus: they're trying to escape from the burning village by the only (main) road out with three other cars on their tail and are forced to turn around (with great difficulties) when they hit a burning tree that's fallen on the road.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:32 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Horrible situation, but if "half of Russia" were on fire I don't think there would be any human life left on Earth.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:35 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought I recognized this church from a gallery of wooden churches that was on the blue recently, so I looked through. It's not featured, but the gallery is still gorgeous to look at. So there's that.
posted by lostburner at 11:36 PM on August 9, 2010


Yes, yes, weather is not climate etc. We've all heard this and said this a hundred times. But let's not rush to separate them completely. Historically extreme weather is exactly what you'd expect to see as a result of anthropogenic climate change, I suspect. Maybe it's fortunate that climate change will be gradual; it will give recalcitrant governments a progressively clearer vision of inaction's consequences.
posted by clockzero at 11:41 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Loose translation: "If the fires reach the area around Chernobyl, it will spread radioactive particles along with the smoke."

Say what?
posted by nola at 11:41 PM on August 9, 2010


"Loose translation: 'If the fires reach the area around Chernobyl, it will spread radioactive particles along with the smoke.' "

Say what?


Red Forest
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:48 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Loose translation: "If the fires reach the area around Chernobyl, it will spread radioactive particles along with the smoke."

Say what?


Chernobyl didn't happen, Chernobyl is still happening.
The radioactive shit isn't gone, it's not properly disposed of, there was too much of it, the radiation was too strong, the costs were too high, the sheer logistics too insurmountable.

Most of what escaped the building is loosely contained in the ground, with just a layer of earth bulldozed over it, gradually spreading around (it's expected to reach the water table in a decade or two, at which point the aquifers will start to rapidly transport it into the drinking water of the capital and other cities).

Some of it is in the trees and grass - uptaken during their growth with other minerals metals.

Wildfires create superheated columns of air that lifts particulate high into the atmosphere, where it can travel vast distances.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:51 PM on August 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


Does anyone else imagine the world ending with the word "oops"?
posted by clockzero at 11:57 PM on August 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


Millennials get to spend decades watching everyone they know the earth die screaming while the Earth continues to do what it does.

Fixed th...well you know what I did.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:03 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


(The more heavily radioactively contaminated land immediately around Chernobyl is sealed off. It's called The Exclusion Zone and is an area bigger than the state of Massachusetts. When they talk about the fire reaching Chernobyl, they mean fires in the Exclusion Zone, not necessarily fires reaching the reactor sarcophagus.)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:07 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is August and most of Russia, including the media, is on holiday.
posted by k8t at 12:08 AM on August 10, 2010


The wording of the FPP is really misleading, and needs to be changed, since, while the fire is bad, nowhere near "half" of the country is on fire:

The number of people killed in the wildfires remained at 52 on Monday, while the number of destroyed houses stayed at about 2,000. Fires covered an area of 174,000 hectares nationwide, Shoigu's ministry said (link).

Russia encompasses almost seven million square miles of land.

The "1000 years" is also probably wrong:

Frolov, speaking on Rossia-24 television, also said official archives have found that this year's heat wave is the worst in 1,000 years. He did not elaborate on the sources for the data. Moscow began keeping meteorological records 130 years ago.

Facts matter.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:12 AM on August 10, 2010 [8 favorites]




Frolov, speaking on Rossia-24 television, also said official archives have found that this year's heat wave is the worst in 1,000 years. He did not elaborate on the sources for the data. Moscow began keeping meteorological records 130 years ago.

Facts matter.


It said he did not elaborate on the sources for the data. Is there a reason to think Moscow records were the source of it? Or the only source of it?
A lot of climate research has been going on in recent years that looks at the records left in trees and soil and ice and rock, going back further than human-kept records. Maybe some of that was involved.
Maybe Moscow records were indeed the only data used, but something was lost in translation and the meaning was "a once-in-a-thousand-year event", rather than "has-not-happened-in-the-last-thousand-years".

You're right to be skeptical, but you don't seem to have sufficient information to call bullshit. The statement hasn't been shown to be verified, and this is distinct from it being known to be false.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:25 AM on August 10, 2010


Moscow began keeping meteorological records 130 years ago.

