New Mexico fires, photo: John Fowler/Creative Commons
by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY
Three extreme weather stories to take you into the long holiday weekend in the US to which you probably should be paying attention: 1) Fire continues to threaten Los Alamos National Laboratory and its store of radioactive waste stored (shockingly) in drums outside; 2) the drought in Texas is so bad that the entire state has been declared a disaster area; 3) ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa and East Africa is sending masses of what are essentially climate refugees from Somalia into Kenya.
Democracy Now reports that some 10 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda have been affected by the drought, which has been described as the worst in 60 years and in some areas near-famine conditions exist.
The UN's Mark Bowden says, "Unless we are able to take action now, I think that we are likely to see not just more migration, but a level of deaths in Somalia that takes us back almost 20 years and certainly has been unparalleled in the recent decade."
Closer to the homes of most TreeHugger readers, Texas is experiencing the worst drought since records began 116 years ago. Over 70% of the state is in "exceptional" drought conditions and the USDA has declared the entire state a natural disaster area.
Joe Romm prefers the term Dust-Bowlification to describe what's happening now and rightly says, "If drought doesn't capture what's happening now, it certainly won't capture what we face if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions sharply." Indeed.
Earlier in the spring, when the area should have started receiving rain, a half million acres of wildfires came instead.
New wildfires continue in New Mexico though, threatening Los Alamos National Laboratory. So far 110 square miles have been burnt, with smoke seen 60 miles away. The big threat is to radioactive waste stored there:
The Environmental Protection Agency has deployed air monitors and aircraft that can monitor radiation levels, amid fears the blaze could reach a cache of 30,000 drums, each containing 55 gallons (208 litres) of plutonium-contaminated waste.
Fire managers said foam could be sprayed on the barrels containing the radioactive materials to ensure they were not damaged by fire, a procedure which would only be carried out as a last resort. (BBC News)
This one deserves some very close attention...read more story at TreeHugger.com