@billmckibben fire season hype extinguished with inconvenient data

The problem with emotional people like Bill McKibben, is that they seldom delve beyond headlines and live in a world of imaginary constructs that fit their expectation.

In this case, McKibben cites an LA times story as scientific proof of a worsening early fire season in California. Problem is, the real world data doesn’t even come close to supporting it.

Here’s what the LA Times says:

This is the sort of scenario that climate scientists have been warning us about for decades — off-kilter weather patterns, increasing dryness in Southern California and, with it, added fire risk. Whether or not last week’s confluence of parched hills, hot days and fast winds was caused by climate change, the dryness of the vegetation points to a wildfire threat that won’t wait for the usual Southern Californian procrastination over thinning plants.

Oh noes!

But gosh, the National Interagency Fire Center data says we are at a 10 year low so far not only for the number of fires, but also the acreage. Note what I highlighted in yellow and compare to previous years, as well as the 10 year average at the bottom:

NIFC_Fire_data

Even if you add the 28,000 acre springs fire (which started late on 5/2, and I don’t know if the total acreage is included in the NIFC table) to the total above (up to 5/3), it still falls short of any other year in the past 10.

He’s got the twits all a tweeten though, he’s saving the planet with his iPhone.

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49 Responses to @billmckibben fire season hype extinguished with inconvenient data

  1. John Woolley says:

    If you’re going to insist on bringing facts into the discussion, you are *never* going to make it as a scientist.

  2. Facts? What are they?

  3. Peter Miller says:

    This is the sort of stuff the great Bore described as being ‘inconvenient’, wasn’t it?

  4. Matthew W says:

    “The problem with emotional people like Bill McKibben,”
    I prefer just to say “nitwit.”

  5. John Trigge (in Oz) says:

    From a remark by Aristotle (384 BCE – 322 BCE): “One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” (from Wiki).

    Aren’t our ‘side’ always being told that weather is not climate?

  6. albertalad says:

    Well he certainly doesn’t let those pesky facts spoil his story, does he?

  7. Chuck L says:

    “We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!”

  8. Chris B says:

    What is truth?

  9. agimarc says:

    The hill around the LA basin burned in the early 1960s when I lived there, dropping ash on the San Fernando Valley. Looked pretty impressive to a kid. Jim Morrison of the Doors sung about them burning in LA Woman in 1971. And surprise upon surprise 40 years later they are burning still. Somehow I don’t think manmade global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions has anything to do with the fires. Cheers -

  10. Michael J. Bentley says:

    “If it’s truth you’re looking for, Mr. Donners Philosophy class is just down the hall”.
    A sorta kinda quote from Indiana Jones, “Raders of the Lost Arc”.

    Mike

  11. ikh says:

    Thanks Anthony,
    One of the joys of reading your blog is that it is often a good laugh to be had :-).

    Alarmist blogs are so lacking in a sense of humor.

    /ikh

  12. Simon C-S says:

    My reply to BmK’s ridiculous tweet (which I know he reads)…

    @billmckibben Predictions huh! Ok, quote them, specifically, with dates and places, and verifiable references.

    Of course, we won’t because he can’t. I really don’t know why his imaginary world, full of disaster and destruction, hasn’t sent him running and screaming to the caves of madness. Oh, silly me, it has.

  13. Hoystory says:

    So, this is simply nothing more than an appeal to authority. The authority being a sensationalistic newspaper that can’t even be bothered to look up the facts? Like McKibben himself? This is a case of dog bites man if I ever saw one.

  14. TomRude says:

    McKibben, Gleick, Cook, Mann etc… do these people have any sense of moral decency? This is just like Cahuzac the French Budget Minister who swore in parliament that he never owned hidden foreign accounts and finally admitted lying 1 month ago… and just now, still wants to keep his MP seat and face an election again!!!

  15. climatebeagle says:

    You left off the summary from 5/3:

    “Wildfire activity remains light throughout the US.”

  16. climatebeagle says:

    More pesky facts:

    http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats?year=2013

    “CAL FIRE’s fire season generally runs from Mid-May through November. CAL FIRE Units in the south end of the state will usually open fire season before those in the central and northern state due to earlier warm, dry weather patterns.”

    Where does three months early come from?

    Though, the CAL FIRE site does have California above average in number of fires and acres through 4/27 compared to a 5 year average.

  17. High Treason says:

    Bill McKibben is coming out to Australia soon. June 4 at the Seymour Centre, Sydney University. I dare say he will come out with this rubbish.Sydney Uni Alumni can get in for free .http://sydney.edu.au/sydney_ideas/lectures/2013/bill_mckibben.shtml

  18. shepherdfj says:

    Is this an example as to how a “scientist” checks out their facts? Is this an example as to how research on AGW was done?

  19. sean2829 says:

    There is a cycle to precipitation in the southwest and So. CA. It was covered pretty well by
    Joe D”Aleo back in 2009. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/09/03/california-wildfires-caused-by-cooler-pacific-la-nina/ The southwest tends to be dry when the Pacific is warm and the Atlantic is cold just as it is now and was in the 60′s.

