Stunning discovery by USFS and AP: dead trees burn faster

Yeegads.

The serial regurgitation in media is impressive.  Here’s the money quote:

And the new research dispels the notion that beetle-killed trees present no greater fire danger than live ones, a theory that had gained traction after a couple of wet, cool summers tamped down fire activity in the region, Jolly said. On the contrary, beetle-killed trees can hold 10 times less moisture than live trees, Jolly found. That means they not only ignite more quickly than live trees, but they burn more intensely and carry embers farther than live trees, Jolly said.

I’m not trying to make fun of the pine beetle threat, which is serious, but it seems pretty darned obvious to anyone who has ever has a Christmas tree or seen one of those fire department Christmas tree videos that brown dead pine trees burn quite a bit faster than green ones.

While a model for such a thing in wildlands might be useful, it would seem an almost impossible fire to fight.

Dead pine trees, whether beetle killed or by something else, burn much faster than live ones. On the plus side the article does not mention climate change or global warming.

Full AP story here h/t to reader Steve Keohane

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101 Responses to Stunning discovery by USFS and AP: dead trees burn faster

  1. Latitude says:

    will wonders never cease…………….

    Did anyone think they would live long enough to see science advance this far?

  2. Fred from Canuckistan says:

    One man’s climate science is another man’s blinding flash of the obvious.

  3. Steeptown says:

    Obvious really. It’s why I dry logs for at least two years before feeding them to the wood-burner. And I worked it out for myself without a big grant from the taxpayer.

  4. D. J. Hawkins says:

    While a model for such a thing in wildlands might be useful, it would seem an almost impossible fire to fight.

    The utility of the model lies in being able to estimate the rate of fire spread. You don’t want to drop your fire jumpers somewhere under the impression they have “x” hours to work on a fire break and then bug out and suddenly find it’s “x/2″ or “x/4″ and no matter how fast they move they can’t reach the ridgeline, creek, pond, lake, or other area of refuge ahead of the fire.

  5. J. Knight says:

    Hahaha…don’t any of these people have fireplaces? Or common sense for that matter? Those are not trick questions.

  6. James Sexton says:

    lol, well, thank goodness we’ve got some real scientists at work here, else we’d have never figured out that dead pine trees carry as significant fire risk…….. I should be thankful though, at least they’re stating something factual.

  7. grayman says:

    No DUH!! I wonder how much money they recieved to come up with this?
    Anybody with common sense knows this.

  8. Frederick Davies says:

    How many millions did it take to “discover” this!?

  9. View from the Solent says:

    They seem to have overlooked the more important question.
    Do pine beetles’ depredations affect the daefecatory habits of the species Ursidae?

  10. ecliptic says:

    Monty Python – “I have a theory”:

  11. Tom Gray says:

    We burn fire wood for heat here. We let the wood dry for a year after cutting. Do you think we should submit this finding to Nature?

  12. What we really must do is find the official quotes that say that pine beetle killed stands are no more of a wildfire hazard than green trees.

    I have heard rumors of such statements from Forest Service and Dept of Interior people who discount the need for agressive logging of the killed stands. But I have no links to such statements or arguments.

    One of many hill sides of killed lodgepole forests:
    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/25321843 – Looking East from Silverthorn, CO, Aug. 2009

  13. John R T says:

    Nit-picking: how can this absurdity exist – ¨…can hold 10 times less moisture than…¨!
    Why the extra words? the tortured construction? What is wrong with, ´one-tenth the moisture?´ Even ´an order of magnitude drier than?´

  14. kbray in California says:

    Does this mean seasoned firewood will burn better than fresh cut green wood?
    DUH !
    What ever happened to “common sense” with these guys ?
    Even less sense comes from those who approve the funding for these “studies”.

    I have one:
    Will honey melt faster in hot tea or iced tea ?
    That should be good for some bucks.
    I’ll use GREEN TEA. That should qualify.

  15. joe says:

    And the new research dispels the notion that beetle-killed trees present no greater fire danger than live ones, a theory that had gained traction after a couple of wet, cool summers tamped down fire activity in the region, Jolly said.

    who is saying this? i’ve never heard it….

    what i have heard is that the enviros try to prevent the logging and removal of these dead trees despite the increased fire danger…

  16. dmartin says:

    This goes a long way toward explaining why I’ve had such little success with my backyard flamethrower consisting of a lighter and my garden hose.

  17. Person of Choler says:

    What I’d like to know is who came up with “…the notion that beetle-killed trees present no greater fire danger than live ones….”, in the first place.

    That guy needs some serious scoffing more than Mr. Jolly does.

  18. Vegasarcher says:

    I was at the office and could not stop myself from bursting out laughing!!!

  19. Milwaukee Bob says:

    Seeptown said at 8:35 am
    …… And I worked it out for myself without a big grant from the taxpayer.
    See, there’s your problem. :) That’s why you’ll never be a “researcher”!!
    It’s NOT what you know, it’s how good you are at “identifying” a problem and getting money to study the problem. And to be recognized as a really GREAT researcher you don’t even have to solve the problem. Just do a stellar study and report.
    Oh, and if you throw in a little theory on how it effects Localized Climate Disruption — and the children in Africa, you might be put up for a Nobel.

  20. Ecotretas says:

    I also have several theories! Might write some papers regarding:

    1-Humid rainforests burn slower that mediterranean forests
    2-Forests burn faster in Summer than in Spring
    3-Forests burn slower in Spring than in Summer (same as before, but who would notice?)
    4-Forests burn slower a week after a preceding fire

    Duh!

