Fire Season 2017 Update: Wildfires in California to Worsen, While Monsoon Douses Southwest

It’s wildfire season out west, and after a record-hot June dried out many areas, the prognosis is slightly worse than average for certain areas, especially California. But luckily there is relief in sight for the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Meanwhile, a number of fires have sprouted up in the Pacific Northwest.

The most concerning of the seven large wildfires in California is the Detwiler fire, which has driven thousands from their homes and is threatening the town of Mariposa outside Yosemite National Park. The blaze, which has reached 48,000 acres in size, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, is only 7 percent contained. More than 3,000 firefighters are battling it. In total, fires are spread throughout more than 217,000 acres in California, an area about 10 percent larger than New York City.

Jeff Weber, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says there isn’t likely to be any near-term relief for California. As with other Southwestern states, like Arizona and Nevada, California had an “anomalously hot” June, with many towns reporting record high temperatures for the month. (Arizona reported the hottest June on the books.)

It’s the dry season for Cali, he notes, with significant rainfall not expected until the winter. The only hope for significant rains would be if some tropical storm systems from the eastern Pacific made their way north, which is possible but isn’t in the cards in the near future.

“There have been a number of systems, but they’re far south,” Weber says. “Other than that, there’s not much hope for California to get much rain, and...probably we’ll continue to see wildfires get worse.”

He adds, “We had a persistent ridge of high pressure,” which some have called a “ridge of death,” that “persisted for an unusually long time over the Southwest.” It parked itself there for most of the month and “really dried things out,” making conditions ripe for fires. It has since moved eastward over Texas and Kansas, which are now expecting record highs over the next five days or so, he added.

For what it’s worth, such persistent heat ridges are expected to be more common in a “climate change scenario,” although one can’t point to a single weather event and say it’s due to global warming, Weber says.

On the bright side, the Golden State had an unusually wet winter, with about 2.5 times the normal amount of precipitation, so that’s helped prevent the fires from being even worse, Weber notes.

Flames from the Detwiler fire burn on a hill overlooking the town of Mariposa. Stephen Lam / REUTERS

The good news is that this persistent high pressure system set the stage for a powerful monsoon season. The North American monsoon is a weather system that draws moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and California into the Southwest, and it has already begun, bringing much-needed rain to the Four Corners states. June’s high pressure system, which has now moved east, is joined by a low pressure system in southwest Arizona. (High pressure systems, in this case, involve warm air descending, and low pressures involve hot air rising from the surface.) The former system pulls air masses in a clockwise direction, while the former does the opposite, and together they act like “cogs in a wheel” to siphon moisture north into the Southwest.

As the moist air rises over the mountains of the Sierra Madre and the spine of the Rockies, it loses its ability to hold on to it, causing deluges of rain. These storms are helpful for wildfires but can also be deadly; flash flooding in Arizona killed at least nine people earlier this week. The monsoon has already brought moisture to these four states and some areas to the north, and will likely to continue to do so until September.

Elsewhere, large fires are multiplying. On July 20, 13 new large fires were reported: one each in California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming; two in Washington; and six in Montana, according to the fire center. Year to date, there have been more than 35,000 wildfires covering more than 4,500,000 acres, making 2017 the third-worst year in the past decade in terms of fire coverage.

But there’s some good news for the Northwest. “Mid-latitude [storm] systems should give Oregon, Wyoming and Montana some relief in the coming weeks, but these seem to miss California,” Weber says.

This illustration explains how a southwest monsoon develops, drawing moisture and storms from the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California inland. ARIZONA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION

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Federer, Nadal and the Williams Sisters Bring Their 60 Grand Slam Titles to Aussie Final

The score heading into the final weekend of the Australian Open? Love 30s, as four all-time greats who are all in their fourth decade—Venus Williams, 36; Serena Williams, 35; Roger Federer, 35; and Rafael Nadal, 30—will take to the blue hard court surface at Rod Laver Arena in the two finals. Between them, the four have won 60 Grand Slam singles titles.

