Projecting doom from our current wildfire year using climate models

From the AGU fall meeting in SFO. Personally, I think wildfire risk (especially in the USA) would be better predicted by observing ocean patterns (ENSO, PDO, AMO etc.) than trying to apply climate models. Further, it seems they are weighting 2012 as being too significant in the scheme of things.  Also, I had to laugh at this statement:

In contrast with wildfires, agricultural and prescribed fires are less affected by climate, especially drought, during the fire season.

Gosh, “less affected” how about “not at all”? Maybe they are thinking farmer-forester mind control.

- Anthony

Climate Models Project Increase in U.S. Wildfire Risk

Scientists using NASA satellite data and climate models have projected drier conditions likely will cause increased fire activity across the United States in coming decades. Other findings about U.S. wildfires, including their amount of carbon emissions and how the length and strength of fire seasons are expected to change under future climate conditions, were also presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The Whitewater-Baldy Complex wildfire in Gila National Forest, New Mexico, as it burned on June 6th, 2012.

The Whitewater-Baldy Complex wildfire in Gila National Forest, New Mexico, as it burned on June 6th, 2012. Scientists calculate that high fire years like 2012 are likely occur two to four times per decade by mid-century, instead of once per decade under current climate conditions. Credit: Kari Greer/USFS Gila National Forest

Doug Morton of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., presented the new analysis of future U.S. fire activity. The analysis was based on current fire trends and predicted greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate models project an increase in fire risk across the U.S. by 2050, based on a trend toward drier conditions that favor fire activity and an increase in the frequency of extreme events,” Morton said.

The analysis by Morton and colleagues used climate projections, prepared for the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to examine how dryness, and therefore fire activity, is expected to change.

The researchers calculated results for low and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. In both cases, results suggest more fire seasons that are longer and stronger across all regions of the U.S. in the next 30-50 years. Specifically, high fire years like 2012 would likely occur two to four times per decade by mid-century, instead of once per decade under current climate conditions.

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A Landsat 7 image of the 60,000 acres burned by the High Park wildfire just west of Fort Collins, CO as of June 18, 2012.› Larger image
A Landsat 7 image of the 60,000 acres burned by the High Park wildfire just west of Fort Collins, CO as of June 18, 2012. The fire, which started on June 9 by a lightning strike, destroyed 189 homes as of June 19. In the June 18 image, clouds hover just north of the burned area, with smoke from the fire visible as blue. Credit: USGS/NASA

A visualization of cumulative fires from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31, 2012, detected by the MODIS instrument on board the Terra and Aqua satellites.  Bright yellow shows areas that are more intense and have a larger area that is actively burning, flaming and or smoldering.› Larger image
A visualization of cumulative fires from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31, 2012, detected by the MODIS instrument on board the Terra and Aqua satellites. Bright yellow shows areas that are more intense and have a larger area that is actively burning, flaming and/or smoldering. Credit: NASA Through August of this year, the U.S. burned area topped 2.5 million hectares (6.17 million acres), according to a fire emissions database that incorporates burned area estimates produced from observations by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instruments on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. That is short of the record 3.2 million hectares (7.90 million acres) burned in 2011, but exceeds the area burned during 12 of the 15 years since record keeping began in 1997. This and other satellite records, along with more refined climate and emissions models, are allowing scientists to tease out new information about fire trends.

==============================================================

“Fire is an inherently global phenomenon, and the only practical way to track large-scale patterns and changes in fire activity is with satellites,” says Louis Giglio of the University of Maryland at College Park and Goddard.

As the U.S. land area burned by fire each year has increased significantly in the past 25 years, so too have the emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires in the western U.S. have more than doubled since the 1980s, according to Chris Williams of Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

The satellite-based view allowed Williams and his colleagues to quantify how much carbon has been released from fires in the U.S. West. The team used data on fire extent and severity derived from Landsat satellites to calculate how much biomass is burned and killed, and how quickly the associated carbon was released to the atmosphere. The team found carbon emissions from fires have grown from an average of 8 teragrams (8.8 million tons) per year from 1984 to 1995 to an average of 20 teragrams (22 million tons) per year from 1996 to 2008, increasing 2.4 times in the latter period.

“With the climate change forecast for the region, this trend likely will continue as the western U.S. gets warmer and drier on average,” Williams said. “If this comes to pass, we can anticipate increased fire severity and an even greater area burned annually, causing a further rise in the release of carbon dioxide.”