And mother nature has been keeping metrological records in the rings of trees and in the depth of permafrost for much, much longer than that.

Facts matter. Even if they aren't recorded first hand by man.
posted by three blind mice at 12:28 AM on August 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


You're right to be skeptical, but you don't seem to have sufficient information to call bullshit.

I was talking about the wording of the FPP. One person saying "1000 years" does not mean a 1000 years, and it would have made more sense to say "record breaking heat wave" (instead of "1000 years"), and "large areas of the Russian countryside, blanketing cities like Moscow in smoke" (instead of "half of Russia"). That is all.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:30 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, facts matter and it's tough sometimes to figure out what they are. Earlier tonight I saw a Moscow official whose statement was translated as "700 people a day are dying in Moscow". From fire? Smog? The fact is, that's the total death toll in Moscow from all causes but that's double normal. A while ago I saw this from Reuters Finland which was talking about the heat wave in mid-July. The Russian Public Safety official was pointing to the uptick in drownings because of people trying to cool off. He gave some large numbers, too, but I don't know how to parse them.

But maybe exact numbers don't matter. This is huge and many people are dead, the wheat crop is gone, and a lot of homes and businesses destroyed. Maybe "Russia is Burning" conveys the correct message.
posted by CCBC at 12:37 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe "Russia is Burning" conveys the correct message.

I agree, and I'm not trying to diminish what's going on at all (I posted about the fires yesterday on the Pakistan flooding thread). But to add some perspective about the "half of Russia" line: the 2008 California wildfires burned over twice as many hectares as the number being reported here, and everyone would agree that saying "half of America" was on fire in 2008 would be misleading.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:55 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


If a lot of my country was on fire, I think I could be forgiven some hyperbole - half the country, one-in-a-thousand-year event.

It's not really that relevant. There's a lot fire. It's destroying a lot of forest and property. It's killing a lot of people, mostly indirectly through smog.

It would have been a bit churlish to parse the statement "America is under attack" on 9/11.*

And for the sake of clarity, I'm not trying to suggest that specific people in this thread are being churlish.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:27 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Californian forests are expected to burn down every few years to give way to new trees which otherwise would get no sunlight... is this the case with the Russian forests as well?
posted by qvantamon at 1:31 AM on August 10, 2010


clarity, I'm not trying to suggest that specific people in this thread are being churlish.

It's just a general attitude*
bounty & verb
posted by Mblue at 1:33 AM on August 10, 2010



Californian forests are expected to burn down every few years to give way to new trees which otherwise would get no sunlight... is this the case with the Russian forests as well?


Well, periodic fires are just part of the life cycle for forests, but not on the scale of this, more on the scale of what you get from lightning strikes during an average non-climate-fucked year.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:39 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


^ and Russia is a huge diverse landscape, so who knows exactly.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:43 AM on August 10, 2010


At least peat bog fires are very normal in summer in russia. I just think the scale is quite different this time.
posted by Catfry at 1:49 AM on August 10, 2010


HP Laserjet: the 174,000 hectare figure is the area currently on fire. The total area that has been affected is about four times as large (more than 700,000 hectares).
posted by daniel_charms at 1:51 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christ, these over-dramatised wah-wah-it's-all-hyperbole things are little more than derails. If you think the post is really bad, take it to meta.
posted by bonaldi at 2:02 AM on August 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Potate: Also, am I alone in that this post is my first exposure to this pretty bad news? I'm more than a little disappointed in news media's (non-)coverage of this.

You must have been living in a cave for the last week. Or possibly in the US, where world affairs seem to get much less coverage than elsewhere.
posted by sour cream at 2:24 AM on August 10, 2010


advertising diversion. HTC Wildfire made a twitter-photo contest where those who tweet a photo with the tags #htc_wildfire #smog have a chance to win a new phone. Consider it terrible taste or whatever, but it gives us a pool of really smoggy city photos to look at, and a better idea of how nasty this really is, or was as this house is now gone. (hey nice statue you got there)
posted by dabitch at 2:27 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


doin a heckuva job ownership society ololololololololololol

That quote is misleading. "Subjects of the federation," in Russian political parlance, means sub-national-level territorial units such as autonomous republics and provinces. In other words, the new fire code was intended to move fire management to the "state and local" level. Of course, it was still a failure, and people on LJ are talking about how local administrations were buying hundred-thousand-dollar SUVs with no discernible fire-protection value.