The men’s and women’s singles finals at the year’s first Grand Slam event promise to be matches for the ages and, because each begins at 3:30 a.m. Eastern time, to test the mettle of stateside devotees. Adjust your alarms and body clocks accordingly. In the women’s draw (ESPN, 3:30 a.m. Saturday), sisters Venus and Serena will meet in a Grand Slam final for the ninth time. In the men’s final (ESPN, 3:30 a.m. Sunday), Federer will attempt to extend his men’s record of Grand Slam singles titles to 18 against Nadal, who is tied with Pete Sampras for second-most at 14.

Either Serena (left) or Venus Williams will win the sisters their 30th Grand Slam singles title this weekend Toby Melville

Only four active tennis professionals have won more Grand Slam singles titles than 36-year-old Venus Williams, who has won seven. When the elder Williams sister steps onto the blue court in Melbourne this weekend, she will do so knowing that three of those four will also be playing (Novak Djokovic, who was eliminated earlier this week, is the only active player, male or female, who has won more Grand Slams than Venus who will not be present).

Related: Will the 30s curse hit Novak Djokovic?

The Williams sisters are the two winningest Grand Slam figures among active female players. Venus has seven Grand Slam titles. Only Serena, 35, possesses more: 22. If the younger Williams sister prevails, she will break the tie with Steffi Graf for the most all-time, man or woman, in the "open era" with 23. Since 2007, Serena has won at least one Grand Slam title every year with the exception of 2011, an injury-shortened campaign.

Serena Williams will take aim at an all-time record 23rd Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne USA TODAY SPORTS

The Williams, who have dominated women’s tennis since the dawn of the millennium, will also become the oldest female pairing in a Grand Slam final at a combined 71 years. Only one woman older than Venus has ever advanced to a Grand Slam final. That happened in 1994, when 37 year-old Martina Navratilova made it to the Wimbledon final. While Serena has won five Grand Slams in the past four years, her older sibling, with whom she shares a home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, last advanced to a final in 2009, when she was 29. That was at Wimbledon, where Serena beat her. The year before at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Venus beat Serena in the final, her last Grand Slam title.

The 2017 Australian Open finals are a repeat of that magnificent fortnight in England in 2008. That summer’s event featured the same four finalists. In an epic five-set match in the men’s final that was twice interrupted by rain, Nadal outlasted Federer. The match lasted nearly five hours and is considered by many to be the greatest in the history of the men’s game. It also denied Federer the claim of becoming the first male to win six consecutive Wimbledons.

Federer will reach for his first Grand Slam title since 2012 and his 18th overall Thomas Peter

Including that July afternoon in 2008, Nadal, 30, has won 10 Grand Slam titles since that match. Federer, five years the Spaniard’s senior, has won five. More than four years have passed since the Swiss master won a Grand Slam, at Wimbledon in 2012. At 35 years old, this may be his final appearance on the second Sunday of a Grand Slam.

Injuries have robbed Nadal, who relies on quickness and pure stamina, of the artistry and dominance he flashed in his mid-20s. Though he is the relative youngster this weekend in Melbourne, he has not won a Grand Slam since the 2014 French Open. The red clay of Paris is Nadal’s true home turf, as nine of his 14 Grand Slam titles were won there.

Serena Williams has won six Australian Opens, while Venus has yet to win Down Under. Federer has won four and Nadal just one. Whatever transpires under the brilliant sunshine of Melbourne this weekend, as those of us watching stateside debate whether to pop open a beer or brew a pot of coffee, this should mark the last pair of pairings for the four greatest tennis talents to have come along thus far in the 21st century.

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Jonah Hill's New Look Is Nuts, Sure, But I Must Have His Hawaiian Shirt

Updated Do not be distracted. 

The internet is ablaze, abuzz, a'tweetin' about actor Jonah Hill's new look. Photos Thursday showed the actor slimmed down with braids and tattoos filming a role in the upcoming Netflix series titled Maniac. "Unrecognizable," wrote Entertainment Tonight. "Unrecognizable," wrote People Magazine. "Unrecognizable," wrote the Daily Mail.

But I implore you to not let the Superbad actor's stunning transformation into Post Malone sidetrack your thoughts from what truly matters in these photos. What's important is as follows: Jonah Hill has been pictured wearing an incredible Hawaiian shirt and I simply must have it.

I like Hill, I think he's a good actor, but my man seemingly goes through a look transformation every other Wednesday. Who cares about some temporary braids for filming? But that shirt...

