Fear of Radioactivity in Russia Fires
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
Published: August 10, 2010
MOSCOW — As if things in Russia were not looking sufficiently apocalyptic already, with 100-degree temperatures and noxious fumes rolling in from burning peat bogs and forests, there is growing alarm here that fires in regions coated with fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 24 years ago could now be emitting plumes of radioactive smoke.
Several fires have been documented in the contaminated areas of western Russia, including three heavily irradiated sites in the Bryansk region, the environmental group Greenpeace Russia said in a statement released Tuesday. Bryansk borders Belarus and Ukraine.
“Fires on these territories will without a doubt lead to an increase in radiation,” said Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy program at Greenpeace Russia. “The smoke will spread and the radioactive traces will spread. The amount depends upon the force of the wind.”
Officials from Russia’s federal forest protection service confirmed that fires were burning at contaminated sites on Tuesday, and expressed fears that lax oversight as a result ofrecent changes in the forestry service could increase the chances that radioactive smoke would waft into populated areas. more
Deadly Russian heatwave could be preview of future
Tue Aug 10, 2010 at 09:10:03 AM CDT
The Great Russian Heatwave of 2010 is rapidly becoming one of the deadliest weather crises of our time. It might also be a preview of a future, warmer, planet. But you'd barely know it from watching US media coverage.
Noted climatologist Michael Mann says "The record heat waves we're seeing this summer aren't simply random events in isolation. They are embedded in the warmest 6 month period the globe has seen in the instrumental record spanning the past 150 years. And a wealth of paleoclimate evidence suggests that the past few decades are the warmest period in at least a thousand years." Mann also said, "Some argue the cause could be natural. But when we put the natural factors only into the climate models, they show that the climate should have cooled in recent decades. We can only explain the dramatic warming that we've seen from the increased accumulation of greenhouse gases due to human activity."
Dr. Jeff Masters from the WeatherUnderground agrees and adds, "Global warming 'loads the dice' in favor of extreme heat events. But with the planet experiencing its warmest 6-month period in recorded history, it's now possible to roll a thirteen, when it used to be possible to roll no higher than a twelve."
August is a crazy month for Masters. Tropical storm forecasts and tracking keep him up regularly past midnight. But he's been burning the candle at both ends this year, publishing superb analysis on the disaster in Russia and framing it in terms that anyone can understand. "The great heat wave and drought of 1988 in the Midwest U.S. was far less intense than the 2010 Russian heat wave, yet was the second costliest natural disaster in U.S. history at $70 billion. The 1988 heat wave killed 5,000 - 10,000 Americans. If the 2010 Russian heat wave hit the U.S. next year, the damage would probably surpass the $125 billion price tag of Hurricane Katrina as the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history. The likely death toll of 10,000 - 20,000 would also make it the deadliest." Masters added, "The damage to Russian agriculture will be in the tens of billions of dollars and could cost tens of thousands of lives." more