I have to say that the thick-toxic-smog experience is not what I expected. First, there is of course the vaguely surreal effect of seeing half the people on the subway wearing masks and the other half wearing bandanas like Black Bloc anarchists. More importantly, though, there was no sense of choking or breathing problems, even in areas where you couldn't see across the street. (I'm a smoker, though.) You just got angry and tired and vaguely sick after about 10 minutes out on the street.

As for the wildfires, my dad and my stepmother have been at their dacha outside of Moscow for a week now, trying to hold off the blaze. Most of the forest around the village has burned down. The situation is not dangerous right now (although a spark could get it going again--there is visible flame 150 meters from the house), so there are no more fire crews--they're defending the village with pails of water and hoses. Basically the emergency services are under so much stress that they're not even putting out the fires except if it's a life-or-death situation. My stepmother says that they don't react or sometimes even pick up the phone when she calls in to report places that are actually on fire. Pretty much nothing can be done.
posted by nasreddin at 2:57 AM on August 10, 2010 [24 favorites]


Inhofe cackles from within his igloo.

Actually the russians have been big global warming deniers too, since a lot of their economy is dependant on oil and gas exports.

---

Also, it's interesting that global warming deniers all ran around saying how global warming obviously wasn't real during the major snow storms last winter, even going to so far as to claim that Global Warming advocates said that winters would go away (which was totally false except for some nut cases). On the other hand those same people didn't say anything during massive heatwaves this summer. But on the other hand, I don't see AGW proponents making those claims and they really should.


Also Chernobyl is in Ukranie, not Russia. Ukranians don't appreciate people forgetting that their country is independent.
posted by delmoi at 3:20 AM on August 10, 2010


Also Chernobyl is in Ukranie, not Russia. Ukranians don't appreciate people forgetting that their country is independent.

Yeah, exactly. I'm not sure what the relevance of Chernobyl is here at all, especially since it's not located in a forested area.

In other news the smell of the smog in my apartment has just abruptly changed. Now it smells like something is burning right next door, although I don't see or hear anything. Weird.
posted by nasreddin at 3:25 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also Chernobyl is in Ukranie, not Russia. Ukranians don't appreciate people forgetting that their country is independent.

No fooling.

While we're schooling each other in geography, you might be surprised to learn that the two countries share a border (a large one at that) and more or less the same weather. Moreover - whatever the Ukranians might think about their independence from the former Soviet Union - Russian wildfires do not need a visa to enter to the Ukraine.

I'm not sure what the relevance of Chernobyl is here at all, especially since it's not located in a forested area.

Obviously, posting links to non-English language reports is the same as not posting them at all.

"Det är Rysslands katastrofminister Sergej Shoigu som på torsdagen varnade för att partiklar från kärnkraftskatastrofen i Tjernobyl 1986 nu åter kan föras ut i luften tillsammans med större partiklar från bränderna."

Rough translation for those unable to find machine translations:

"It was Russia's catastrophe minister Sergej Shoigu who warned that particles from the atomic reactor in Chernobyl in 1986 can be driven up in the air together with larger particles from these fires."

Like those fires, the fallout from Chernobyl did not respect borders or protestations of independence.

Catastrophe minister. That's what I want to be when I grow up.
posted by three blind mice at 4:01 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Obviously, posting links to non-English language reports is the same as not posting them at all.

There's really no need to be such an ass about it. For the record, I looked up the Russian sources on the same topic and it turns out that he's talking about the possible danger to Briansk Oblast, a forested area near the Ukrainian border which was contaminated during the Chernobyl disaster. (In other words, not Chernobyl and not Ukraine.) Apparently the fire in that area is under control now, though.
posted by nasreddin at 4:07 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Soviet Union, forest fires prevent you!
posted by kcds at 4:12 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't know if US NPR counts as mainstream media, but they have had pretty good coverage of this. The government of Russia reports about 800K hectares have burned. However NPR reported yesterday that many in Russia believe the government is under reporting the severity of the crisis. Despite this "half" of Russia is not on fire. Russia is 1707510530 hectares, so to be accurate <0>4.2m acres burn each year or about 1.7m hectares. So this is about half of the US typical fire season (officially).
posted by humanfont at 4:27 AM on August 10, 2010


This has actually been in the news a lot.

