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The year 2000 brought one of the worst fire seasons in half a century to the US. By the month of August over 4 million acres (an area greater in size than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined) had been burned by wildfires and dozens of blazes raged out of control in 11 western states, with nearly half of the conflagrations occurring in Idaho and Montana. On 6 August 2000, as several fires converged in the Bitterroot National Forest near the town of Sula in western Montana, John McColgan, a fire behavior analyst in the employ of the USDA Forest Service, snapped the spectacular photograph shown above with a digital camera. As McColgan described the experience to a writer for the Western Montana newspaper The Missoulian: "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I've been doing this for 20 years and it ranks in the top 3 days of fire behaviour I've seen."
The day was the Sunday when several forest fires converged near Sula into a firestorm that overran 100,000 acres and destroyed 10 homes. Temperatures in the flame front were estimated at more than 800ºF. Nevertheless, McColgan said, the wildlife appeared to be taking the crisis in stride, gathering near the East Fork of the Bitterroot River where it crosses under US Highway 93. "They know where to go, where their safe zones are," McColgan said. "A lot of wildlife did get driven down there to the river. There were some bighorn sheep there. A small deer was standing right underneath me, under the bridge." McColgan snapped the photo with a Kodak DC280 digital camera. Since he was working as a Forest Service firefighter, the shot is public property and cannot be sold or used for commercial purposes.
After McColgan downloaded his amazing image to an office computer, a friend found it, emailed a copy to another friend, and by mid-September 2000 the picture was blazing its way across the Internet. Because many forwarded copies of the image lacked any attribution or explanation, email recipients began to circulate rumours about its origins and authenticity — some claimed that the photo was snapped by a tourist, that it was taken during the extensive Yellowstone National Park fires of 1988, or that it was yet another digital fake. (When a series of forest fires hit British Columbia in August 2003, this picture was sent around again with notes indicating that it was a photograph taken at one of those conflagrations.)
As John McColgan said afterwards, "I couldn't have profited from [the photograph], so I guess I'm glad so many people are enjoying it."
Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are relatively large and spontaneous ocean surface waves that occur far out at sea, and are a threat even to large ships and ocean liners.
In oceanography, they are more precisely defined as waves whose height is more than twice the significant wave height (SWH), which is itself defined as the mean of the largest third of waves in a wave record. Therefore rogue waves are not necessarily the biggest waves found at sea; they are, rather, surprisingly large waves for a given sea state. Rogue waves seem not to have a single distinct cause, but occur where physical factors such as high winds and strong currents cause waves to merge to create a single exceptionally large wave.
It is common for mid-ocean storm waves to reach 7 meters (23 ft) in height, and in extreme conditions such waves can reach heights of 15 meters (49 ft). However, for centuries maritime folklore told of the existence of much larger waves — up to 30 meters (98 ft) in height (approximately the height of a 10-story building) — that could appear without warning in mid-ocean, against the prevailing current and wave direction, and often in perfectly clear weather. Such waves were said to consist of an almost vertical wall of water preceded by a trough so deep that it was referred to as a "hole in the sea"; a ship encountering a wave of such magnitude would be unlikely to survive the tremendous pressures exerted by the weight of the breaking water, and would almost certainly be sunk in a matter of minutes.
Research has confirmed that waves of up to 35 meters (115 ft) in height are much more common than mathematical probability theory would predict using a Rayleigh distribution of wave heights. In fact, they seem to occur in all of the world's oceans many times every year. This has caused a re-examination of the reasons for their existence, as well as reconsideration of the implications for ocean-going ship design.
Typhoon Tip was the largest and most intense tropical cyclone on record. As the nineteenth tropical storm, twelfth typhoon, and third super typhoon of the 1979 Pacific typhoon season, Tip developed out of a disturbance in the monsoon trough on October 4 near Pohnpei. Initially, a tropical storm to its northwest hindered the development and motion of Tip, though after it tracked further north Tip was able to intensify. After passing Guam, it rapidly intensified and reached peak winds of 305 km/h (190 mph) and a worldwide record low pressure of 870 mbar (hPa) (25.69 inches of mercury) on October 12. At its peak strength, it was also the largest tropical cyclone on record with a diameter of 2220 km (1380 mi). It slowly weakened as it continued west-northwestward, and later turned to the northeast under the influence of an approaching trough. Tip made landfall on southern Japan on October 19 as a minimal Category 1 typhoon, and became an extratropical cyclone shortly thereafter.
Air Force reconnaissance flew into the typhoon for 60 missions, making Tip one of the most closely observed tropical cyclones of all time. Rainfall from the typhoon breached a flood-retaining wall at a United States Marine Corps training camp in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, leading to a fire which injured 68 and killed 13 Marines. Elsewhere in the country, it led to widespread flooding and 42 deaths. 44 were killed or left unaccounted for due to shipwrecks offshore.