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  The megafires of California

  Drought, housing expansion, and oversupply of tinder make for bigger, hotter fires in the western United States

  Wildfires are becoming an increasing menace in the western United States, with Southern California being the hardest hit area. There’s a reason fire squads battling more frequent blazes in Southern California are having such difficulty containing the flames, despite better preparedness than ever and decades of experience fighting fires fanned by the ‘Santa Ana Winds’. The wildfires themselves, experts say, are generally hotter, faster, and spread more erratically than in the past.

  Megafires, also called ‘siege fires’, are the increasingly frequent blazes that burn 500, 000 acres or more — 10 times the size of the average forest fire of 20 years ago. Some recent wildfires are among the biggest ever in California in terms of acreage burned, according to state figures and news reports.

  One explanation for the trend to more superhot fires is that the region, which usually has dry summers, has had significantly below normal precipitation in many recent years. Another reason, experts say, is related to the century-long policy of the US Forest Service to stop wildfires as quickly as possible. The unintentional consequence has been to halt the natural eradication of underbrush, now the primary fuel for megafires.

  Three other factors contribute to the trend, they add. First is climate change, marked by a 1-degree Fahrenheit rise in average yearly temperature across the western states. Second is fire seasons that on average are 78 days longer than they were 20 years ago. Third is increased construction of homes in wooded areas.

  ‘We are increasingly building our homes in fire-prone ecosystems,’ says Dominik Kulakowski, adjunct professor of biology at Clark University Graduate School of Geography in Worcester, Massachusetts. ‘Doing that in many of the forests of the western US is like building homes on the side of an active volcano.’


        点击》》了解剑桥雅思 阅读4-11原文+译文+解析

  In California, where population growth has averaged more than 600, 000 a year for at least a decade, more residential housing is being built. ‘What once was open space is now residential homes providing fuel to make fires burn with greater intensity,’ says Terry McHale of the California Department of Forestry firefighters’ union. ‘With so much dryness, so many communities to catch fire, so many fronts to fight, it becomes an almost incredible job.’

  That said, many experts give California high marks for making progress on preparedness in recent years, after some of the largest fires in state history scorched thousands of acres, burned thousands of homes, and killed numerous people. Stung in the past by criticism of bungling that allowed fires to spread when they might have been contained, personnel are meeting the peculiar challenges of neighborhood — and canyon- hopping fires better than previously, observers say.

  State promises to provide more up-to-date engines, planes, and helicopters to fight fires have been fulfilled. Firefighters’ unions that in the past complained of dilapidated equipment, old fire engines, and insufficient blueprints for fire safety are now praising the state’s commitment, noting that funding for firefighting has increased, despite huge cuts in many other programs. ‘We are pleased that the current state administration has been very proactive in its support of us, and [has] come through with budgetary support of the infrastructure needs we have long sought,’ says Mr. McHale of the firefighters’ union.

  Besides providing money to upgrade the fire engines that must traverse the mammoth state and wind along serpentine canyon roads, the state has invested in better command-and-control facilities as well as in the strategies to run them. ‘In the fire sieges of earlier years, we found that other jurisdictions and states were willing to offer mutual-aid help, but we were not able to communicate adequately with them,’ says Kim Zagaris, chief of the state’s Office of Emergency Services Fire and Rescue Branch. After a commission examined and revamped communications procedures, the statewide response ‘has become far more professional and responsive,’ he says. There is a sense among both government officials and residents that the speed, dedication, and coordination of firefighters from several states and jurisdictions are resulting in greater efficiency than in past ‘siege fire’ situations.

  In recent years, the Southern California region has improved building codes, evacuation procedures, and procurement of new technology. ‘I am extraordinarily impressed by the improvements we have witnessed,’ says Randy Jacobs, a Southern California-based lawyer who has had to evacuate both his home and business to escape wildfires. ‘Notwithstanding all the damage that will continue to be caused by wildfires, we will no longer suffer the loss of life endured in the past because of the fire prevention and firefighting measures that have been put in place,’ he says.

  Test 4

  Questions 1-6

  Complete the notes below.

  Choose ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage for each answer.

  Write your answers in boxes 1-6 on your answer sheet.


  Characteristics of wildfires and wildfire conditions today compared to the past:

  — occurrence: more frequent

  — temperature: hotter

  — speed: faster

  — movement: 1 more unpredictably

  — size of fires: 2 greater on average than two decades ago

  Reasons wildfires cause more damage today compared to the past:

  — rainfall: 3 average

  — more brush to act as 4


        点击》》了解剑桥雅思 阅读4-11原文+译文+解析

  — increase in yearly temperature

  — extended fire 5

  — more building of 6 in vulnerable places

  Questions 7-13

  Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

  In boxes 7—13 on your answer sheet, write

  TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

  FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

  NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

  7 The amount of open space in California has diminished over the last ten years.

  8 Many experts believe California has made little progress in readying itself to fight fires.

  9 Personnel in the past have been criticised for mishandling fire containment.

  10 California has replaced a range of firefighting tools.

  11 More firefighters have been hired to improve fire-fighting capacity.

  12 Citizens and government groups disapprove of the efforts of different states and agencies working together.

  13 Randy Jacobs believes that loss of life from fires will continue at the same levels, despite changes made.


  Question 1

  参考译文: 风向的运动:____更加无法预测。



  定位原文: 第 1 段最后1句“The wildfire themselves... than in the past” 专家表示,总的来说, 现在的森林大火比过去温度更高,蔓延的得更快,扩散踪迹更为飘忽不定。