    Ecotretas

  21. Jeff Carlson says:

    maybe they should have spent the money to study a way to kill off the beetles …

  22. DonS says:

    Fire fighters study the nature of fires in all flammable materials all the time. Just seems prudent to me. The firefighters who do not concern themselves with fire behavior prediction are known as dead heroes. We here in Montana have had enough of those. Go read the quotes from the USFS again with this understanding. All these fatuous statements about firewood don’t have a damn thing to do with staying alive in an exploding forest fire.

    Has the pine beetle increase been associated with global warming? You bet. Google “pine beetles global warming”.

  23. Roy says:

    My son and I would let our Christmas tree dry for at least a month or two before we torched it outside-
    Amazing results!
    Don’t have video, but really fun to watch on a foggy night!

  24. MattN says:

    They needed a study for this? Seriously?

  25. Martin Brumby says:

    Jolly good science. Obviously.

  26. Theo Goodwin says:

    Being the son of a genuine forester, someone who mastered all the arts of forestry from surveying tracks of timber to delivering boards to the finishing operation, I am so deeply offended by this study that I could not look its authors in the eyes. The authors might have the bodily stature of adults but they think like pampered children and their words reveal that they have no experience whatsoever. But wait, maybe they do have experience but do not know what to make of it. I wonder if they would recognize the word ‘kindling’ (kinlin’) or if they could describe what makes good kinlin’. So this is what government forestry has come to: a huge embarrassment to the country and an offense to anyone who knows the forest.

    As regards the topic of their essay, anyone who cannot survey a forest from a ranger tower fifty feet tall and tell you exactly where the beetle infestations are and how each and every part of that forest will burn is no forester.

  27. pat says:

    I hope this ‘study’ did not take more than $50 and was conducted by the 5th Grade science class at Jefferson Elementary School. But I suspect Mann was the lead and it costs $2M.

  28. Mike says:

    Person of Choler says: May 2, 2011 at 9:03 am “What I’d like to know is who came up with “…the notion that beetle-killed trees present no greater fire danger than live ones….”, in the first place. … That guy needs some serious scoffing more than Mr. Jolly does.”

    Perhaps some anti-science blogger was spreading this disinformation.

  29. Theo Goodwin says:

    DonS says:
    May 2, 2011 at 9:23 am
    “Fire fighters study the nature of fires in all flammable materials all the time. Just seems prudent to me. The firefighters who do not concern themselves with fire behavior prediction are known as dead heroes.”

    When I was a teenager, I got a job in a mobile home factory. It was pretty large. The day I was hired, a manager arrived from across the plant to meet me. He told me that he just had to see me because, as he said, “Your daddy was the best mule driver in these parts.” In forestry, if you don’t walk the walk then it does not matter what you talk.

  30. Mike says:

    I believe the point of this research is to qualify the impact and eventually produce better models of how a fire might spread to aid fire fightings and planners. You can make fun of the headline if you like, but this work may safe lives and property.

  31. Steve Oregon says:

    I ran an experiment in my back yard years ago when my daughter was about 8 years old. Our house was new and the large back yard was nothing but dirt.
    So after Christmas I took down the large tree we had and stood it up in the middle of the yard.
    That night I had the wife and daughter come outside as I lit the base of it.
    The immediate eruption in flames lit up the whole rural area and one of our few neighbors called 911.
    Siren and fire truck followed with firefighters inspecting my experiment.
    They concluded it was completely safe, in an allowed burn area and highly educational for the little one.

    FYI here is another obvious study outcome.
    “A new study shows about one-fourth of the people killed in assisted suicides in Oregon were depressed, yet they received lethal cocktails anyway. Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University conducted the study and skeptic say it shows the guidelines in the assisted suicide law don’t work.”

    What? Are they supposed to be optimistic?

  32. Douglas DC says:

    Well this is one subject that I know a bit about. For ten years (roughly) I was an
    Aerial Firefighter. Spent a lot of time fighting killed lodgepole pines, two things:in recent years there is an increasing reluctance to fight fires by the USFS/BLM.
    Closing of roads, cutting back on fire crews and Aircraft. Ok fine, I’m actually a supporter of a sane “Let Burn ” Policy. Secondly, any work that has been done by
    “Ecologists” usally means-AGW supporters/funding. Rather focus on why things get out of hand due to some chimera causation look at the source: Dead trees and what is killing them. Lodgepole is a succession tree i.e. the first thing back from a fire. They thrive on fire. the need fire to germinate the seeds. We indeed did screw things up by fighting every fire that came along. We need now to thin and do real forestry, rather than throw our hands up and say:”Gaia’s will!”… BTW we used to spray for Pine Beetles.

  33. ShrNfr says:

    Did they obtain carbon permits to conduct that experiment that emitted CO2?

  34. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    I stopped reading at “model”

  35. Matthew W. says:

    This goes in the “Water is wet” discovery bin

  36. J. Knight says:

    I have 60 acres of pine trees in southern Arkansas. When we get pine beetles, the single most important thing you can do is cut the diseased trees and get them to market ASAP. That makes them a)less of a fire hazard, b)allows one to get some value from the resource, and c)helps the job market.

  37. Laurence M. Sheehan, PE says:

    What is most obvious is that far more people with PhDs exist than there is any useful work for them to do. This sort of study is no less than a monumental waste of taxpayer money, or to put it mildly, welfare for people with degrees and welfare for universities.

  38. Dave Wendt says:

    As a possible silver lining to this scientific black cloud, it appears that they are now using all that public grant money to report on things that are obviously true. You have to admit it’s a step in the right direction from all those years of reporting on things that were obviously not true.