Researchers expect a drier and more wildfire-prone U.S. in future decades. Previous research confirmed the connection between the measure of an environment’s potential evaporation, or dryness, and fire activity.

From a fire and emissions management perspective, wildfires are not the entire U.S. fire story, according to research by Hsiao-Wen Lin of the University of California at Irvine. Satellite data show agricultural and prescribed fires are a significant factor and account for 70 percent of the total number of active fires in the continental U.S. Agricultural fires have increased 30 percent in the last decade.

In contrast with wildfires, agricultural and prescribed fires are less affected by climate, especially drought, during the fire season.

“That means there is greater potential to manage fire emissions, even in a future, drier climate with more wildfires. We need to use cost-benefit analysis to assess whether reductions in agricultural fire emissions — which would benefit public health — would significantly impact crop yields or other ecosystem services,” Lin said.

Related Links:

› Powerpoint slides (in PDF format) from the 2012 AGU Conference briefing
› Video of active fires across the U.S. in 2012
› Link to video in Powerpoint presentation
› Link to Flickr gallery in Powerpoint presentation

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53 Responses to Projecting doom from our current wildfire year using climate models

  1. Richard M says:

    Since the models have been falsified by 15+ years of no warming, any study based on those models is worthless. I wonder how much this worthless study cost the taxpayers?

  2. Steveta_uk says:

    “Fire is an inherently global phenomenon”.

    I bet those antarctic fires are a bloomin nuisance.

  3. techgm says:

    Clearly a funding-source-driven conclusion. The build-up of ground tender and grounding of fire bombers (by the Forest Service) are apparently outweighed by climatic factors in the duration of the season or intensity of wild fires. Ditto the increased presence of more criminal/careless humans in wilderness areas.

  4. omnologos says:

    Remember the first rule of successful forecasting (career-wise): take the very latest news, pretend it is showing the way ahead, extend it to the future at will. Everybody will believe you, as last year’s news have already been forgotten.

  5. Pathway says:

    Fuel load in the forest has increased because evil white men run around putting fires out. The ecological pure native americans set fire to the forest and grasslands on a regular basis because they observed that more fire produced more animals that they could eat.
    Nature is going to take care of excess fuel load by beetle kill or fire. Take your pick.

  6. ilma630 says:

    Real forecasters, e.g. WeatherAction.com have never considered CO2 at all, and know that it plays no part in any warming at all, as if it did, even a little, there would be a small ascending signal in the temperature record and other indicators. GHE effect? What GHE effect?

  7. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    ‘“Climate models project an increase in fire risk across the U.S. by 2050, based on a trend toward drier conditions that favor fire activity and an increase in the frequency of extreme events,” Morton said.’

    An increase in frequency of extreme events? Did Morton et al input that into the climate model, then? The models ‘project’. A clever use of that word, making it sound like “predict”. Sounds to me like good old cart-before-the-horse, telling me that my 96th birthday is going to be a sylvicultureist’s nightmare. This stuff makes me shudder, but not because I’m afraid of burning to a crisp.

  8. nevket240 says:

    http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/genes-not-people-cause-tas-devil-tumours/story-e6frfku9-1226530712559
    it will not be long before the wildfire claim goes the same way as the ‘climate change is killing devils’ BS.
    regards

  9. MattS says:

    The best predictor of wild fire risk is to measure the amount dead fuel available on the ground.

    Nobody in the government want’s to look at this because it would prove that forest management policy has been bassakwards in the US for more than 50 years.

    It doesn’t matter how hot or how dry or how windy it is. If there is no fuel on the ground a fire can’t spread.

  10. MarkW says:

    I could have sworn that even the people who write the models have admitted that they are of no user for trying to figure out regional level changes.

  11. MarkW says:

    If conditions are drier, wouldn’tt there be less stuff growing in the first place, and wouldn’t that put a damper on fires?

  12. michael hart says:

    lol
    “Greenhouse gas emissions” sure go up during a fire, but they don’t cause it.

    If only those damned plants and trees didn’t photosynthesize, then there wouldn’t be so much to burn. But more more atmospheric CO2 means greater photosynthetic yields, so more fires….so…
    and round and round we go…

  13. Jimbo says:

    Speculation based on error prone Nintendo models.