It's glorious. 

Let me explain: My affection for Hawaiian shirts is well documented (over at 

When I am not on the clock as a Content Creator, I like to relax and relieve this old noggin from the lunacy that is making things on the internet. But it's hard to unwind, difficult to disconnect. (A Baby Boomer rushes in from a distant mansion on a hill and screams, "Millennials and their technology!")

A Hawaiian shirt is a reset button. It says, "Buddy, I may be doing a lot of things, but I ain't workin'."

I do not go on vacation without packing at least one Hawaiian. I once went to a birthday party for a coworker here at Newsweek and showed up in a Hawaiian shirt and people said, "This is weird, why is Tim in a Hawaiian shirt?"

"Congratulations," I responded. "You just met Weekend Tim."

So... my passion is real. And Hill's Hawaiian on set for Maniac makes me want to bring my index and middle fingers together with my thumb and kiss the air like an Italian chef who made a perfect spicy meatball.

It's a brilliant shirt. The base is black, which allows the wearer to camouflage into formal situations (let's say... a banquet, not one in which you'll be honored in any way, but still you have to show up nonetheless). The understated, calming waves are a nice touch. But then, bam: neon palm trees, neon flamingos, neon dune grass. Hawaiian shirts are not a canvas for metaphors. They are a billboard that says in all caps: I'M NOT HERE FOR A LONG TIME; I'M HERE FOR A GOOD TIME. 

And how Hill's Hawaiian delivers. I saw it and my heart skipped a beat. In fashion circles there's this concept called grails—as in the Holy Grail—where people have specific, rare items for which they search high and low. I never got it until I saw Hill's shirt. (Thus far I have found shirts close to it, but not quite it.) The shirt must be mine.

Do you know how people who are trying to lose weight sometimes buy pants that are a size too small to remind them of an end-point that lies ahead? I need that Hawaiian shirt because it would be a reminder, hung neatly in my closet, of the person I want to be. Most days I'm neurotic and busy and nervous about something in the future—what that thing is, exactly, isn't clear—but the guy who would wear that shirt is the opposite of that.

I need that damn shirt.

Please send tips to and shirts to: c/o: Tim Marcin, 7 Hanover Square, Fl. 5, New York, NY 10004. 

Update: This post was updated to reflect that it appears Hill actually has braids in the photo from the set of Maniac and not dreads. Thank you, Twitter. 

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Understanding Why These Penguins Yell Could Be the Key to Saving All Penguins

The Gentoo penguin colonies of Antarctica are not a place for quiet conversation. "My first season down, I was blown away by how loud they were," Maureen Lynch, a doctoral student at Stony Brook University in New York who spends her winters studying the Antarctic birds, told Newsweek. "It's just constant, constant noise."

But somehow, the penguins make sense of the situation, a talent Lynch compares to being able to pick out your best friend's voice across a room full of hundreds or a thousand people talking. That's despite the fact that during breeding season the tuxedoed birds rely on just one type of call for almost all of their communication needs, Lynch says. 

"When they make a noise, 99 times out of 100, it is this call," known to scientists as an ecstatic display call, she said. 

A gentoo penguin makes an ecstatic display call at Cierva Cove in Antarctica. Maureen Lynch

Lynch has spent four Antarctic summers mounting heavy-duty recorders by penguin nesting sites and collecting audio files of the Gentoos shouting as they incubate their eggs and raise their chicks. Her analysis of that call was published Wednesday morning by the journal The Auk.

To date, researchers haven't spent much time analyzing these calls in Gentoos, in part because other penguins (not to mention songbirds) have more clearly complex calls.

The Gentoos penguins take these calls seriously. "It's energy intensive, they have to stand up, you can see their chest heave as they make this call," Lynch says. Sometimes they're clearly communicating with mates, but sometimes they call when no other penguins are around. Sometimes they call when they seem irritated, and sometimes they call when they've just woken up from a nap. Lynch says her analysis is the first step to understanding what the calls actually mean.

Lynch's work was possible because her lab works with a non-profit organization that teams up with cruise ships to give scientists rides around Antarctica, which meant she could record sites across the Gentoo's habitat to look for differences between colonies as well as between individual birds at the same site.