  39. Stephen Wilde says:

    Beetle killed trees burn faster than other dead trees because the air in the beetle drilled tunnels aids combustion.

    No need for a model or research grants to work that out.

  40. PRD says:

    Educate the public –

    If you live where fires burn don’t have a bunch of highly flammable ornamental crap growing against your home, your home will burn. Roofing shingles are made of tar: tar is made from crude oil which…. burns. Metal or clay tiles, won’t burn. Nor does stucco, plaster, or brick especially when backed by concrete + glass fiber board.

    If homes are surrounded by open and very short grass for 300 feet and constructed from non-flammable, or ignition resistant materials, then the fire crews can concentrate on protection of things that matter. The century old practice of fighting every little smoker has:

    1. Created the pine beetle problem by allowing their food and hiding spots to increase in density.
    2. Given folks too much security in expecting that they can build huge subdivisions in fire prone areas and be protected.
    3. Created this old worn out icon that needs to be shot, stuffed, and put into a museum. (with apologies to the poster with the same title)

  41. Wade says:

    This is a revelation! A great day for science! Now, if only science could tell me if water is wet, if pain hurts, and if the sun is bright.

  42. Theo Goodwin says:

    Mike says:
    May 2, 2011 at 9:43 am
    “I believe the point of this research is to qualify the impact and eventually produce better models of how a fire might spread to aid fire fightings and planners. You can make fun of the headline if you like, but this work may safe lives and property.”

    Given some reasonable vantage point such as a mountain, tower, or helicopter, if you cannot view a forest fire and see immediately what can and what cannot be done then you are lost. And to think that a forester would be surprised by the burning behavior of tracts of trees is just mind boggling.

    There is nothing that a forester could learn from a model. Of course, maybe a model of tree behavior in some exotic location might be of use to a forester. But the number of foresters who voluntarily leave the region where they learned their trade is tiny, almost nonexistent.

    If there is a rational explanation for the use of models in the forest service then it must be that some parts of the service are hiring smoke jumpers from a pool of people who have parachute experience but no forestry experience. I guess you could use models to provide some kind of training to people who are complete idiots about forests.

    Of course, I should also say that my experience has been east of the Mississippi where no forest fires have gotten out of control in my lifetime. By contrast, firefighters out West seem to be constantly struggling with one or another variety of forest fire disaster, despite the aircraft and other heavy machinery not needed east of the Mississippi. Maybe there is a difference of culture and just maybe the fire fighters out West should hire some fire fighters from east of the Mississippi to provide fire control and to install a new culture of fire fighting. Of course, along with fire fighters they would also need new forest management.

  43. Garry says:

    It’s not surprising that the US Forest Service in Helena studies such things – in fact all things fire – because that’s where the study of the infamous and deadly 1949 Mann Gulch fire was written, to subsequently become the basis for Norman Maclean’s stunning final book “Young Men And Fire.” (Maclean was the author of “A River Runs Though It.”)

    I’m sure that Maclean’s son John would also appreciate this study, since he followed his father with the book “Fire on the Mountain” about the equally deadly 1994 Storm King blowup.

    Both fires involved pine trees.

  44. a reader says:

    A question for the chemists and people involved in industry who frequent WUWT–pines are very rich in hydrocarbons and resins and turpentine if I remember correctly. So much so that the wood can be distilled for liquid fuel or even “tapped”. So as the wood dies does the flammability actually decrease as the wood decays?

  45. Theo Goodwin says:

    Tom Gray says:
    May 2, 2011 at 8:51 am
    “We burn fire wood for heat here. We let the wood dry for a year after cutting. Do you think we should submit this finding to Nature?”

    Absolutely. Most likely, they will ask what advantage aged wood has over virgin wood.

  46. Vuk etc. says:

    One of the links on the linked page may be of some interest too:
    Shrinking funds pull plug on alien search devices
    Cash-strapped governments, it seems, can no longer pay the interstellar phone bill.

  47. Theo Goodwin says:

    a reader says:
    May 2, 2011 at 10:42 am

    “So as the wood dies does the flammability actually decrease as the wood decays?”

    Flammability increases greatly for a year or two after death as the wood “dries.” Then the process of rotting becomes dominant and flammability decreases steadily. Truly rotten wood is worthless as fuel.

  48. DesertYote says:

    So areas with high beetle population would have a larger number of dead trees thus having a high rate of fire thus killing beetles. At work, can’t post more :(

  49. Gareth Phillips says:

    When the tree is infected by the beetle, the tree exudes copious amounts of resin which I understand is extremely flammable. If a stand of trees that died from say, drought, is compared to a stand of trees that have died from beetle infestation, the beetle infested group will be more incendiary than the non-infected group by a large margin. Maybe the piece should be read in the light of that fact.

  50. Steve from rockwood says:

    It would be nice if all trees dried out after they die. Certainly the pine and cedar at my place do. But after cutting down some dead birch trees this weekend I was amazed at how much water they can hold. One tree was so rotten it broke into pieces as it was falling. Same for some hemlock trees.
    Don’t look for out of control birch forest fires any time soon.
    My problem with the pine beetle is why do they only reforest with pine trees anyway? Are they surprised when the entire pine-only forest is covered with pine beetles?