    Benjamin D. Santer et. al. – June 22, 2012
    “The multimodel average tropospheric temperature trends are outside the 5–95 percentile range of RSS results at most latitudes. The likely causes of these biases include forcing errors in the historical simulations (40–42), model response errors (43), remaining errors in satellite temperature estimates (26, 44), and an unusual manifestation of internal variability in the observations (35, 45). These explanations are not mutually exclusive. Our results suggest that forcing errors are a serious concern.”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/28/1210514109.full.pdf
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/28/1210514109

  14. Jimbo says:

    “Fire is an inherently global phenomenon”.

    I agree. it’s all bad news from global warming.

    Future wildfire in circumboreal forests in relation to global warming
    Abstract. Despite increasing temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age (ca. 1850), wildfire frequency has decreased as shown in many field studies from North America and Europe. We believe that global warming since 1850 may have triggered decreases in fire frequency in some regions and future warming may even lead to further decreases in fire frequency. Simulations of present and future fire regimes, using daily outputs from the General Circulation Model (GCM), were in good agreement with recent trends observed in fire history studies. Daily data, rather than monthly data, were used because the weather and, consequently, fire behavior can change dramatically over time periods much shorter than a month. The simulation and fire history results suggest that the impact of global warming on northern forests through forest fires may not be disastrous and that, contrary to the expectation of an overall increase in forest fires, there may be large regions of the Northern Hemisphere with a reduced fire frequency.
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2307/3237261/abstract

    Ignore long term observations in a warming world since 1850 and focus on funding driven drivel.

  15. Mark W: That was true in Wyoming this year. Even the cheat grass didn’t come up. The mountain burned, but that fire, according to the experts is way overdue. The middle has not burned yet but it will whether it’s hot, cold or the climate stays the same.
    I notice there was no mention of job security in all of this. Several years back a fire was started by someone who was tired of fighting fires away from home. With unemployment being what it is, wouldn’t this at least give those firefighters more work? After all, it’s all about jobs, isn’t it?

  16. Don Healy says:

    I agree with many of the comments above that forest fire prediction needs to be based on many factors, one of which might be a tendency towards drier or moister conditions. However, the fuel load factor is most likely of far greater importance. Since the early 1980’s we have essentially stopped harvesting timber on federal lands, which make up about 3/4s of the timbered land area in the Western U.S.. As a result, the current inventory (per U.S. Forest Service figures) of merchantable timber is over 40% greater than is was in the 1950’s, to say nothing of the quantity of non-merchantable timber that is present, many times in dense, stagnated conditions. Ironically, we import over $8 billion dollars worth of lumber annually, with some imports come from as far as New Zealand and Finland. With the normal multiplier effect, if we were to re-establish our timber industry we could add about $50 billion to our GDP and increase employment, while increasing the health of our timber resource. The current mantra is to buy food grown locally; to be consistent should we not apply the same logic to lumber purchases?

    Another irony is that with higher CO2 levels we are seeing a significant increase in the rate of growth across the spectrum of the plant kingdom, so the fuel load problem is only going to get worse.

    Attempting to model forest fire frequency under such narrow constraints as the subject study, is an exercise in futility.

  17. Silver Ralph says:

    >>>Climate Models Project Increase in U.S. Wildfire Risk

    Err, how does that square with NW Europe having the wettest summer on record. They are making this up as they go along, surely.

    .

  18. john robertson says:

    When you’re selling eternal damnation, fire is an essential ingredient.
    These people are desperate, if they don’t sell something soon, funding will evaporate.

  19. Do these scientists believe in “spontaneous combustion”? I’ve seen no detailed analysis of the cause of wildfires, though I did see an article recently that presented evidence that most fires start close to roads and forest trails. “Joining the dots” has become popular amongst alarmists, so could I suggest a large degree of human involvement? If that’s right it rather puts a large damper on the theory of climate-induced fires, unless we can add arson to the long list of the claimed effects of “global warming” or rather “climate change” or “climate weirding” or whatever the term has morphed into of late.

  20. MJB says:

    What frustrating drivel. When I see statements like “since record keeping began in 1997″ and gross exagerations like the “visualization” image I tend not to lend much credibility to the rest of it. I can assure you there are decent fire records long before 1997 and the vizualization is more of an illusion, by using dots scaled to an impossibly large size. Even on the large image the dots are approximately 5 miles across (based on comparison to known landmarks). This is a common trick in mapping to emphasize or de-emphasize your point – change the size of dots, or the thickness of a polygon outline to tell the visual story you are selling. The visualization makes it appear that 1/4 of the continent was on fire this summer, all of pacific mexico, more than half of florida, etc.

