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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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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Timeline of California Wildfires

The wind was blowing smoke and ash from wildfires further up north from where I live. The sky turned an eerie orange. I wondered about past fires and made the chart below. Read More

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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New Lab Matters: The ABCs of PFAS

New Lab Matters: The ABCs of PFAS | www.APHLblog.org

First discovered in the 1930s, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) now pervade almost every aspect of modern life. In fact, PFAS compounds are found in everything from dental floss to cookware. But human exposure to PFAS comes at a cost, and as old compounds are removed from production, new compounds take their place. So how does a public health laboratory handle this challenge with limited resources? As our feature article shows, by establishing new public-private partnerships.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

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New Lab Matters: Time to welcome the next generation of public health laboratory scientists

New Lab Matters: Time to welcome the next generation of public health laboratory scientists | www.APHLblog.org

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 12,000 new laboratory professionals are needed each year to meet consumer demand. At the same time, while automation has eliminated some less-skilled laboratory jobs, the growing sophistication of public health laboratory analyses has generated demand for scientists with highly specialized training. As our feature article shows, laboratories are recruiting new talent for the “hidden profession” by taking a hard look into what they really want, and how they want to work.

Here are just a few of this issue’s highlights:

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Partnerships Help Save Lives When Disaster Strikes

Emergency responders gathered in a circle.

Public health emergencies occur every day across the United States. Tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, infectious disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies have all occurred within the past few years and likely will happen again. Communities must be ready in the event of a public health emergency – both those they expect and those that come without warning.

Since 2002, CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program has provided funding and guidance to 50 states, four cities, and eight territorial health departments across the nation to protect communities. Planning and exercising plans help ensure that health departments are ready to respond and save lives when emergencies occur.

While we all hope that emergencies never happen, they are inevitable and the true test of any preparedness system. The following stories are examples of how CDC’s PHEP program works with states and local communities to ensure they are ready to respond to any emergency. Some of CDC’s partners include health departments, community organizations, national public health organizations, and private companies.

Restoring California Communities after Devastating Wildfires

A fire truck responds to a brush fire.In 2017, nearly 9,000 fires, almost double the average annual number, burned 1.2 million acres in California. The fires destroyed more than 10,800 structures and killed at least 46 people. However, thanks to years of planning for such events and building a public health infrastructure through the PHEP program, state and local health departments were ready to respond immediately and help their communities recover over the following months.

Through partnerships and support provided by the PHEP program in and around Sonoma County, local officials evacuated more than 1,160 patients from area hospitals and many other healthcare facilities. Additionally, because of the relationship the state built with the California National Guard through the PHEP program, more than 100 volunteer troops cleaned the Sonoma Developmental Center in one day. More than 200 patients with disabilities were then able to return safely to the facility.

Ensuring Access to Medication during an Influenza Outbreak in Maine

Package of Oseltamivir (i.e., Tamiflu) capsulesIn March 2017, an influenza outbreak on Vinylhaven, a remote island off the coast of Maine with a population of about 1,165, sickened half of the island’s residents. The outbreak depleted the medical center’s Tamiflu® supply. Tamiflu® can greatly lessen the severity of influenza but it must be taken early in treatment.

Because of a partnership agreement established under PHEP with the Northern New England Poison Center, local pharmacies, and other organizations, and the Maine Department of Health staff quickly delivered 100 treatment courses of Tamiflu®. As a result, the state successfully reduced the impact of the influenza outbreak on the island.

Responding to a Water Contamination Incident in Illinois

Bottles of water on a conveyor belt.On May 2017, a water main break under a river contaminated water in Cumberland County, Illinois, and left some residents without water entirely. Health department staff funded through PHEP established water distribution sites with bottled water donated by private partners such as Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Anheuser-Busch. Staff also went door-to-door to check on residents and distribute materials about safe water.

The PHEP program ensures public health emergency management systems and experts are ready to respond when emergencies occur. Preparedness efforts throughout the years have saved lives and helped communities return to normal operations as quickly as possible.

From natural disasters to infectious diseases, the PHEP program protects America’s health, safety, and security to save lives. Check out the PHEP Stories from the Field to find out more about how the PHEP program has helped communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health emergencies.

More wildfires than ever

Peter Aldhous for BuzzFeed News delves into the increasing number of wildfires in California:

Most of California’s rain and snow falls in between October and March, which means that fire season peaks in the summer, as vegetation dies and dries out. In Southern California, the season extends into the fall, when Santa Ana winds, which blow from the dry interior toward the coast, whip up small fires into major conflagrations.

As the state has dried and warmed, the fire season has started earlier and larger areas have burned. Similar changes have occurred across the western US.

Grab the data and code to look for yourself.

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Scale of the California wildfires

The Mendocino Complex Fire, now the largest in California ever, continues to burn. I live a couple of hundred miles away, but the sky is yellow and orange at times, and it was smokey a few days ago. It’s a bit crazy. Lazaro Gamio for Axios provides a quick view to show scale with an animated graphic compared against Washington, D.C. and Manhattan.

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Hello, Pasadena! Day 1 of the APHL Annual Meeting

Hello, Pasadena! Day 1 of the APHL Annual Meeting | www.APHLblog.org

We are in sunny Pasadena, California for the 2018 APHL Annual Meeting! Here is a little look at what we did on the first day. Stay tuned for updates every day through June 5.

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