He is one of the experts who best knows how the invasions of Saharan air behave – his doctoral thesis, directed by Dr. María Victoria Marzol Jaén, analyzes their incidence in the Islands – and his first reflection on the fire that continues to punish the Island gira around this phenomenon: «This one is a bit strange because it originates at the end of a Saharan advection, usually most of fires forests that occur in Canary Islands they take place under a situation of Saharan air”, he clarifies in relation to other similar episodes that took place in Gran Canaria (2009), Tenerife (2007) or La Palma (2020).
Director of the Disaster Risk Reduction Chair of the University of La Laguna and specialist in climate change, Dorta highlights the “great intensity” with which a fire that is feeding on “high temperatures and a very low thermal inversion” has evolved. In this sense, he stresses that “the fact that it starts at a high altitude, that is, above the thermal inversion, is favoring that it finds an extremely dry fuel and high dry conditions, which are what finally allow a big forest fire
The ULL geographer emphasizes the fact that “when a fire is not stopped in time, it gets out of control and that is what has happened” with the catastrophe that hit eleven Tenerife municipalities. Regarding its voracity, he adds that it is not only linked to an enormous propagation speed, but also to the orographic complexities of the Island. The convective circulation of the column of smoke that is generated also has an influence. “This disperses incandescent material that falls down the slope, with which the fire not only advances in favor of the prevailing wind, which is very changeable, but also begins to lose height and you already have flames up and down.”
“Chaotic”. This is how Pedro Dorta describes the circulation that is unleashed in a fire. “It’s something unpredictable,” he remarks just before exposing an idea that he has to do with the island’s forest mass: “It favors the development of a large fire because it is abundant and dry.” One of the greatest difficulties faced by the firefighting teams that are working in the Tenerife mountains, according to him, is the development of “sudden or explosive fire that prevents it from being put out”, he maintains while sending a message that says everything: “This is a sign that the power of nature is still far superior to human technology… No matter how many planes you have, it is very difficult to put out a fire of this magnitude”, he stresses the difficulties that are still to arrive before the authorities provide positive news. And it is that, despite the titanic effort made by the professionals, both on the ground and from the air, the situation continues out of control.
Pine is a species that burns easily and, precisely, this is where the main obstacle to controlling the flames is concentrated. “The fuel monopolizes a large dimension quickly and that is the reason why it is very difficult to extinguish,” adds the specialist without losing sight of the increase in temperatures that has occurred in recent hours. “Environmental conditions have worsened and do not favor extinction tasks. In this sense, the weather can become an ally or an enemy depending on its behavior,” he argues about a factor such as, for example, the wind: yesterday the biggest gusts were measured in El Rosario (24 km/h) or El Sauzal (20 km/h) and in the rest of the eleven affected municipalities they were between 15 and 17 kilometers per hour.