Here's a link to the New York Times.

Here's a link to BBC News.

I've also seen this reported on NBC Nightly News.

Of course it's not going to be on cable news shows, but we've known for some time that those aren't really news shows. If you want to know what's happening in the world, read the New York Times for an American perspective, BBC News for a more general "western" perspective. If you get PBS, then you probably get the half hour nightly BBC broadcast, maybe around 6PM? It's on at 6PM here in the middle of Pennsylvania. Only a half hour long but it covers large world events (the big election in Kenya recently, the floods in China and Pakistan, the fires in Russia).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:36 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Catastrophe minister. That's what I want to be when I grow up

In the USA that position could be called Catastrophe Czar, but I doubt that Russia ever uses the word "Czar" to describe a ministerial position. (In reality I assume that Catastrophe Minister in the USA is the old "Heck of a job, Brownie" position: Head of FEMA.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:37 AM on August 10, 2010


While we're schooling each other in geography, you might be surprised to learn that the two countries share a border (a large one at that) and more or less the same weather. Moreover - whatever the Ukranians might think about their independence from the former Soviet Union - Russian wildfires do not need a visa to enter to the Ukraine.

The U.S. and Canada share a border, but as you recall, when there were snow storms in Washington D.C, there wasn't enough snow in Vancouver for the Olympics. The fact that two countries share a border doesn't mean they have the same weather. Ukraine and Russia are enormous. The distance between Moscow and Chernobyl is about the same as the distance between Berlin and Paris, or between Chicago and Memphis, TN. Do people in Seattle generally worry about forest fires in LA?
posted by delmoi at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2010


I promise to no longer complain about the weather here in Rhode Island, where it is merely oppressively humid.

Wait, no I don't. I can't possibly keep that promise because I am a special snowflake. A special melting snowflake.

Seriously, I know that every generation in human history has believed that they're the last ones and that the end is coming, but fuck the earth seems to be sending some pretty "FUCK YOU GUYS" messages this year. Were it sentient, I would be inclined to believe that it's righteously pissed.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:21 AM on August 10, 2010


Here's a link to BBC News.
Was that just sarcasm? Because the home page I see from that link has only a tiny "Moscow deaths double in heatwave" link buried on the page, which headline seems to bypass the point in a big way.
posted by bonaldi at 5:22 AM on August 10, 2010


In the USA that position could be called Catastrophe Czar, but I doubt that Russia ever uses the word "Czar" to describe a ministerial position. (In reality I assume that Catastrophe Minister in the USA is the old "Heck of a job, Brownie" position: Head of FEMA.)

Yeah, they're actually exactly the same post--it's properly called the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
posted by nasreddin at 5:24 AM on August 10, 2010


NPR has done several stories on this. News programs on more commercial media may have all but ignored this, but I wouldn't know because public radio is all that I've listened to for years.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2010


I am sorry that the headline is not big enough for you.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:35 AM on August 10, 2010


I do find it a bit depressing that internet-savvy people such as those on Metafilter still rely on one or two news sources for all their news. Really, there is no excuse for this.
posted by vacapinta at 5:41 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Millennials get to spend decades watching the earth die screaming.

The worst of the Chernobyl isotopes have a half-life of 24,000 years. Life on earth goes back 3,000,000,000 years. So, in terms of Gaia's lifespan, we're talking about an event with the duration of a headcold.

Homo sapiens may well be doomed. The earth is not.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:46 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am sorry that the headline is not big enough for you.
You sound as though that's not a concern. There are very few stories that genuinely "don't get reported". What people by the complaint is that they're under-reported, or not given due prominence.

Considering the death toll and that Moscow hasn't seen the sun for a month, I think the too-small headline *is* underplaying it. It makes it sound like the annual old-lady-dies-of-heatwave-in-rural-France story.

Thanks for the apology, though.
posted by bonaldi at 5:49 AM on August 10, 2010


Homo sapiens may well be doomed. The earth is not.

