A wildfire roaring through drought-parched Oregon in the US is now so large it covers an area the size of LA and is generating its own weather.
he so-called “Bootleg Fire” is the largest so far this year in the US, having already burnt more than 1,373sq km of forest and grassland and displaced more than 2,000 people.
The blaze, which has been burning for more than two weeks, has begun affecting winds and disrupting the surrounding atmosphere.
“The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather,” said Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department.
“Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”
Experts say the blaze is creating pyrocumulus clouds, which form when extreme heat from the flames of a wildfire force the air to rapidly rise, condensing and cooling any moisture on smoke particles produced by the fire. These clouds essentially become their own thunderstorms and can contain lightning and strong winds.
“We are fighting the fire aggressively, and there are active efforts to build a containment line wherever it is safe to do so,” Mr Kauffman said.
The amount of landscape charred since the blaze began on July 6 grew by another 40,000 acres on Monday to reach a total of almost 340,000 acres, the US Forest Service estimated.
“The Bootleg” is the biggest, by far, of 80 major active wildfires that have collectively burnt nearly 1.2 million acres in 13 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho.
More than 19,600 firefighters and support personnel are tackling the blazes.
The spate of conflagrations, marking a heavier-than-normal start of the western US wildfire season, has coincided with record-shattering heat that has baked much of the region and is blamed for hundreds of deaths.
Much of the region continued to face the threat of fire yesterday, with nearly 3.5 million people under red flag warnings, according to authorities.
Meanwhile, US climate envoy John Kerry called on China to join America in urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions and described the international alliances that rebuilt Europe after World War II as a model for fighting against climate change.
Mr Kerry challenged global leaders to accelerate the actions needed to curb rising temperatures and pull the world back from the edge of the abyss.
“Allies, partners, competitors and even adversaries” must work together, he said during a speech at London’s Kew Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site where scientists are working to protect plants from global warming.
“The climate crisis is the test of our own times, and while it may be unfolding in slow motion, to some, this test is as acute and as existential as any previous one,” Mr Kerry said. “Time is running out.”
Mr Kerry described the next decade as decisive, saying countries around the world must speed up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if they are to meet their commitment to limit temperature increases to no more than 1.5C over pre-industrial levels.
Emissions must be cut by at least 40pc by the end of the decade to keep temperatures in check.