  51. Joe Crawford says:

    Around 30 or 40 years ago there was an earlier infestation of pine beetle in the Ponderosa Pines of Colorado. It wasn’t the beetle that killed the pines; it was the blue stain fungus that they spread into the phloem (innermost) layer of the bark. It also turned the wood a pretty blue color. If you cut your infected trees down and stacked them properly before the beetle had hatched out the Forest Service would come out, spray the stack and cover it with Visqueen to poison the beetle as they hatched. There was also a product on the market at that time (I think it was called Pine Tree and Ornamental Spray) that you could spray your live trees with to protect them from the beetle. For several years the infestation kept spreading to the point where, at least in our area, it had killed 50% to 60% of the Ponderosa. What finally terminated the epidemic was Mother Nature. When the temperature dropped down to -35F for over 4 hours one night it killed something like 99% of the beetle. Blaming this current infestation on anthropogenic global warming is ridiculous. It’s been going on for thousands of years.

  52. KnR says:

    What a bunch of cynics you are , their next study on the difficulties of starting a fire underwater , will surely silence you all.

  53. Claude Harvey says:

    Re: joe says:
    May 2, 2011 at 8:59 am

    “what i have heard is that the enviros try to prevent the logging and removal of these dead trees despite the increased fire danger…”

    I can assure you from first hand experience that they do. After the Mt. Saint Helens explosion, I tried to get permits to salvage downed trees to be chipped into fuel for four wood-burning power plants my company owned. The “enviros” as you call them held me off with environmental objections until the trees in question were too rotted for commercial use.

    If you take a look at the incidence of forest fires on federal lands where thinning is not routinely performed versus private timber lands where it is, you will see a stark contrast. Your “enviros” typically respond that “forest fire is natural”. I would respond that “so is typhus and polio”, but I recommend inoculation.

    CH

  54. JohnS says:

    Wow. Lots of ignorance on display on this one!

    First of all, everyone who claims to have known the answer already because they use wood in their fireplace, go stand in the corner because you don’t understand the question, much less the answer. The concern about beetle-killed trees is related to foliage characteristics — relatively little wood is consumed in crown fires, so the flammability of firewood at home (or in the woods) isn’t relevant here.

    Next, the science on fire behavior in situations like the recent bark beetle outbreaks really isn’t settled (hmmm…where have I heard that phrase before?). That’s partly because most of the fires that occur happen in “green” forests, and that’s what we know more about. We also know that flammability changes over time in response to changing fuel conditions, as does the type of fire that might result (e.g., many years after the beetles are done, there may be little chance of a crown fire because of a lack of needles and fine twigs; however, ground fuels might be increasing).

    There are lots of factors at play here, but a couple of important ones are the changes in foliage quantity and “quality” (changing waxes, resins, and oils) and the fact that we haven’t really seen this many beetle-killed trees in one place at one time. This study appears to be quantifying the flammability curve from green to red to gray stage, which is important when attempting to estimate rate of spread, etc.

    Those like Mike @ 9:43 who got that point get a gold star. It’s mostly about planning and firefighting strategy. Those who have done the Christmas tree torching demo / experiment (as I have) get an “E” for effort, but you would probably be equally entertained by torching a “green” tree right off the lot. The big difference between lighting your old tree with a match and a forest fire, is that the latter will be doing quite a bit more pre-heating of the subject tree before it blows. No much difference between “fresh” and old if you toss it into a furnace!

    Oh…and for Stephen Rasey: You are probably recalling a letter written mostly (or all)by academics to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior (then Ann Veneman and Gail Norton), back around 2003.

  55. Adam says:

    I have to disagree with almost everyone here. The “obvious” should be investigated for the express reason that sometimes you’re wrong. Do I really have to mention that a study that showed that the world is flat would have seemed “obvious” only a few hundred years ago. Be happy that they are doing real science, based on empirical evidence.

  56. Ken Harvey says:

    I’d like some grant money to study people who didn’t manage to grasp before they were eight years old, that dry wood burns better than wet. You will understand that I only want the grant. The last thing I want to do is the study, which would involve getting somewhere near these people.

  57. TonyG says:

    joe says:
    what i have heard is that the enviros try to prevent the logging and removal of these dead trees despite the increased fire danger…

    I remember some years back there were a bunch of huge fires throughout Southern California. (Since this happens with moderate frequency, this was the one where a KTLA News reporter almost got caught while reporting from Arrowhead/Big Bear) A lot of homes were lost – and it came out afterward that many might have had a chance, except for the laws against clear-cutting near these houses.

    Lots of hollering, but not much ended up changing afterward, as I recall.

  58. Rhoda Ramirez says:

    We may be doing the USFS a disservice here. If the greenies are preventing these damaged trees from being cleared because “they don’t represent a significant fire threat” this study may really be ammunition. And, if it allows those damaged stands to be removed, it may save a LOT more money than the study cost.

  59. There is no need for modelling here. In most of Europe it is a well established thousand year old practice to clear forests of dead wood, both standing and those laying on the ground. It helps prevent serious insect damage (as bugs just proliferate on dead wood) and at the same time mitigates fire hazard. One does not need much science to see it works, some common sense suffices.

    If dead wood is left in place, modern firefighting techniques make things worse, not better. They can extinguish small fires (those used to consume most of the stuff before forest management began), but sooner or later a big one comes and then we are utterly helpless.

  60. DesertYote says:

    JohnS
    May 2, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Wow. Lots of ignorance on display on this one!
    ###

    Wow, a lot of greenie blindness on display by this one. Go stand in the corner until your brain starts working.

  61. Paddy says:

    Fortunately. the past two bitterly cold winters should decimate North American pine beetle populations and cripple their reproductive abilities.

