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Miles & Miles of Sunburned Trees

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I said there was ONE bad thing that freaked me out that I noticed on my trip down to the Oregon Coast and back:

Miles and miles of trees sunburnt on their southwest side, the new growth tips at least, and sometimes more, were brown and crispy, providing tons of tinder just ready for an ember or spark…

Rhododendrons and azaleas (which are native here) exposed to afternoon sun were burned on the same side, as were any ferns on the ground that felt the worst of the heat– they were brown and curled up like it was late October. I saw many, many trees with some sun damage, but the Douglas firs and blue spruces seemed to get the worst of it. I have never seen anything like it in my 51 years, 45 years being here in the Pacific Northwest!

It’s totally unprecedented. I mean… maybe a really bad dry summer you’ll see some trees not making it… but miles and miles of tens of thousands of trees all with brown on any exposed southwest sides? Never!

I only thought of taking video or photo after we were on the eastern side of the coastal ranges which had more shade at the peak of the sun’s rays and less damage than seen on the western slopes.

Still, I managed to find some other sources I could share with you. Below is one example, but I saw areas where the sunburned tips of branches was way worse than this:

What I saw is best illustrated by this article:

John Nohr, the fire chief for parts of Clark and Cowlitz counties in Washington state, was driving down Interstate 5 when another firefighter asked if he’d noticed the trees.

It was June 29 — one day after the hottest day in both Portland’s and Vancouver’s histories — and Nohr turned to see the needles on every fir tree had turned brown on the side facing the sun, seemingly overnight. On Interstate 205, he saw the same.

For Nohr, who has spent his entire life in the Northwest, it was a first. It was also cause for concern.

Last month’s heat dome left trees across the Portland metro area, and much of the state, browning and dried up. With little moisture in the forecast, those stands of trees pose a risk of turning into major fires.

Below, this shows what home and land owners are facing in their yards after 5 days in a row of above 95 degree weather, 3 of which being over 100. It explains what happens when trees and shrubs are sunburned by a master arborist.

Local Seattle news:

Down south where the heat wave was a good 5 degrees worse than the Seattle area, an entire industry has been hammered– the Xmas trees in Oregon:

Of course, I feel a mounting dread for this year’s fire season. It’s already begun, yet again setting records for number of acres burned by this point in the year for many states, including Oregon and Washington. But the west side of the Cascades, as well as the west side of the Coastal ranges, are used to much more rain in the spring and don’t get baked like this. The Ponderosa pines on the eastern side of the Cascades and western side of the northern Rockies, by comparison, have adapted to occasional high temps and even regular fires (their sides only germinate after a fire “pops” them.) But Douglas firs like rain and shade. They’re used to 2 to 3 months of summer drought, but not 5 to 7 months of it! Let alone this sun that burned entire areas of them! That’s tinder that will allow embers and sparks to set the whole tree on fire– not to mention make it easy for fires from below to burn up to the top of the canopy!

I LOVE the forests here. They’re magickal and unlike any type of forest anywhere except MAYBE the Sequoias or Redwoods that cover the western slopes of Northern California and Southern Oregon. They’re the second tallest trees in the world after Redwoods and so majestic! It hurts my heart to see this kind of damage. And I know what it could mean this August and September.


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