  21. Alexander K says:

    As Willis said, ‘Models all the way down!’
    With the mandating and enforcement of Green idiocy such as not allowing the clearing of fire breaks or second growth from the forest floors, a rise in both spontaneous and maliciously-lit fires is inevitable, regardless of non-winter weather.

  22. George Lawso9n says:

    “That is short of the record 3.2 million hectares (7.90 million acres) burned in 2011, but exceeds the area burned during 12 of the 15 years since record keeping began in 1997.”

    “Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires in the western U.S. have more than doubled since the 1980s,”

    “The team found carbon emissions from fires have grown from an average of 8 teragrams (8.8 million tons) per year from 1984 to 1995 to an average of 20 teragrams (22 million tons) per year from 1996 to 2008, increasing 2.4 times in the latter period.”

    If records have only been kept over the last 15 years, I wonder how the team obtained the information in order to make the other two statements.

  23. Mike Jonas says:

    Bushfires [Wildfires]? It’s all to do with wet years and dry years, and fuel supply. Seems pretty logical.
    http://www.fao.org/docrep/ARTICLE/WFC/XII/0278-B1.HTM
    A Study on Forest Fire Occurrence in China
    Shu Lifu, Tian Xiaorui and Wang Mingyu
    [Wildfire Research Group, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Behind Summer Palace, Beijing, China]
    It is suggested that such different annual forest fire variation have some connection with annual atmospheric movement and climatic changes. A year that suffers a severe drought is mostly attacked by severe forest fires while a year is least prone to fires when there is much precipitation, high humidity. On the other hand, the accumulation of flammable materials in the forest also contributes a lot to the annual variation of forest fires. A forest area with coverage of large quantities of flammable materials mostly easily catches fire in a dry year and causes serious disasters.

    http://blog.smu.edu/research/2012/05/15/ancient-tree-ring-records-from-the-southwest-u-s-suggest-todays-megafires-are-atypical/
    The U.S. would not be experiencing massive large-canopy-killing crown fires today if human activities had not begun to suppress the low-severity surface fires that were so common more than a century ago,” said Roos, an assistant professor in the SMU Department of Anthropology.
    Today’s extreme droughts caused by climate change probably would not cause megafires if not for a century of livestock grazing and firefighting, which have combined to create more dense forests with accumulated logs and other fuels that now make them more vulnerable than ever to extreme droughts. One answer to today’s megafires might be changes in fire management.
    “If anything, what climate change reminds us is that it’s pretty urgent that we deal with the structural problems in the forests. The forests may be equipped to handle the climate change, but not in the condition that they’re currently in. They haven’t been in that condition before,” Roos said.

    [Disappointing that Roos uses the words "climate change" when he clearly doesn't mean "Climate Change"]
    But then the article goes on to get to the core:
    They discovered that the Medieval Warm Period was no different from the Little Ice Age in terms of what drives frequent low-severity surface fires: year-to-year moisture patterns.
    “It’s true that global warming is increasing the magnitude of the droughts we’re facing, but droughts were even more severe during the Medieval Warm Period,” Roos said. “It turns out that what’s driving the frequency of surface fires is having a couple wet years that allow grasses to grow continuously across the forest floor and then a dry year in which they can burn. We found a really strong statistical relationship between two or more wet years followed by a dry year, which produced lots of fires.”
    “.

  24. loselose says:

    When I lived in CA, every April someone would come on TV, and if it had been a dry year, would warn that the upcoming fire season would be worse than normal because of the lack of moisture.

    If it had been a wet winter, they’d predict the fire season would be worse than normal because of all the extra vegetation that had grown up.

  25. Jim Owen says:

    As a long distance hiker, I’ve walked through a number of fires – some wild, some prescribed burns in places like Florida, Montana, New Mexico, California over th last 20 years. Any assumption that prescribed burns are in any way, “controlled” is entirely mistaken.

