Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, sips water in the shade of a burnt tree in New Mexico's Bandelier Wilderness area, adjacent to the Bandelier National Monument. This site was devastated by last year's Las Conchas fire.
Driving along the Forest Service roads on the edge of the Bandelier National Monument, you can see the destruction wrought by the Las Conchas fire. The megafire burned more than 150,000 acres of forest — about twice the area of Manhattan.
Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey, points to the devastation in Bandelier's Cochiti Canyon, which was burned by the Las Conchas fire. According to Allen, these megafires are "the new normal."
Wildflowers and weeds dot a once-forested landscape. The suppression of natural forest fires during the past century has set the stage for devastating megafires, setting new records in size and intensity.
Allen (left) and Castro look across the wasteland of a plateau reduced to ashes during the Las Conchas fire. Because the fires stripped vegetation from hillsides, these areas are now vulnerable to flash floods during the summer rains.
Collin Haffey, a biotechnician with Bandelier National Monument (left), and Allen examine a tiny Ponderosa pine tree sprouting up in the burn zone in the Dome Wilderness. Indigenous species of trees have failed to return to the area since the Las Conchas fire.
Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of Ecology from Spain, sips water in the shade of a burnt tree in New Mexico's Bandelier Wilderness area. Last year's Las Conchas fire devastated the area burning over 150,000 acres of forest.
Fire scientists are calling it "the new normal": a time of fires so big and hot that no one can remember anything like it.
One of the scientists who coined that term is Craig Allen. I drive with him to New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument, where he works for the U.S. Geological Survey. We take a dirt road up into the Jemez Mountains, into a landscape of black poles as far as you can see.
Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 9:32 pm
Cecilia Giménez, 81, thought she was doing a good thing. A 19th century fresco by painter Elias Garcia Martinez had slowly been battered by time. The masterpiece portrait of Jesus had faded. His tunic was splashed by bare wall and half his face had gone missing.
Giménez, a member of the church where the fresco is located, took it upon herself to restore it to its former glory. Except, well, her artistic skills weren't up to the task.
The pictures tell the story, so we'll just show you.