    Regarding how dead trees burn, recall how Yellowstone burned. Much of the forest were beetle infested, dead and dying lodgepole pines. Of course, the fact that the Parks Service prohibited the use of mechanized equipment inside the Park boundaries. As I recall some 700,000 acres were burned by a fire that had nearly been controlled by the Forest Service before it entered into the Park.
    I experienced the mother of all fires in an already fire killed forest. In 1951 fires re-burned much of the Oregon Tillamook Burn after fires in 1939 and 1945. There were no green trees in most of the Burn. The fire killed trees, predominantly old growth Douglas fir, were huge. Many were 200 to 300 feet tall and from 6 to 10+ feet in diameter.

    Ongoing salvage logging in the Burn was extensive. The snag trees, called buckskins, had shed their bark and rotted for several inches from the outside in and the top down. The wood inside of the sapwood rot was like it had been kiln dried. It was well preserved, very sound and of extremely high grade.

    When standing trees caught fire responded like giant Roman candles. I recall one canyon that burned again contained an estimated 2o MMBF (million board feet) of felled and bucked logs in it. Those logs burnt like wood in a fireplace and with nothing left but ashes.

    I remember the heat released was enormous. The fire generated winds were gale force. Fire containment was limited to building fire breaks and praying that fires did not jump them by spewing burning embers onto adjacent ridge tops. If equipment like trucks and cats got to close the paint on them caught fire.

    Empirical knowledge of this sort renders the USFS modeling of how dead trees burn an absurd analysis of the obvious. This is another example of the idiots in control of the asylum.

  62. stephen richards says:

    Steeptown says:
    May 2, 2011 at 8:35 am
    Obvious really. It’s why I dry logs for at least two years before feeding them to the wood-burner. And I worked it out for myself without a big grant from the taxpayer.

    Now you see, that’s why you are not a scientist. If you were a member of the team you would have got a grant for testing the burning hypothosis of dried wood and not have to pay a cent to keep warm for the next 30 years. /sarc off

  63. Al Gored says:

    This story, again. The mt pine beetle has become a fake poster child for The Warming.

    Bottom line, if Smokey the Bear had not created vast areas of suitable habitat (mature pine trees) these massive epidemics could NEVER have happened no matter how warm winters got. Period.

    People concerned about dead trees around their homes should cut them down and create an open fireguard. No fuel, no fire. People who do not deal with these fuels are fools, period.

  64. stephen richards says:

    JohnS says:
    May 2, 2011 at 11:37 am
    Wow. Lots of ignorance on display on this one!

    Don’t show your stupidity so openly. Keep at little mystery to yourself.

  65. johanna says:

    a reader says:
    May 2, 2011 at 10:42 am

    A question for the chemists and people involved in industry who frequent WUWT–pines are very rich in hydrocarbons and resins and turpentine if I remember correctly. So much so that the wood can be distilled for liquid fuel or even “tapped”. So as the wood dies does the flammability actually decrease as the wood decays?
    ————————————————-
    As you have pointed out, it is not quite that simple. No-one disputes that rotted wood burns poorly, or that seasoned wood burns well. The term ‘dead wood’ in a forest does not distinguish between the two. I guess that the discussion about managing forests is about removing ‘seasoned wood’.

    In Australia, it is complicated by the fact that many birds (especially parrots) and marsupials nest in the hollows of dead and very old trees. Maintaining a forest of trees without hollows, which makes sense in terms of forestry, is not always the way to go in the bigger picture.

    You are right about resinous/oily trees. In a very hot bushfire, such as we have in Australia most years, eucalypts and pines in plantations literally explode. Water content is irrelevant in the face of hot winds, volatile oils and very high temperatures.

    Forest management is a lot more complicated and specific to locations than the jump-up-and-downers on both sides claim.

  66. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    a reader says on May 2, 2011 at 10:42 am:

    A question for the chemists and people involved in industry who frequent WUWT–pines are very rich in hydrocarbons and resins and turpentine if I remember correctly. So much so that the wood can be distilled for liquid fuel or even “tapped”. So as the wood dies does the flammability actually decrease as the wood decays?

    Lodgepole pines have rather thin bark, and the most of the volatile terpene fraction evaporates from a tree that has been mass attacked and killed. Usually, red trees are burned up from fire caused by lightining strikes in late spring or early summer. Fire melts the resin of the serotinous or heat sensitives cones and causes the scales to open. This allows the seeds to drop to the ground, and a new forest cycle starts again.

    Lodgepole pines forest are short lived and have a life cycle of ca 100 years. The range is from about 89-150 years.

    If red trees are not burned up, they become grey trees and eventually fall down. If these trees dry out and catch on fire, they burn so hot that all organic matter is burned out of the soil and seeds from the serotinous cones are killed. Such areas are prone to soil erosion and it takes much longer for the forest to regenerate.

    In many of semi-arid regions of the Pacific Northwest suchas the interior of BC, lodgepole pine is tree that can grow with good success.

  67. Latimer Alder says:

    Hold the Front Page….Astonishing Revelations:

    Pope’s amazing admission – ‘I am a Catholic’
    Dry things burn faster than wet things
    Bears s**t in the woods
    Sun rises in the East

  68. Al Gored says:

    Harold Pierce Jr says:
    May 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    “In many of semi-arid regions of the Pacific Northwest suchas the interior of BC, lodgepole pine is tree that can grow with good success.”

    Not “semi-arid” but relatively dry. In the semi-arid parts the characteristic tree is the Ponderosa Pine or Interior Douglas fir, or intermontane grasslands.

