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Volume 627 Issue 8003, 14 March 2024

Burning question

The cover shows two stacked clouds illuminated by the glow of an overnight firestorm at Adams Lake, British Columbia, in August 2023, during a record-breaking fire season in Canada. Wildfires that deviate from the conventional diurnal cycle of ‘active day, quiet night’ and instead burn continuously through the night are anticipated to become more frequent under continued climate change. In this week’s issue, Kaiwei Luo and colleagues reveal the extent of this shift in wildfire behaviour in North America. The researchers examined 23,557 fires that occurred across the continent between 2017 and 2020. They found 1,095 overnight burning events in 340 individual fires, and noted that one-fifth of large fires had at least one overnight event. The team found that these overnight burns were driven by the increased availability of extremely dry fuel associated with droughts. As a result, the researchers suggest that drought conditions can help predict the likelihood of overnight burning and therefore help with fire management in the face of changing climate.

Cover image: Amir Paz

This Week

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News in Focus

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Books & Arts

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  • News & Views

    • Burning events that occur at night have been revealed as a driver of large wildfires. Prolonged drought conditions are to blame, making it easier for fires to spread at night when they would ordinarily slow or extinguish completely.

      • Jennifer K. Balch
      • Adam L. Mahood
      News & Views
    • The discovery of 285-million-year-old fossils of intricately patterned animal scales indicates that evolutionary tinkering of armoured skin started at the dawn of life on dry land as aquatic vertebrates adapted for terrestrial survival.

      • Maksim V. Plikus
      News & Views
    • Combining a high-throughput technique with 3D printing offers a way of fabricating micrometre-sized particles for use in electronics and biotechnology. The versatile method can produce one million intricate shapes in a single day.

      • Christoph A. Spiegel
      • Eva Blasco
      News & Views
    • Direct interactions between cells in tissue are incompletely understood because the advanced technologies required to examine them are still in their infancy. A new method can decipher cell–cell interactions on a large scale.

      • Michael A. Wheeler
      News & Views
    • A single gene in astrocytes can constrain repetitive behaviours, indicating that these cells are regulators of behavioural disruption in conditions such as Huntington’s disease and obsessive–compulsive disorder.

      • Anna Kruyer
      News & Views
  • Articles

    • A population of freezing white dwarf stars maintaining a constant luminosity for a duration comparable with the age of the universe can be explained by a solid–liquid distillation mechanism interrupting cooling for billions of years.

      • Antoine Bédard
      • Simon Blouin
      • Sihao Cheng
    • We demonstrate a photon-counting approach that extends the unique advantages of spectroscopy with interfering frequency combs into regions where nonlinear frequency conversion tends to be very inefficient, providing a step towards precision broadband spectroscopy at short wavelengths and extreme-ultraviolet dual-comb spectroscopy.

      • Bingxin Xu
      • Zaijun Chen
      • Nathalie Picqué
      Article Open Access
    • A conductive, low-melting-point and healable sulfur iodide material aids the practical realization of solid-state Li–S batteries, which have high theoretical energy densities and show potential in next-generation battery chemistry.

      • Jianbin Zhou
      • Manas Likhit Holekevi Chandrappa
      • Ping Liu
    • We introduce a scalable, high-resolution, 3D printing technique for the fabrication of shape-specific particles based on roll-to-roll continuous liquid interface production, enabling direct integration within biomedical, analytical and advanced materials applications.

      • Jason M. Kronenfeld
      • Lukas Rother
      • Joseph M. DeSimone
      Article Open Access
    • High-density, intrinsically stretchable transistors with high driving ability and integrated circuits with high operation speed and large-scale integration were enabled by a combination of innovations in materials, fabrication process design, device engineering and circuit design.

      • Donglai Zhong
      • Can Wu
      • Zhenan Bao
    • By examining the hourly diurnal cycle of 23,557 fires in North America during 2017–2020, 1,095 overnight burning events were identified, mostly associated with extreme fires and driven by long-term drought conditions.

      • Kaiwei Luo
      • Xianli Wang
      • Mike Flannigan
    • A study describes the release of clinical-grade whole-genome sequence data for 245,388 diverse participants by the All of Us Research Program and characterizes the properties of the dataset.

      • Alexander G. Bick
      • Ginger A. Metcalf
      • Joshua C. Denny


      Article Open Access
    • A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of type 2 diabetes (T2D) identifies more than 600 T2D-associated loci; integrating physiological trait and single-cell chromatin accessibility data at these loci sheds light on heterogeneity within the T2D phenotype.

      • Ken Suzuki
      • Konstantinos Hatzikotoulas
      • Eleftheria Zeggini


      Article Open Access
    • In mice, a population of astrocytes in the central striatum, characterized by expression of μ-crystallin, has a role in perseveration phenotypes that are often associated with human neuropsychiatric disorders.

      • Matthias Ollivier
      • Joselyn S. Soto
      • Baljit S. Khakh
      Article Open Access
    • Excitatory pyramidal neurons preferentially target inhibitory interneurons with the same selectivity and, in turn, inhibitory interneurons preferentially target pyramidal neurons with opposite selectivity, forming an opponent inhibition motif that supports decision-making.

      • Aaron T. Kuan
      • Giulio Bondanelli
      • Wei-Chung Allen Lee
    • Spatial and single-cell transcriptomic analyses of the mouse basolateral amygdala reveal transcriptomic signatures, spatial resolution and interactions of cells that constitute the memory engram, including crucial neuron–astrocyte interactions.

      • Wenfei Sun
      • Zhihui Liu
      • Stephen R. Quake
      Article Open Access
    • An improved, single-cell lineage-tracing system, based on deep detection of naturally occurring mitochondrial DNA mutations with simultaneous readout of transcriptional states and chromatin accessibility, is used to define the clonal architecture of haematopoietic stem cells.

      • Chen Weng
      • Fulong Yu
      • Vijay G. Sankaran
      Article Open Access
    • A paper reports the development of a universal tool for studying cellular interactions in biological systems, and demonstrates its coupling with single-cell transcriptomics methods to provide insights into the biology of the interactions.

      • Sandra Nakandakari-Higa
      • Sarah Walker
      • Gabriel D. Victora
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Nature Index

  • More money is being spent on medical R&D than ever before, but with few new drugs to show for it.

    Nature Index
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