  解题思路: 原文中erratically与题目中unpredictably属于同义替换,因此spread为movement的特点。

  Question 2


  难度及答案: 难度低;答案为10/ten times

  关键词: size of fires

  定位原文:第 2 段第 1 句“…10 times the size of average...20 years ago.” 这种大火烧毁的土地面积相当于20年前一般森林大火破坏面积的10倍。

  解题思路:原文中 10 times the size of average 与题目中 greater on average than 属于同义替换,因此应当填入10/ten times。

  Question 3



  关键词: rainfall

  定位原文: 第3段第1句“One explanation for the trend to…in many recent years.” 关于频发超级火灾这—趋势,其屮-个解释便是该地区通常夏天干燥,且近几年降水远远低于正常水平。

  解题思路:原文中 precipitation、normal 与题目中 rainfall 、average 分别属于同义替换,因此应当填入below。

  Question 4

  参考译文: 更多的灌木丛被用于_____


  关键词: brush

  定位原文: 第 3 段最后1句话 “The unintentional consequence... primary fuel for megafires.”由此产生了无意识的后果,中断了灌木丛自然的根除过程,现在致使灌木丛成为特大火灾的主要燃料。

  解题思路:根据原文可知brush的特性,原文underbrush与题目中brush属于同义替换. 因此空格应填入fuel。

  Question 5

  参考译文: 扩大的火灾____

  难度及答案: 难度低;答案为seasons

  关键词: extended fire

  定位原文: 第 4 段第 3 句 “Second is fire seasons that... 20 years ago.” 第二点是火险季节相比20年前平均延长了78天。

  解题思路: 根据原文可知有什么东西在过去的20年里变长了。因此答案为seasons。

  Question 6

  参考译文: 更多的______建在容易着火的区域。

  难度及答案: 难度低;答案为homes/housing

  关键词: more building

  定位原文: 第 4 段最后一句 “Third is increased construction of homes...” 第三,是在多树地区,房屋的不断扩建。

  解题思路: 根据原文可知homes变多了,因此可以填入homes/housing。

  Question 7

  参考译文: 在加利福尼亚州的空旷土地的数量在过去的十年里已经减少了很多。

  难度及答案: 难度中等;答案为TRUE

  关键词: open space 、diminished

  定位原文: 第6段第1句“In California, where…built.”至少十多年来,加利福尼亚州平均每年增加60多万人口,越来越多的住宅正在建造当中。

  解题思路: 原文中有a decade对应题目问的last ten years,且原文提到有更多的住房被建造,与题目中space属于同义替换,因此答案为TRUE。

  Question 8

  参考译文: 很多专家认为加利福尼亚州的灭火准备工作没有进展。

  难度及答案: 难度中等;答案为FALSE

  关键词: many experts 、 little progress

  定位原文: 第 7 段第 1 句 “That said many... killed numerous people.” 据称,有史以来最大的几场火灾烤焦了成千上万英亩的土地, 烧毁了数以万计的房屋, 烧死大量的居民之后,许多专家给予了加利福尼亚州相当高的评价,因其近几年来在消防准备工作中取得的进步。

  解题思路: 根据关键词定位至第7段,找到experts的态度,experts的态度为high marks on making progress on preparedness,因此与题目不符合,为 FALSE。

  Question 9

  参考译文: 消防工作人员过去被指责错误地处理火灾。

  难度及答案: 难度难;答案为TRUE

  关键词: personnel 、 criticize for mishandling fire containment

  定位原文: 第 7 段最后一句 “Stung in the past…previously,observers say.” 观察家们表示这些火灾本该受到控制却依旧蔓延开来,相关部门过去被严厉指责为工作不力。如今,他们正面临着来自周边地区和峡谷的前所未有的巨大挑战。

  解题思路: 该题难点在于对应原文为长难句,通过对对应原文的解读,可知题干所描述内容与原文相符,因此为TRUE。

  Question 10



  关键词: arrange of firefighting tools

  定位原文: 第 8 段第 1 句 “State promises to provide…fulfilled.” 州政府已经实现了关于提供更多先进的消防车、飞机和直升机以对抗火灾的承诺。

  解题思路: 通过对应原文可知,题干所描述事件正确因此为true。

  Question 11

  参考译文: 已经雇佣了更多的消防人员来提高处理火灾的能力。

  难度及答案: 难度中;答案为NOT GIVEN

  关键词: More firefighters


  解题思路: 因为原文中无法找到题干所描述的事件,因此答案为NOT GIVEN。

  Question 12


  难度及答案: 难度中等;答案为FALSE

  关键词:disapprove 、 working together

  定位原文: 第 8 段第 3 句 “We are pleased that…of the firefighters union.” “我们很高兴现任加利福尼亚州的行政部门.非常积极主动地支持我们,同时已经通过了我们渴望已久的、满足基础设施需求的预算支持方案。”消防队联盟的麦克黑尔先生表示。

  解题思路: 根据对应原文,发现居民和政府对于州际之间联合是proactive的态度,而是题干中所说的disapprove,因此为FALSE。

  Question 13

  参考译文:Randy Jacobs认为因为火灾而失去生命的人的数量不会改变,尽管(在救火能力上)已经有了改变。

  难度及答案: 难度中等;答案为FALSE

  关键词: Randy Jacobs、the same level.

  定位原文: 第 10 段最后—句 “Notwithstanding all the damage.., he says.” “尽管由森林 大火引起的损失还将持续,但我们不会像过去那样蒙受生命损失了,因为火灾预防和消防措施已经到位。”他说道。

  解题思路: 由原文可知we will no longer suffer... endured in the past.题干描述与之不符, 因此为FALSE。

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