More fire weather days coming

It’s been smoky this season. Based on research from Michael Goss et al., Al Shaw and Elizabeth Weil for ProPublica look at the current fire situation in California and what that might mean for the future and the rest of the country.

In wildfires, as with flooding and heat, climate change doesn’t create novel problems; it exacerbates existing problems and compounds risks. So there is no precise way to measure how much of all this increased wildfire activity is due to climate change. An educated guess is about half, experts say. Its role, however, is growing fast. Within 20 years, climate change promises to be the dominant factor driving larger and more frequent megafires — not only in California, but across the country.

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Covid-19 in your neighborhood

With recorded U.S. Covid-19 deaths passing the 200k mark, somehow the number still feels distant for many. The Washington Post, in collaboration with Lupa and the Google News Initiative, brings the tally to your neighborhood to help you relate more closely.

The story starts at your location. Based on population counts and density, you zoom out to see an approximation of how far a death radius would expand from where you are. You’re also taken to a county that would be wiped out.

Obviously we’re looking at hypotheticals here, but the interactive provides a granular sense of scale. The point is that 200,000 people dead is… a lot.

The Post’s version is based on Lupa’s original, which they made with Brazil numbers and location. Alberto Cairo provides background on the project here.

Small note for those who make these location-based interactives. Some people (me) who don’t want to share location or are outside the range of your dataset, it’s useful to provide links to well-known locations, so that they can still see the data.

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Map of climate threats where you live

For NYT Opinion, Stuart A. Thompson and Yaryna Serkez mapped the most predominant “climate threat” in each county:

This picture of climate threats uses data from Four Twenty Seven, a company that assesses climate risk for financial markets. The index measures future risks based on climate models and historical data. We selected the highest risk for each county to build our map and combined it with separate data from Four Twenty Seven on wildfire risks.

Got me thinking about Tim Meko’s maps of natural disasters.

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Smoke from the U.S. West Coast travels east and overseas

Smoke from the wildfires made its way to the other side of the country and over the ocean. Using data from NOAA, Reuters animated the smoke clouds over time:

With climate change expected to exacerbate fires in the future, by worsening droughts and warming surface ocean temperatures, wildfire research is becoming especially important. Over the last year, the world has seen record fires in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Siberia and now the U.S. West.

“I’m concerned that we are starting to see these phenomena more often … everywhere in the world,” Gassó said. “If it’s one year like this, it’s fine, as long as it doesn’t keep repeating itself like this.”

Uh oh.

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Mapping tree loss in rain forests over time

Bloomberg mapped tree loss between 2000 and 2019 in Brazil:

“What we have seen in Brazil is that rainforest protection is a highly political issue,” says Gerlein-Safdi of the University of Michigan. “With every change in government, laws can change very quickly, both for better or for worse.”

In some areas, the damage has been done. Efforts to build roads through the forest have opened up large swaths to exploitation. Satellite images of a new highway through the Amazon show how fast the land use changes from primary forest to agricultural land once logging companies and farmers gain access.

The maps are based on an analysis by University of Maryland geographers. The researchers compared satellite imagery over time to compare forest changes on a global scale, and you can download the data here.

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Design your own election scenario

As we have seen, small shifts in voting behavior of various demographic groups can swing an election. The Washington Post provides an interactive that lets you shift these groups by both turnout and vote margin to see what might happen (based on a simplified model).

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Red-blue electoral map and the green-gray in satellite imagery

For NYT’s The Upshot, Tim Wallace and Krishna Karra looked at how the red-blue electoral map relates to the green and gray color spectrum in satellite imagery:

The pattern we observe here is consistent with the urban-rural divide we’re accustomed to seeing on traditional maps of election results. What spans the divide — the suburbs represented by transition colors — can be crucial to winning elections. It’s part of why President Trump, seeking to appeal to swing voters, has portrayed the suburbs as under siege and menaced by crime. But the suburbs are neither politically nor geographically monolithic. They are where Democratic and Republican voters meet and overlap, in a variety of ways.

The breakdown and process are impressive. Be sure to check out the full rundown. Wallace also provides more details about how this came together on the Twitter.

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Racist housing policy from 1930s and present-day temperature highs

Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich for The New York Times show how policies that marked black neighborhoods as “hazardous” for real estate investment led to a present-day with fewer trees and higher temperatures. The maps that shift back and forth between past districting and how things are now show the picture clearly.

This goes hand-in-hand with how tree-cover and neighborhood incomes are also tightly coupled.

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California wildfires map

Los Angeles Times provides a California-specific map of the current wildfires to stay updated on what’s happening right now.

In the zoomed out view, hexagons bin the individual fires and color by number of hotspots. Wavy hatching indicates levels of air pollution. In the zoomed in view, see the individual fires and click for current status.

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Fire and smoke map

With the rush of wildfires in California, governor Gavin Newsom declared (another) state of emergency. The Fire and Smoke Map from the U.S. Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency provides a picture of where we’re currently at. The map incorporates data from a variety of sensors across the country:

The sensor data comes from PurpleAir, which crowdsources data from that company’s particle pollution sensors and shows the data on a map. Before the sensor data appear on the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map, EPA and USFS apply both a scientific correction equation to mitigate bias in the sensor data, and the NowCast, the algorithm to show the data in the context of the Air Quality Index.

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