  26. highflight56433 says:

    …and the hype pile just grows bigger. I imagined all the smoke blocking the sun, like a nuclear winter….or caldera eruption…or global dust storm… caused by CAGW of course :)

  27. This nonsense was highlighted in Australia a few years back. After a prolonged drought and a brief hot spell (and Greenist mis-management of forestry i.e. no eco unfriendly “burning off…’ )
    there was a nasty outbreak of fires in which many people lost their lives.
    The Warmists were in seventh heaven at the time – after all the drought, heatwave and fires fitted perfectly into their Grand Narrative.
    The following year the CSIRO and their mouthpiece the ABC bombarded us with warnings that this fire season would be even worse…right up to the point where…well, you’ve guessed it – the rain started.
    Did anyone have a flood evacuation plan in place?
    Or budgets for washed out roads and bridges?
    Yea sure!

  28. Jit says:

    Further, it seems they are weighting 2012 as being too significant in the scheme of things.

    I call this the Law of Perspective. The closer things are, the more important they seem. That’s one reason why every storm seems to be such a doozy – we’ve forgotten the old doozies.

  29. u.k.(us) says:

    What do I know, but I don’t remember the Mississippi River burning.
    Although the link:
    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/710953main_2012firesJanthroughOct31.5215.jpg
    Would seem to indicate it did. Was it barge exhaust , or what ?
    (Memphis to New Orleans).

  30. Itstheweathercrazyfool says:

    How do you get climate scientists to predict the next 30 years?
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Give them half a century and they will get back to you.

  31. montanaconserv says:

    Living in an environment where fire is part of the ecosystem, we learn to expect smoke and ashes in the air we breathe (I live in the Bitterroot area)…which between the Mustang Complex fire and the Sawtooth fire.. we were homebound for over a month due to poor air quality. The Mustang Complex was bigger than the one in Colorado, but because people’s homes didn’t burn, it received no media coverage. Another thing that they aren’t measuring is the Beetle killed trees (millions of acres) that fuel these fires, and the fact that the eco-terrorists won’t allow logging or thinning of the trees to reduce the energy of the fire…If it wasn’t for an area that got thinned out, this Idaho fire would have destroyed more….

    “Firefighters say thinned forest stopped Idaho blowup short of Lost Trail Pass”
    http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/local/article_09a3887c-19a1-5936-9729-044491c125e6.html

    There are a couple main problems in the forest fire fighting policies:

    1. Let it burn… if a fire is spotted in rough terrain.. they let it burn… instead of fighting a fire that is 20 acres in size, they wait until it gets to be 1000 acres, and too far gone to put out or contain.
    2. the lack of aerial support hindered putting out the fires or controlling them.
    3. not allowing the thinning of forests (logging)… see article link above for example….

  32. Peter Miller says:

    This has got to be a spoof.

    No one serious could possibly be writing such obvious rubbish.

  33. Gunga Din says:

    omnologos says:
    December 5, 2012 at 8:57 am
    Remember the first rule of successful forecasting (career-wise): take the very latest news, pretend it is showing the way ahead, extend it to the future at will. Everybody will believe you, as last year’s news have already been forgotten.
    ===========================================================================
    Maybe we should be training polar bears to fight forest fires. Then they’d have a steady job and so CO2 wouldn’t make them homeless. They could afford walk-in freezers.

  34. Larry Geiger says:

    “Any assumption that prescribed burns are in any way, “controlled” is entirely mistaken.” Most prescribed burns in the Southeast US are very well controlled. As nature is involved and a prescribed burn can be a fairly large thing, problems do pop up, but very rarely.

    Were there any real foresters in that group of authors?

    It’s coming up to the burning season here in Florida, before the dry season in winter (hee hee) and spring. The guys from the St Johns River Water Management District will be out burning thousands of acres the next couple of months. Doing so will prevent what happened back in 1998. Proper management, not climate control, will prevent most disasters.

  35. Gunga Din says:

    So … if I use a CO2 fire extinguisher to put out a fire, did I just cause a bigger one somewhere else?

  36. eyesonu says:

    The inmates are running the asylum. But that brings up the question as to whether it is better off now.

    There is an apparent problem with the asylum from the start.

  37. DR says:

    Remember, drier conditions also bring on more snow, or less snow in winter. In summer, drier weather also means more rain, or less.

    Any observation is consistent with AGW “theory”.

  38. Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says:

    Unfortunately the essence of their prediction is absolutely true, but for the wrong reason. There will be more severe wild fires with greater losses in the coming years.

    Not because of any change in weather, but the inevitable consequence of our invasion of the wild land urban interface with residential structures packed tightly together with poor consideration for wild fire propagation between structures.

