|In 2005, Michael Fromm, a meterologist at Washington D.C.'s Naval Research Facility, requested aerial images of large fires burning in Alaska, 2004, to augment his research on stratospheric clouds. Along with his request, Fromm reported an exciting discovery. With the help of two satellite instruments put into space in the 1990's, he and his colleagues concluded that "a certain subset of boreal forest fires explode with enough convective energy to inject smoke (and other fire emissions) deep into the lower stratosphere." The catch? "In meteorology training, we're taught that the tropopause is a firm lid, and that only volcanoes have enough oomph to pierce that lid. Well, now it appears we have a new paradigm to play with. Last summer the fires in Alaska and Yukon and BC gave us new opportunities to see these 'PyroCbs' in action."
In remote regions, most wildfires are caused by lightning. Not all wildfires can or should be stopped. But when environmental and human impacts from wildfires prove ultimately disasterous, it's worth noting that about 9 of 10 wildfires initially attacked are extinguished almost immediately. In Alaska and inaccessible areas of the United States, the ideal agents of initial attack are smokejumpers, helishots and related air support. Hot Shots are also invaluable initial attack specialists when not delayed by cumbersome ground transportation.
Predicting fire behavior and simply waiting often results in huge and costly fire campaigns rather than funding initial attack as a priority. Wildfires are unique phenomena. Unlike environmental disasters such as volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and tidal waves, humans routinely stop wildfires before they do irreparable harm.