    This whole story is founded on the fact that lodgepole pines are a FIRE-ADAPTED species. Not like Ponderosa Pines where individual trees can withstand fires (unless Smokey the Bear prevents those fires, allowing fuel buildups and young flammable trees to crowd around the vets).

    The long term survival strategy for lodgepole pines is based on their periodic destruction by fire. Without fire these short-lived trees are eventually crowded out by longer living spruces (typically) which can start growing in the shade – lodgepole pines need full sun to start growing… and fires pop their cones open to simultaneously plant what becaome the typical even-aged stands… which when they mature become big swaths of mt pine beetle habitat. That is why we had such big mt pine beetle epidemics. Huge swaths of even-aged mature lodgepole pines, thanks to Smokey the Bear.

    On another tangent, most, if not all, of these AGW fire related fairy tales are due to excessive fuel build ups due to fire suppression. No fuel, no fire. The most obvious example is California. Native Californians managed their landscapes through fire. Those nice California oak stands were their creation (as acorns were one of their key staple foods).

    And they were not so stupid as to let their lands turn into tinderboxes.

  69. Darrin says:

    Theo,

    The difficulties fighting fires out west are much different then out east for many reasons.

    -What the east calls mountains mostly wont make it as a foothill in the west.
    -The terrain is very rugged and not easy to get around in. Even worse, enviro politicians have decided to require the state to rip out what few roads are there to turn back into a “natural state”. That certainly doesn’t make the issue any better.
    -Dry tinder + steep canyons + fire = a damn hard fire to stop.
    -There are huge tracts of wilderness areas that no mechanization is allowed, even to stop a fire.
    -Enviros have made it very difficult to properly manage forests on state/fed land. Examples are: too many trees per acre, no culling of dead timber, using lawsuits to stop any and all forestry practices other then those that they agree with (aka stay out except for the privileged few).

  70. Theo Goodwin says:

    Gareth Phillips says:
    May 2, 2011 at 11:01 am
    “When the tree is infected by the beetle, the tree exudes copious amounts of resin which I understand is extremely flammable. If a stand of trees that died from say, drought, is compared to a stand of trees that have died from beetle infestation, the beetle infested group will be more incendiary than the non-infected group by a large margin. Maybe the piece should be read in the light of that fact.”

    And this is the science of what? What difference does it make to anything? Fire control is a matter of reading the topography, knowing what winds will do locally, and intervening with fire breaks and back fires to destroy fuel for the fire. Anyone who does not have enough experience in the forest to know in his gut how those beetle infested trees will respond is totally and completely lost. Get him a job away from forests and fires.

  71. DesertYote says:

    Latimer Alder says:
    May 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Hold the Front Page….Astonishing Revelations:

    Pope’s amazing admission – ‘I am a Catholic’
    Dry things burn faster than wet things
    Bears s**t in the woods
    Sun rises in the East
    ####

    But what if a bear becomes Pope?

  72. Theo Goodwin says:

    Darrin says:
    May 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm
    Theo,

    The difficulties fighting fires out west are much different then out east for many reasons.

    -What the east calls mountains mostly wont make it as a foothill in the west.
    -The terrain is very rugged and not easy to get around in. Even worse, enviro politicians have decided to require the state to rip out what few roads are there to turn back into a “natural state”. That certainly doesn’t make the issue any better.
    -Dry tinder + steep canyons + fire = a damn hard fire to stop.
    -There are huge tracts of wilderness areas that no mechanization is allowed, even to stop a fire.
    -Enviros have made it very difficult to properly manage forests on state/fed land. Examples are: to many trees per acre, no culling of dead timber, using lawsuits to stop any and all forestry practices other then those that they agree with (aka stay out except for the privileged few).

    Thanks for your very helpful response. My darned day job limits my response at this time, so I will just select two really juicy items.

    “-The terrain is very rugged and not easy to get around in. Even worse, enviro politicians have decided to require the state to rip out what few roads are there to turn back into a “natural state”. That certainly doesn’t make the issue any better.”

    How can I describe this politely? How about “Way beyond insanity into a kind of adolescent evil?” I grew up in the largest US forest outside of the Pacific Northwest and I can assure everyone that log roads are incredibly impermanent and hurt nothing. By the way, a “log road” is a road for log trucks and forest service trucks. It is not for tourists even with four wheel drive. My father was very proud that he could create a log road with an axe. It’s all in seeing the lay of the land.

    “-Enviros have made it very difficult to properly manage forests on state/fed land. Examples are: to many trees per acre, no culling of dead timber, using lawsuits to stop any and all forestry practices other then those that they agree with (aka stay out except for the privileged few).”

    They put a stop to forest management! Control freaks. The forest that I grew up in was totally managed but you would never see the marks of the forest service and rarely would you see the marks of loggers. It was a pristine paradise. In that forest, you might as well have been living ten thousand years ago. The trees were rigorously culled but no one could detect it, unless they were there at the moment of cutting.

    “-What the east calls mountains mostly wont make it as a foothill in the west.”

    Regularly set the top of the mountain on fire, especially when there is snow on the ground and let it burn at leisure. Drives the ecos wild(er).

  73. rbateman says:

    Good luck convincing the judges who award injunctions to Greenies barring salvage logging sales after fires/beetle kills. It’s like having a big patch of kindling awaiting a spark to take out the dead trees plus 10′s of thousands of acres of nearby healthy forest.
    Don’t bother trying to hug the trees, they know they are doomed.

  74. mr.artday says:

    Are the beetles going wild because the Groonies (green loonies) managed to ban the spraying of pesticides?

  75. JRR Canada says:

    Sensational news from the Jolly Parson?