    Instead of the structure separation needed in an urban area with active fire suppression to prevent ignition and spread to adjacent structures from isolated fires, the building separation should be much greater in these neighborhoods because no municipal or rural fire authority has the man power to prevent spread of a wild fire in these environments.

    A single structure burning in isolation, sure no problem, a wall of flame 100′ high sweeping into a densely built up neighborhood with vegetation right up to the buildings eaves — not a chance.

    There is ample example of the problem from the recent structure losses in Colorado Springs last fire season to years of the same sort of losses in California and Australia as our cities merge into these uncontrolled wild land environments with limited fire breaks and high fuel loads.
    Then you have the brain dead home owners who encourage vegetation planting directly adjacent to their homes, and refuse (either by choice or due to local codes) to cut suitable fire breaks, fire roads, trim ladder fuels, use fire safe construction techniques like shutters and non-combustible roof materials or set up water sources like ponds/cisterns to allow fire fighters adequate water resources when the fire comes.

    The architects and zoning people also will share the blame for landscaping and neighborhood layouts (narrow twisting roads) that make safe zones and escape routes for fire fighters impossible. This leaves them the only safe choice of abandoning the neighborhood and pulling back to the nearest defensible fire line they can find.

    Larry

  39. Theo Goodwin says:

    Jit says:
    December 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm
    “Further, it seems they are weighting 2012 as being too significant in the scheme of things.

    “I call this the Law of Perspective. The closer things are, the more important they seem. That’s one reason why every storm seems to be such a doozy – we’ve forgotten the old doozies.”

    Absolutely. The next time a Camille hits, everyone should be required to tour the wreckage.

  40. The-Booky-Who-Knows-The-Real-Booky-And-Who-Burned-The-Book! says:

    I was at the Special Presentation with James Cameron. A particular point emerged. It was by Mr. Cameron regarding some engineering that he had contracted out.

    The ‘Company That Shall Not Be Named” took 3 years (and the money they no doubt said thank you for receiving from him) to produce no solution; whereas Mr. Cameron then turned to movie set engineers who he knew and who did not have any experience in Oceanographic engineering training and they produced a solution in one week and that solution was what kept the project, and Mr. Cameron at the Challenger Deep, safe, other problems notwithstanding.

    I suspect this a parable of ‘Government Think’ a variety of ‘Group Think’ likened to the popular ‘Crowd Think’ and of which the granddaddy was ‘Mob Think’ all of which I for one try to avoid at all times, even when in Governments or varied Governments not of my country, at this particular time and others times past and future.

    So I suspect that the deep space probe that will reach Europa will not be ESA nor NASA designed nor NSF funded, and may God Save The Queen And All That.

    Cheers

  41. LKMiller (aka treegyn1) says:

    Those on WUWT who are US citizens should be outraged at the waste of timber resources (mostly) in the west, where the vast majority of forest lands are under the jurisdiction of the federal government (Forest Service and BLM). While these two mega-agencies deserve their fair share of opprobrium, the ultimate failure lies with Congress.

    Neither agency does a thing without direction from Congress. Sadly, Congress has completely abdicated their responsibility for providing rational oversight of our federal timberlands, such that we find our western forests in an extremely sad state of repair. Overcrowded, overmature, and underutilized. Rural counties in the west, that had am implicit contract with the federal government to provide long term employment and public resources, have been left twisting in the wind with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the nation.

    To give a sense of scale, if you live on the east coast in say, Rhode Island, how would you feel if essentially all the land in your state, plus CT, plus MA, plus NH were controlled completely by the federal government. This is the situation, just in Oregon, and similar imbalances occur in all the western states.

    So, when the vast majority of the forest and range lands are controlled by the federal government, but they completely fail in their land management, is it any wonder we occasionally get large, stand replacing wildfires? As others upstream have already mentioned, the problem isn’t climate, it is overmature (read decadent) and overcrowded forests, which translates to increase fuel loads. Add dry lightning and typical summer drought (and it is typically dry in the summer in the west), and you get large wildfires.

    If the federal government steadfastly refuses to manage the hundreds of millions of acres in the west under their “care,” they have the moral obligation to cede these lands back to the states and counties, who will see that they are properly managed for the benefit of local populations.

  42. Lil Fella from OZ says:

    There is another cause of bushfires (wildfires). Poor management of areas such as National Parks. Lock up the bush and you produce a certain fire hazard! Or people not managing their residential blocks in high risk areas. What we would describe as disasters waiting to happen. Computer modelling not necessary!