Reseachers already knew the call is what adult penguins use to recognize their mate and what chicks use to recognize their parents, so it makes sense for neighbors to have their own unique version of the call. "It's necessary to sound different from penguins sitting next to you so that your mate can find you," Lynch says.

But it's not clear yet precisely how to parse Gentoo noises. Despite the need to identify other birds correctly to avoid awkward situations, individual birds still vary their calls. And according to a computer program Lynch taught to analyze the recordings, there's no rhyme to the differences that appear across the whole population of penguins. "We do see differences between colonies, but they're not really predictable differences," Lynch says.

A gentoo penguin tends two chicks at Cierva Cove in Antarctica. Maureen Lynch

Gentoos are particularly interesting to study, Lynch says, because unlike other penguins, they're actually thriving—populations are increasing and they're even settling in new territory. That's intriguing because the birds usually very reliably return to the same mates and nesting sites year after year.

Tracing the penguins' calls could explain how they're moving despite that fidelity. "They are making new colonies, and we don't know how they're doing that," Lynch says.

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Trump White House Believes It Can Strike ISIS and Al-Qaeda 'Anywhere, Anytime'

President Donald Trump and his national security team believe they have enough legal authority to strike the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda anywhere in the world, a senior White House official said Tuesday. 

Marc Short, White House director of legal affairs, made his comments ahead of a debate in Congress on an amendment by anti-interventionism Republican Rand Paul, who has questioned the legality of U.S. use of force against radical Islamists overseas. 

Senator Paul, of Kentucky, has issued an amendment to the $700 billion annual defense policy bill, set to go before lawmakers Wednesday, that questions the legal basis of Trump's increasing use of force in Syria.

It proposes an update to the authorization given to the U.S. military to take action against extremist groups after the 9/11 attacks, and that the current version be wound down after six months and replaced with a new law. Both sides of Congress agree that a new version for the war on radical Islamist groups is required.

The senator, who is a supporter of non-intervention, believes that the current authorization and the use of it to enter other conflict zones is one that allows the president to take the U.S. into war at his own choosing.

"What we have today is basically unlimited war anywhere, anytime, anyplace upon the globe," Paul said in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

But Short, speaking at a breakfast briefing reported by the Associated Press, said that the Trump team had authorization already given to the U.S. military for the use of force after 9/11 in 2001.

Critics of the current legal authorization for action against extremist groups say that it is outdated as ISIS did not exist and there was no U.S. need to become embroiled in Syria at the time. Now, the U.S. is leading a bombing campaign in the country wracked by civil war against ISIS positions. A 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq also remains in place. The U.S. government is using both to justify its battle against ISIS and other radical Islamist groups outside of Iraq.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (C) returns to his office after bringing the Senate into session at the U.S. Capitol July 31, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Senate GOP leadership was unable to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Paul said he hopes “my colleagues will finally vote to do their constitutional duty. But even if my colleagues say, ‘War, war, that’s the answer everywhere, all the time,’ by golly come down and put your name on it.”

The amendment has opposition, and the main argument of critics is that rolling back the amendments without a new one to fill the gap could leave U.S. forces at a disadvantage abroad, as it would not be certain that lawmakers agreed on an alternative within the six-month period. 

"I do think we have to act, but I think what the proponents (of Paul's amendment) are missing is that our action will not be immediate," said Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the most senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

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The White Supremacists Who Attacked Charlottesville Are Coming Back With a Vengeance

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last month was the largest, most violent assembly of white supremacists in decades, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and now Identity Evropa, one of the most influential white supremacist groups operating in the U.S., has launched a yearlong campaign targeting college students with a sophisticated breed of racist fliers.

In the first weeks of the 2017-18 school year, Identity Evropa has posted fliers on 13 campuses in seven states, according to new data from the ADL. And starting on September 3, the group hit at least one campus every day for six days in a row, including Lynchburg and Liberty colleges, both in Virginia, Eastern Michigan University (twice), the University of California Irvine, and Bristol Community College in Massachusetts. The hate fliers also appeared at the University of Virginia, where just weeks before, tiki torch-toting, Nazi slur-slinging white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters over the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. A day of violence broke out, ending in one death and injuries to at least 19 people.

