The VICE Channels

    How Global Warming Lined the Streets of Omaha with Fountains of Flame

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    I’ve waited years to write the perfect apocalyptic global warming headline, and this might be as close as I ever get. Yesterday, a massive sewer fire swept through, or, really, underneath Omaha, Nebraska’s biggest city. It led to the scene you see captured on film above: actual, real-life, non-action flick fountains of flame soaring out of manholes.

    And here’s why city officials think fireballs were erupting from the sewers last night:

    “It's been dry, unusually dry, and with the moisture we've (most recently) had," Omaha Public Power District vice president Tim Burke told a local Fox news team, "we've probably had some moisture get into cable or tape, something like that could have created the outage. That's what our crews are so good about doing.” He believes that the fire started underground with a failure in their electrical equipment.

    FOX 42: Omaha News, Sports and Weather; kptm.com |

    Now, when Burke is talking about it being “unusually dry,” he’s talking about the drought that gripped much of the Midwest until as late as last week. Here’s what the entire state of Nebraska looked like as of January 22nd:

    Extreme drought conditions, for the most part. Omaha’s right there on the border on the eastern border, where it starts to lighten up. In other words, it’s been extraordinarily dry—the driest it’s been in decades in Nebraska—ripening the conditions for an electrical fire like this one.

    Climatologists have been more aggressive than usual in linking 2012’s extreme weather to manmade global warming—Iowa scientists said that the epic drought engulfing the state was all but a direct result of climate change.

    So, no, global warming didn’t actually turn the streets of Omaha into a fiery inferno. But it made the pyrotechnics possible.