You'll be changing your tune in a hurry when the sun goes supernova, Mr. Smug-about-the-Earth's-future.
posted by cmonkey at 5:51 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just because the headline is small today doesn't mean it was small yesterday. The Moscow fires have been front-page, extra-big-font news in the past week. Today the story has been eclipsed by larger tragedies in Pakistan and China.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:51 AM on August 10, 2010


Just a comment on the transnationality of disaster regarding Chernobyl & the worry of forest fires releasing radiation - Chernobyl is indeed in the Ukraine, but Belarus received 75% of the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster because of the wind direction. Of course, compared to say, Russia or the Ukraine, the international community isn't particularly aware of Belarus, but fortunately Belarus spends 13.5 times what Russia does on forest fire prevention.
posted by metameat at 6:20 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just because the headline is small today doesn't mean it was small yesterday
Just because a memory is in your head doesn't mean you can show it to other people by giving them a link to something else.
posted by bonaldi at 6:20 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really have no idea what you're arguing about. But I forfeit, so you win!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:23 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Back on topic, I found an excellent Russian government site that shows current forest fire activity and smoke direction superimposed over satellite shots - it helps to know what place names look like in Cyrillic but for the convenience of people that don't know Smolensk from Minsk in Cyrillic, I centered it on Moscow.
posted by metameat at 6:31 AM on August 10, 2010


I'd love to know what the "HAY GUYZ IF GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL THEN WHYS IT SO COLD" crowd thinks of all this.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:33 AM on August 10, 2010


I'd love to know what the "HAY GUYZ IF GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL THEN WHYS IT SO COLD" crowd thinks of all this.

If you really want to know, then the Drudge Report is where you need to go. Here's one of the stories he's pushing: "Fruits, vegetables fail to ripen as S California nears 'coolest summer on record'..."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:35 AM on August 10, 2010


Somehow, this has to be Obama's fault.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:35 AM on August 10, 2010


For many of the news reports I've read, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is less a big deal than the area around what was called "Chelyabinsk-65" back during the Soviet era. There, in 1957, Russia suffered its worst nuclear accident. The installation is still operational today as Mayak production association. Interestingly, it's still considered a Closed Administrative Territorial Entity under the control of the Atomic Ministry.

I wanted also to pull out one of the sites buried in one of the links above, that of the Univ. of Maryland's geography department's FIRMS data. Pretty stunning stuff that uses the MODIS sensor; the standard for fire detection and assessment (from a remote sensing perspective). In other news, Sergei Shoigu is the Minister of the МЧС (MChS) - (Ministerstvo Chresvychainiykh Situatsiyii), or Emergency Situations Ministry*. They're in charge of civil defense, fire fighting and control, and emergency response. They also do things like send a planeload of medics and materiel to Haiti after the quake, and even offered to send aid to the Gulf Region after Katrina (they were, as far as I know, politely rebuffed).

With the understanding that these amount to PR shots, there are some photos on their site here.

* Министерство Российской Федерации по делам гражданской обороны, чрезвычайным ситуациям и ликвидации последствий стихийных бедствий, or The Russian Federation Ministry for Issues of Civil Defence, Emergency Situations and Elimination of the Consequences of Natural Disasters
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:50 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The worst in 1000 years. How long have records been kept?
posted by Postroad at 7:00 AM on August 10, 2010


I'd love to know what the "HAY GUYZ IF GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL THEN WHYS IT SO COLD" crowd thinks of all this.

S'mores!
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:08 AM on August 10, 2010


Chelyabinsk is a scary place. Entire lakes dried up and turned into radioactive dust from all the waste dumped in them scary.

in the spring of 1968 Lake Karachay began to dry up, and the wind carried away a substantial volume of radioactive dust, irradiating half a million people with five million curies.
posted by nomisxid at 7:15 AM on August 10, 2010


The worst in 1000 years. How long have records been kept?

Climate models use statistical analysis to predict the probability of extremes. A heat wave of this magnitude and duration has odds of happening once every thousand years. The wording may be misleading but I think you get the overall gist that this is a rare and extreme occurrence.
posted by rocket88 at 7:21 AM on August 10, 2010


I'd love to know what the "HAY GUYZ IF GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL THEN WHYS IT SO COLD" crowd thinks of all this.

"That's just God punishin' them godless commies."
posted by hell toupee at 7:32 AM on August 10, 2010


The worst of the Chernobyl isotopes have a half-life of 24,000 years.