RELATED: The Plot to Paper Campuses With Racist Posters

“Charlottesville emboldened and energized white supremacists,” says Marilyn Mayo, senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “Even though they didn’t get to speak, they see it as a success on some level because they could bring together so many strains of the white supremacist movement. You had a lot of young people who went, and they’re going to double-down on their efforts to grow by reaching out to campuses.”

A defaced recruiting flier for Identity Evropa hangs near Trump Tower on July 6, 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. The flier which read 'Let's Become Great Again' was part of a 17-city recruitment effort by the white nationalist organization. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Since September 2016, the ADL has identified 192 incidents of white supremacist campus fliering on 131 college campuses, in 37 states. The inauguration of Donald Trump, a man elected president on a platform of hatred, bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiments, marked a significant shift in this effort. From January to April 2016, there were nine incidents of white supremacist propaganda on U.S. campuses, but during that same four-month period in 2017, the ADL catalogued 115 incidents.

In January, American Renaissance, Jared Taylor’s white nationalist organization, launched a campaign involving racist posters that co-opted some of the most iconic images of the 20th century, including Rosie the Riveter (instead of “We can do it!” the poster read “Don’t apologize for being white!”) During the 2016-17 school year, the white supremacist group Vanguard America hung hate fliers at least 32 times at college campuses, while IE posted racist propaganda 65 times in 19 states as part of its #ProjectSiege campaign, according to the ADL.

After a brief lull this summer, Identity Evropa is ramping up its recruiting arm with terrifying speed—and a sudden shift in strategy. Historically, the group’s fliers had images of Greek and Roman statues alongside vague phrases like, “Our future belongs to us” and “Let’s become great again.” But a few weeks ago, Identity Evropa unveiled a new recruiting strategy: posters with photos of founder Nathan Damigo and Evan Thomas, another Identity Evropa member—both of whom could pass for frat bros—talking into bullhorns above new slogans, including, “Our generation, our future, our last chance,” and “Action. Leadership. Identity.”

“They’re no longer hiding behind images of statues,” Mayo says, “but showing people who are out there, in the streets, taking action.”

Another batch of Identity Evropa posters promotes books published by Arktos Media, a leading far-right publisher founded by Swedish businessman Daniel Friberg (he launched with Richard Spencer). It’s an academic approach that gives white supremacy not just an intellectual foundation, but a veneer of mainstream culture. As Mayo puts it: “Identity Evropa is trying to go further than just talking about preserving white identity, and wants students to read the works that fuel their ideology, giving them the ideological basis for their thinking.”

“[Identity Evropa’s] actions are extremely disruptive and unsettling to students,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. “The message is explicitly racist and anti-Semitic. They know they’re going to get a reaction when they show up on campus.”

Identity Evropa was founded in March 2016 by Damigo, who received an “Other Than Honorable” discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2007, then served five years in prison for robbing a man he believed was an Iraqi. It was in prison that Damigo read Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke’s book, My Awakening, according to the ADL, and had his own awakening to the white supremacist movement.

The original Rosie the Riveter sold patriotism to American women taking up historically male factory jobs to support the war effort. Now, the iconic feminist image is part of a "white-consciousness campaign" launched by alt-right impresario Jared Taylor. American Renaissance

In April, a video went viral of the former Marine cold-cocking a woman in the face as she protested Trump at a rally in Berkeley, California. Last month, Damigo was briefly arrested for misdemeanor failure to obey police at the Charlottesville demonstration. On August 27, he announced his resignation, naming Eli Mosley, an Army veteran, as his successor. Previously, Mosley was Identity Evropa’s director of events, and he was a key architect of the violent Charlotteville rally. He’s claimed that, within two years, the white supremacist movement could draw 10,000 people to a march in Washington.

RELATED: Is 'Mass Nonviolent Action' Needed Fight White Supremacists?

The surge of Identity Evropa fliers at the start of the 2017-18 school year comes just weeks after Mosley took his post as head of the organization. But can posters that strive to humanize white supremacy actually sway students on college and university campuses?

“They’ve been able to attract young people—who’ve never been part of the movement before!” says Mayo, who believes Identity Evropa’s success on campus will be limited. “It’s of concern, because for a movement to grow, you have to have young people willing to take the message out there into the world. They are taking advantage of all the publicity and efforts coming out of Charlottesville and using that to move ahead.”

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