  43. nevket240 says:

    ((MarkW says:
    December 5, 2012 at 9:42 am
    If conditions are drier, wouldn’tt there be less stuff growing in the first place, and wouldn’t that put a damper on fires?))

    Not in Oz with our oil laden Eucalypts. Mark.
    they tend to drop branches in response to drier conditions, less water = more fuel on the ground.
    regards

  44. eyesonu says:

    LKMiller (aka treegyn1) says:
    December 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    ==============

    So very true. Control should be given back to the states and localities. Same goes for the National Park Service lands.

  45. tgmccoy says:

    montanaconserv and others. Spot on! I’m working to get back in to the ‘airtanker industry.
    Which has been nationally left in disarray since 2005 when the government decided
    the “old” airplanes are bad and ones that have jets (well mostly) are good.
    went from 44 aircraft nationally to now at various points,12. Not all are heavy (3000+)
    gallons any more. When things went to Hades this summer they imported Canadian Convairs.
    but yet.
    Once proud Aero Union P3′ s- probably due partly to inept management and Fed interference.gone.
    No 3000 gallon turboprops. Butler has three DC-7’s (3000+ gallons) all newer than the newest
    Conair Convair 580 by some 4 years. but they use avagas and don’t make screechy noises.
    Gone. TBM has two perfectly good C-130’s Flying on Air Force contracts. They have 3300gal
    Aero Union tanks ready-but no, because they are C-130(Even with the B model spars)
    gone…
    Then there are the P-2 Neptunes. good tankers, but 2200 gallons and same engines as the DC7.
    Huh? They and Minden Air are working on the BAE 146 four engine regional jet as a 3000 gallon
    tanker. May have potential. Erickson Aero -MD-80’s (4000gal or so but pure jet) May work for
    but I still have a problem with the issue of initial attack. To keep a fire down jet or not you need something that can be there quick . Hard to operate MD80’s out of Cour’d Alene or Winslow…
    I do think they will be good aircraft. There is a need to look outside the box.
    But I have my doubts…

  46. E.M.Smith says:

    We usually get our worst fires after a wet year. The extra growth dries out in summer and then the fuel load is higher. “Warmer and dryer” is called the Mojave. It doesn’t have forest fires…

    When we have long periods of drought, growth falls off and you don’t get the big fuel loads. Fires shrink and over time as the burned areas don’t regrow (dry, remember?) fire rates drop off…

    I wonder if any of those folks ever lived in fire prone areas?…

    The big problem with more forest fires is the decades we’ve spent putting out little fires and letting all the fuel build up (from all the wet years ;-)

  47. Bob Diaz says:

    I believe my climate model for wildfires is just as accurate and it runs under QBASIC:

    10 RANDOMIZE TIMER
    20 X = INT(RND * 10) + 1
    30 PRINT “The risk for increased wildfires is “;
    40 IF X > 5 THEN PRINT ” increased by “; X – 5
    50 IF X < 5 THEN PRINT "decreased by "; X – 5
    60 IF X = 5 THEN PRINT " About the same."
    70 END

  48. Susan S. says:

    Interesting, as I live near forests I always watch wind speed plus temps too, during the burning season (spring is bad for fires when there hasn’t been enough rain to wet the forest down.) So I expect fires to happen, it is a part of the cycle of a forest,(or some idiot of quadder who didn’t clear off their muffler either after driving through muskeg, or an arsonist. Wait almost forgot mother nature and her lightening strikes, she does it at the most inopportune times.) I used to live in the town of Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta (that was in the news about 1/3 of the town burning down in 2011). This town is surrounded by forests and then Lesser Slave Lake on one side. Funny thing is that there was a previous fires that just about reached the outskirts of town approximately 11 (2001) years before. It was stopped then before it got to town, and another one in 1980 and 1968. What was different about 2011? No one was ready for such fires that get out of control quickly, and they do. All it takes is looking back at some info readily available like this, http://www.srd.alberta.ca/MapsPhotosPublications/Publications/documents/ChisholmFire-FinalDocumentationReport-Section02.pdf
    People tend to forget the lessons we learn from the past, so they ignore it at their peril. Fires are a fact of life if you live anywhere near a forest.