The main sources of radiation in the exclusion zone have half-lives of between 2 and 30 years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:42 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


doin a heckuva job ownership society

This is basically the first thing that came to my mind reading about localizing it. To be sure, state level government isn't exactly the same as handing it over to private citizenry, but really, it's pretty clear there was no regulation or oversight happening and here's what you get. (We see the same problem in crop up repeatedly in China, with food, housing, etc. that only comes up when a lot of people die because of it...).

Regulation is a giant hassle, but really, it does save lives.
posted by yeloson at 7:48 AM on August 10, 2010


The worst in 1000 years. How long have records been kept?

I thought that 1000-year natural disasters meant something closer to ‘there is a .1% chance of a natural disaster of this magnitude happening per year’ rather than literally ‘the last time this natural disaster struck, it was August 1010’.

Think of it in terms of 20/30/100/500 year floods, if it helps.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:50 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure if someone linked this earlier in the thread, but there was a post of that dramatic video - a short drive through hell - that appeared on the blue last week. I link it for the discussion and links that appeared in-thread - of particular note, links supplied by mrgrimm.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:57 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Homo sapiens may well be doomed. The earth is not.

Aye. The thing that's really dangerous about AGW is not that the earth will die. It's that it will throw the earth into a climatological equilibrium that makes human civilization difficult. If the weather and food chain adjustments don't kill us, we will kill us fighting over basic resources.

It would be quite a shame for the only space capable animals in the known universe blowing the chance on surviving beyond our home planet's date with the death of our sun. Trading species immortality for being fat, living in oversized homes, and driving oversized cars seems a bit short sighted.

Anyway. Off to McDs. They have real milkshakes now! Toodle-oo.
posted by atypicalguy at 8:00 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Trading species immortality for being fat, living in oversized homes, and driving oversized cars seems a bit short sighted.

It also perfectly describes the human condition. The vast majority of us live in the now, and will worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

And the small minority that yells about impending doom and tries to take away our simple pleasures are viewed as, at best, dismissible kooks, or at worst actual enemies to our ways of life.

We are exceedingly stupid in that way.
posted by quin at 8:16 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought that 1000-year natural disasters meant something closer to ‘there is a .1% chance of a natural disaster of this magnitude happening per year’ rather than literally ‘the last time this natural disaster struck, it was August 1010’.

You are correct. There is a name for this: Probable Recurrence Interval.
posted by rollbiz at 8:17 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Google News link that vacapinta posted, third headline down:

Russians dying to get out of steamy Moscow

Classy!
posted by menschlich at 8:24 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, the first paragraph of my last comment was quoted from dinty_moore and should've been italicized.

Anyway, I hope that we can put some of this "1000 year" back and forth to bed now? Probable Recurrence Intervals, folks.

Several years ago I did three weeks fighting forest fires in Colorado. It was an incredible experience and I saw some things that were simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. One of the things that is evident in some of the videos from Russia is how fire basically creates its own weather. Winds can accelerate fire, which creates more wind, which accelerates it even faster. Fire can create complex enough "weather" so as to develop fire tornadoes.

Amazing stuff, but I feel for all of the people in the middle of it right now...
posted by rollbiz at 8:36 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoa! Fire tornado! I assume that's the sort of thing you just avoid, eh? I mean, you don't actually try to throw water on a thing like that, right?
posted by Mister_A at 9:30 AM on August 10, 2010


"Fruits, vegetables fail to ripen as S California nears 'coolest summer on record'...".

It does appear to be a little colder than usual in S. CA - they also grow cherries there, ripe for the picking.
posted by stbalbach at 10:32 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lotta red dots on your map there, stbalbach. Still, the fact that it's chilly in Gully-fawn-ya means dat klobal vawming is boolshit.
posted by Mister_A at 10:38 AM on August 10, 2010


What more people really need to understand is that the consequences of AGW are like living in a McDLT package gone horribly wrong: the hot side doesn't necessarily stay hot, and the cold side doesn't necessarily stay cold.

That's because in this context heat = the energy that powers the climate systems, not the temperature outside your front door. Global warming means we're running too much power through the air conditioner, not that we're just setting the thermostat a little higher.