  76. BC Bill says:

    This discussion is quite disappointing except for John S. and a few others. Most of the time I don’t know enough about global warming topics to understand if the comments are inane or not, but this time I do. Most of the people talking here have never seen a forest fire. In most fires, the needles burn and the trunks of the trees are left intact. And anybody who has seen a forest fire knows that green needles can burn very very quickly. It is a legitimate question to wonder whether dead needles burn more slowly or more quickly and the answer isn’t obvious because previous studies have found very little difference between the two. There is a separate question which is whether the forests of dead pines we have in BC represent a increased fire hazard. Again, this is not a simple question because for example, when they measure fuels on a block after logging, sticks bigger than 7.5 cm are not counted as fuel because they ignite so much more slowly than finer materia. After trees have been killed by beetles and their needles and fine branches have fallen off, they don’t burn very well. Think of big sticks in your campfire without kindling and spaced too far apart to feed off of one another. In many cases, dead forests don’t burn very well once the needles have fallen off, but last year we found that many of the older dead trees had cracked sufficiently that they began to support a flame and burn again. So the results are not as easy to predict as the ignorant expect. This thread reminds me more of a Real Climate thread where people just start yapping off with very little data or comprehension of the complexity of a problem. I think Anthony should retract his cynical comments on this topic.

  77. BC Bill says:

    That should be 7.5 cm diameter.

  78. Jean Parisot says:

    I’m keeping that video for next Xmas for when my wife demands another live tree.

  79. Wes says:

    How long before someone who really understands what needs to be done helps nature along?

  80. Ockham says:

    http://wildfiretoday.com/2010/09/08/firefighters-should-calm-down-about-beetle-killed-forests/

    This discussion reads like a comment session at Huffpost … sigh. John S, BC Bill and a couple others got this right. I’ve reposted the link from Jeez above – people should read that first before posting nonsense. Lodgepole forest fires are characterized by rapid crown fires in the canopy of green trees. This study http://www.esa.org/papers/pdf/emon-81-01-04_3.24.pdf showed that red (1-2 yr) and grey (3-5 yr) needle stages averaged 42% less canopy fuel load than green trees. They conclude “Our results suggest that mountain pine beetle outbreaks in Greater Yellowstone may reduce the probability of active crown fire in the short term by thinning lodgepole pine canopies.”

  81. Person of Choler says:

    Mike says:
    On May 2, 2011 at 9:40 am, Mike suggests, “Perhaps some anti-science blogger was spreading this disinformation.”

    Could be, but apparently enough people to warrant a formal study believed that dry wood burns no faster than green wood. If so, who might these people have been?

  82. joe says:

    DonS says:
    May 2, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Has the pine beetle increase been associated with global warming? You bet. Google “pine beetles global warming”.

    ==========================
    not positive, but i think this has been debunked by a recent study in British Colombia….
    i can’t find the link on google though – maybe someone else has heard about it?

  83. old44 says:

    “beetle-killed trees can hold 10 times less moisture”
    I may be an ignorant fool who was only educated to year 10, but how can you reduce the amount of moisture more than one?

  84. Latimer Alder says:

    Desert Yote asks:

    But what if a bear becomes Pope?

    Amazing new policy from His Holiness:

    Ursa Major, the new Pope, announced today that he was moving the Vatican to a more sylvan environment in the woods. This will facilitate his lavatorial arrangements.

    This doctrinal about turn (so far all previous Popes have favoured urban settings), is believed to have been brought about by a reinterpretation of the sacred ancient texts ‘verily I say unto ye that bears do indeed s**t in the woods’

  85. DDP says:

    Wow, Something with a lower moisture content burns faster than something with. I’m now informed. I guess I can give up on trying to heat my bath by sticking a burning match in it now.

  86. TonyG says:

    @BC Bill:

    Having grown up and spent the first 40 years of my life in Riverside, CA, and having worked with the Red Cross taking care of our firefighters while they worked their tails off trying to keep many fires under control, I can tell you that this study seems rather inane to me. I’ve known since my first forest fire the difference between how live green trees and dead brown ones burn. First hand & up close.

  87. DesertYote says:

    #
    #
    Latimer Alder says:
    May 3, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Desert Yote asks:

    But what if a bear becomes Pope?

    Amazing new policy from His Holiness:

    Ursa Major, the new Pope, announced today that he was moving the Vatican to a more sylvan environment in the woods. This will facilitate his lavatorial arrangements.

    This doctrinal about turn (so far all previous Popes have favoured urban settings), is believed to have been brought about by a reinterpretation of the sacred ancient texts ‘verily I say unto ye that bears do indeed s**t in the woods’
    ###

    So then, when one asks “Does the Pope s**t in the woods?” the answer would be yes.

    Sic transit gloria mundi!

  88. Casey says:

    This is somewhat tangential to the main thread, but when Adam says

    Do I really have to mention that a study that showed that the world is flat would have seemed “obvious” only a few hundred years ago,

    he’s furthering a myth started by Washington Irving in his biography of Columbus. The wise men of the Spanish court didn’t object to his expedition because they thought the world was flat; they (correctly) objected to his estimates of the size of the planet.

    …Hmm. Perhaps it isn’t so tangential after all… :)

  89. DonS says:

    Theo Goodwin says:
    May 2, 2011 at 9:43 am : ” When I was a teenager, I got a job in a mobile home factory.”

    Are you allowed to reveal where in those homes the tornado magnet is installed? ;).