  49. Obviously no one lives in Arizona. Here’s the model. Fire danger is greatest June when there is practically 0 rainfall in the state..
    Wet Winter -> More vegetation -> June dryout makes the vegetation a “high fuel environment” -> fire danger is “Extreme”
    Dry Winter -> Drier conditions -> By June the forests are tinderboxes of extremely dry vegetation -> Fire danger is “Extreme”
    Near Normal Winter -> Regular vegetation -> By June the normal vegetation is dried out, but coupled with fuel from prior years that didn’t burn -> Fire Danger is “Extreme.”

    In reality, forest fires consume a fraction of the forests. Even the biggest ones are small when viewed from the big picture shot. Every year is always regarded as extreme because it’s the first step in getting money and it justifies government jobs that exist to combat “Extreme Fires.”

    If they were really serious about stopping forest fires instead of employing government workers to fight “extreme fires”, they would let loggers manage the fuel load in the spring.

  50. Chris R. says:

    This is wonderful news!

    The almighty models predict catastrophic warming due to feedback from water vapor
    in the air. By claiming that things are getting dryer, they are admitting that water vapor
    in the air has NOT increased as expected. Catastrophic positive feedback loop admitted
    to be BUSTED.

  51. FredericM says:

    To Let Burn , No Burn is the question. Hot intense burning kills a forest. Some say of climate/weather and conifer Sierra Cascade Forest history cycles 300-400 yrs in length. Still a theory. Most very large forests do not die and give birth to new forest all at one time. In the West one original study of the mid 70’s above 7000 ft Sequoia forest, seed sprouting, concluded that cool ground fire enhanced the seed cone release and sprouting of that tree given the other provisions of nutrients. This study looking for several concerns with the primary being why the Old growth Sequoia was not re-generating proficiently.

    This relatively narrow study gained popularity within the forest alarmist culture. To the point that if this Let Burn worked for the Sequoia why not apply it to the general conifer harvest zone – 3000-5000 ft in Sierra Cascade areas ? Well history does repeat itself. Is alarmist-man that repetitive orchestra leader in the case of our Forests?

    Fuel and Terrain govern mans fire fighting. Fire Weather is the plug in. BTU per min. Flat ground vs topographical acute ground. One hour fuels and to a lesser degree 10hr fuels spread-carry fire. Dog Hair ladder fuels prohibit effective short term fire control. Intimate familiarity enhances many many times the potential fire control success. Boot-Pulaski on the ground dirt-modern fire fighting at difficult fuel/terrain occurrences requires mechanical support. Air Tankers – lesser utilized (cost) helicopters are the primary support mechanization in remote terrain(bulldozers have been modestly shackled). Larger the payload-wingspan higher speed Air Tankers become less and less effective as the steepness of terrain and the fuel loading goes up. Sharp drainage/divides hog back steep ridges require a cool fire for safe operations or, intense mechanical support. Even then some conditions make firefighter life threat extremely high.

    The disappearance of shaded – generally in the past chainsaw bulldozer mechanical harvesting fuel breaks (not fire breaks), on key known easier to harvest ridges has eliminated the utilization of these ridges as primary Let-burn No-burn control points. Thus becoming a common Punt on first down.

    The Urban Interface areas of news popularity video snap shot is intertaining journalism. Fundamental successful housing defensive operations would be increased dramatically in a pre-fire prepartion formula. What? The key to survival is distance space from released BTU and the physical construction considerations.

    25 Years of increasing fire intensity/size. Obfuscating? Co-incidental maybe so maybe not, the advent of endangered specie application -like the sub specie western spotted owl- cousins all to spotted owls. Old growth habitat requirerment claim, and the demise of managed conservation forest practice. A well studied learned through applied trial and error practice research from those foresters that spent their collective learning into the dawn of well managed forests. Nearly all of the then existing practicing Professor grade university icons had almost no experience at application. The aggressive alarmist forest educators commenced the dance known as No vegetation modification- logging is good practice. California Interior valley Sonoran foothill zone via the man house habitaion of once predominate Grazing land also deteriated the practive of grazers in large numbers modifing the flora-vegetgation into a cherker board configuration. With the then west and south facing slops a visually non balanced open to the smaller closed/density of vegetation. This same checker board has disappeared from NF zone grazing.

  52. Brian H says:

    Create good/ideal conditions for large damaging fires and more will occur. There, can I have my grant payout now, please? In medium-size unmarked bills only. I’ll supply the truck.

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