Also, despite any localized "cooler than usual" spots, the overall average temperatures around the world definitely are way, way up above historical norms, and everything's melting. That's the problem. Well, and the phytoplankton dying off. And... Ah forget it.

This makes me think of the opening credits to Zombieland for some reason.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:44 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not in SoCal anymore but as a native I know damn well that 69 degrees as a high temp in the middle of August is not typical SoCal weather. When John and Michelle Phillips wrote, "I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA," they were not talking about 69 degrees.
posted by blucevalo at 11:16 AM on August 10, 2010


Trading species immortality for being fat, living in oversized homes, and driving oversized cars seems a bit short sighted.

We are exceedingly stupid in that way.


I think "selfish" might be a better word than "stupid." Most of the fat people in oversized homes and cars are not going to bear the brunt of the suffering caused by their actions.
posted by straight at 11:19 AM on August 10, 2010


Whoa! Fire tornado! I assume that's the sort of thing you just avoid, eh? I mean, you don't actually try to throw water on a thing like that, right?

Correct. Generally speaking and in my limited experience, if you're in a situation where there is enough fire to create massive winds and fire tornadoes, ground operations have probably been reduced to cutting firebreaks. There is usually water or chemical suppressants being used, but not from the ground. Instead, you're looking skyward for these...
posted by rollbiz at 11:43 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Think of it in terms of 20/30/100/500 year floods, if it helps.

Ever notice how those seem to happen a bit more often than you would think?
posted by smackfu at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2010


Ever notice how those seem to happen a bit more often than you would think?

Well, longer term the formulas might need to change to reflect the increased severity of weather, but short term it's basically the same thing as flipping a coin 10 times and having it come up heads 9 of those times. It's interesting, but it doesn't change the formula.
posted by rollbiz at 11:55 AM on August 10, 2010


"Historically extreme weather is exactly what you'd expect to see as a result of anthropogenic climate change."

Like when? I don't believe there is any clear historical record of extreme weather accompanying what you must admit is assumed to be anthropogenic global warming.

Dry forests burn. We don't have to bring religion into the picture.
posted by Sukiari at 2:22 PM on August 10, 2010


Dry forests burn. We don't have to bring religion into the picture.

Nonsense.

1. Science is not religion.
2. Drought records are kept, and can be determined through tree ring analysis, cores and any number of ways going back thousands of years.
posted by stbalbach at 8:53 PM on August 10, 2010


Surfacestations.org proves that climate data is being faked, and the climate gridding system is ridiculous - worthy of ridicule.

I guess it's like one of those religions where they show off a mummified hand, and then explain that this mummified hand proves Jesus was the son of God.

It's fire, and it's raging because the Russians don't believe in having a working wilderness firefighting corps. Global warming, anthropogenic or otherwise, does not start fires.
posted by Sukiari at 10:01 PM on August 10, 2010


Sukiari: Surfacestations.org proves that climate data is being faked, and the climate gridding system is ridiculous - worthy of ridicule.

The only thing worthy of ridicule is Anthony Watts, proprietor of surfacestations.org. I still can't believe that NOAA had to take time to rebut Watts' ridiculous argument that global warming can be explained away by the improper siting of measuring equipment in the US. Let me drop the science [pdf] and the big picture explanation of the science. You'll be happy to know that the result of Watts' efforts was to identify a cooling bias and therefore show that NOAA equipment had actually been underestimating warming in the US.
posted by Kattullus at 10:27 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


And just like in Zombieland, we're crawling with brain-dead zombies, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:57 AM on August 11, 2010


I don't believe there is any clear historical record of extreme weather accompanying what you must admit is assumed to be anthropogenic global warming.

This statement is so laden with bizarre qualifications--like the relative clause that contains both obligative and passive verbs concerning knowledge of facts--that it is literally impossible to counter. Not even wrong.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 9:26 AM on August 11, 2010




Silly Guardian, Chernobyl is in Ukraine, not Russia where the fires are.
posted by bonaldi at 2:15 PM on August 11, 2010


New Scientist: "The primary cause was a "blocking event" – a static atmospheric pattern that has trapped a high-pressure bubble over western Russia since mid-July, pulling in hot air from Africa."
posted by unliteral at 8:55 PM on August 12, 2010


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