  90. DesertYote says:

    Casey
    May 3, 2011 at 9:49 am
    ###

    What is really interesting is that Columbus estimated the travel distance to asia based on the reports of the Vikings and others (like Brennon). He had assumed that they had reached Asia. Columbus was not saying that the Earth was round and the critics saying it was flat, but rather Columbus was saying that the Earth was pear shaped and the critics were saying that it was round. Columbus did indead find land exactly were he calculated it to be, problem is, that the Vikings had been visiting the new world.

    There is a lesson in here somewhere!

  91. BC Bill says:

    @TonyG

    I fought fires for five years to support myself as I did my undergraduate degree. I fought considerably more than 100 fires. Last year 120,000 ha of lodgepole pine (primarily) burned in this area and I have been on most of the fires doing hazard assessments. I have seen them while they are burning and afterwards. There are many kinds of forests, but I do a lot of work in beetle killed lodgepole pine which this study was examining. Green trees can burn so fast that when they are crowning you would have a very hard time outrunning the fire. Dead trees with needles move at about the same speed, but with a lot less smoke. The difference between green trees and brown ones is in many cases is inconsequentially small. When the needles have fallen off of dead trees, the rate of spread in those stands is usually, but not always, much slower. Fire behaviour is complex. While it is nice that you did first aid on fire fighters, it is a cheap rhetorical trick to try trump rational argument and observation with vague experience. If you have can assure me that you have actually seen both a living and dead lodgepole pine forest burning I will take note of what you observe. “Everybody is entitled to an “informed” opinion.”

  92. Jessie says:

    DesertYote says: May 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    In the interest of thermometers and measurement
    ‘Any sailor worth his salt can gauge his latitude well enough by the length of the day, or by the height of the sun or known guide stars above the horizon. Christopher Columbus followed a straight path across the Atlantic when he “sailed the parallel” on his 1492 Journey. The measurement of longitude meridians, in comparison, is tempered by time. To learn one’s longitude at sea, one need to know what time it is aboard ship and also the time at the homeport or another place of known longitude – at that very same moment. The two clock times enable the navigator to convert the hour difference into a geographical separation.

    Precise knowledge of the hour in two different places at once was utterly unattainable up to and including the era of pendulum clocks. On the deck of a rolling ship, such clocks would slow down, or speed up, or stop running altogether. Normal changes in temperature encountered en route from a cold country of origin to a tropical trade zone thinned or thickened a clock’s lubricating oil and made its metal parts expand or contract with equally disastrous results. A rise or fall in barometric pressure, or the subtle variations in the Earth’s gravity from one latitude to another, could also cause a clock to gain or lose time.

    For lack of a practical method of determining longitude, every great captain in the Age of Exploration became lost at sea despite the best available charts and compasses. From Vasco de Gama to Vasco Nunez de Balboa, from Magellan to Sir Francis Drake, they all got where they were going willy-nilly, by forces attributed to good luck or the grace of God. ‘
    (The above directly taken from Dava Sobel’s novel, Longitude I imagine)
    http://www.whitmansailing.com/html/leaves/pagefifty1.htm
    http://www.historytoday.com/helen-wallis/what-columbus-knew

  93. Smokey says:

    Jessie,

    Thanks for that comment. I’ve always been fascinated by the search for a reliable way to determine latitude. Harrison, the citizen/scientist, bested all the government scientists of the day, and showed how to do it:
    http://www.surveyhistory.org/john_harrison's_timepiece1.htm

  94. David Ball says:

    “Longitude” is an easy but highly recommended read.

  95. philincalifornia says:

    Harrison, James Cook, Joseph Priestley …..

    ….. those are some tough shoes to fill for people born in Yorkshire.

    One can but try.

    http://acswebcontent.acs.org/landmarks/landmarks/priestley/

  96. Jessie says:

    Smokey says: May 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm
    Thank you Smokey, that is a very good synopsis of Harrison’ (and Kendall’s) work.
    I imagine there are other bloggers who have great knowledge of Ptolemy.

    Cpt James Cook of course is well known in Australia, having used the invention on two of his three voyages, as written in the log of ‘HMS Resolution. The second voyage being Cook’s demise where he was mistaken for the God Lono.

    In regard to the mischief surrounding [science]; the Parliamentary reward, goalpost changes and changes to Acts of Parliament which Harrison encountered, The Times provides an insight into the politicisation and funding of science.
    A series of correspondence: The Imperial Institute, TH Huxley (Thurs 20th Jan 1887 p8*); A Criticism of the Royal Society anonymous (Thurs, 1st December 1892 p4) A Criticism of the Royal Society (Sat, 24th December 1892 p8) may be of interest to historians of science.

    * Willis may read in the sixth column, ‘no notice to anonymous communications!

  97. DesertYote says:

    Jessie
    May 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm
    ###

    Looks like an interesting read. The history of time measurement is fascinating. BTW, the state of navigation was not quite as dire as the quote implies. The great navigators had a number of proxies to estimate time, and unlike climate scientists, they knew how to use them. They most certainly would not be looking for confirmation of preconceptions.

  98. Jessie says:

    DesertYote says: May 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks for that DesertYote.

    The quote states ‘any sailor’ and then goes onto ‘Christopher Columbus’.
    A substantial degree of and in difference?

  99. DonS says:

    @BC Bill: “So the results are not as easy to predict as the ignorant expect. This thread reminds me more of a Real Climate thread where people just start yapping off with very little data or comprehension of the complexity of a problem. I think Anthony should retract his cynical comments on this topic.”

    Thanks, BC. I knew there’d be somebody with credentials who would “get” it. So much for the fatuous firewood comments.

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