  20. Caleb says:

    Hit ‘em with the history. Over and over and over again. Hit ‘em high. Hit ‘em low. Hit ‘em where the sun don’t show. Hit ‘em!

    McKibben obviously hasn’t taken my advise, and studied history as I advised him to do, in this essay Anthony kindly published: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/21/hurricane-warning-mckibben-alert/

    For the life of me I can’t see why Alarmists don’t just look at the history of weather. There sure are a heck of a lot of things to be alarmed about. There is all the fuel for alarmism you could ask for. Just crack a history book.

    I suppose they quiver with dread that history will show the latest wildfire isn’t “unprecedented.” Well, it will show exactly that. But don’t they quiver in dread over being exposed? Of claiming something is unprecedented when it isn’t? Of speaking balderdash? Of being publicly humiliated? Apparently not.

    They all need to take a course in advanced alarmism. I mean, if you want to be a rabble-rouser and get everyone freaked out and in a tizzy, weather history is a lode of rich ore. It offers unparalleled opportunities for worry. These alarmists are slacking off. They’re lazy. Sheesh!

    Until they upgrade their alarm, history will be an inconvenient truth. But maybe they’re hoping to get history outlawed?

  21. fire season three months early this year, in line with scientific predictions

    But Continental US Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) – Brightness Temperature Anomaly – 1979 to Present;

    Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) – Microwave Sounding Units (MSU) – Click the pic to view at source

    and the 3 Year Snapshot;

    Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) – Microwave Sounding Units (MSU) – Click the pic to view at source

    show that Continental US Temperature Anomalies were negative for the last 3 months. Continental US Temperature Anomalies were -0.8309 degree K/C in February, -0.9943 degree K/C in March and -0.5494 degree K/C in April, noting that RSS uses a base period of 1979-1998 (20 years) versus the WMO standard of 1981-2010.

    So we are to believe that there were “scientific predictions” that Anthropogenic Global Warming would cause early year temperature dips in the Continental US that result in the “fire season three months early this year”?

  22. pottereaton says:

    Not only that, but we’ve had two days of fairly vigorous showers here in Southern California, which helped extinguish that fire up in Ventura County. We did have a relatively dry winter and when fire season actually comes, there will likely be an uptick in the acreage that burns this year. It’s part of the natural cycle. Except when some idiot starts one, which is a fairly regular occurrence.

  23. john robertson says:

    In tonights episode of, Weeping about the Weather, we have for your special entertainment, an all time favourite teary eyed, doom casting and hysterical drooler Bill McKibben.

  24. Marty Sorensen says:

    It has been said that when light is projected into McKibben’s left ear that beam of light is seen exiting from his right ear suggesting that the area in between is void of substantive material. Further analysis is needed to confirm.

  25. On the bright side, with CO2 hitting 400 PPM, the atmosphere won’t support any more combustion. Should be a short fire season. [/sarc]

    I long ago came to the conclusion that McKibben — so far over the top as to make Hansen look… well, almost sane — is actually a performance artist/comedian waiting patiently for everyone to realize that he’s been pulling our legs.

  26. Lil Fella from OZ says:

    They don’t want to know history because it is in opposition to what they believe this very day!

  27. Gary Pate says:

    The dementia patient we elected governor of California, is spouting the same crap here:

    http://www.kfiam640.com/pages/johnandken.html?article=11265309

  28. Jimbo says:

    Bill McKibben:
    “LATimes: fire season three months early this year, in line with scientific predictions

    Just 2 points:
    1) Three or 6 or 10 months is the weather and not the climate.
    2) Climate scientists make projections and not predictions. ;)

    Just my 2 cents.

  29. Jimbo says:

    By the way, did you know that boreal forest fires have been decreasing since the end of the Little Ice Age? We really are doomed; head for the hills ladies and gents. Fire, fire, pants on fire.

    “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….”
    http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3237261

  30. kirkmyers says:

    McKibben missed his calling. He should be doing stand-up comedy.

    Honestly, I find it difficult to believe that McKibben is truly as stupid as he appears to be. What are his true motivations? Is he benefiting financially by acting as a shill for the AGW movement?

  31. A.D. Everard says:

    Some people are just aching for that catastrophe to turn up. Must be hard, waiting.

  32. Bill Marsh says:

    Fire season in California doesn’t normally start until August? News to me

  33. Chad Jessup says:

    A person need not be a scientist to predict that a drought will occur at times in the western states.

  34. pottereaton says:

    @Bill Marsh: “Fire season in California doesn’t normally start until August? News to me.”

    Exactly. The guy is a moron. This past weekend I went out to an event at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony which is east of Temecula and the Temecula Wine Country in southwest Riverside County. The place burned down in a wildland fire in 2004. In June.

  35. Joseph Bastardi says:

    He either lies or is ignorant of facts. Come hurricane season, he will start with his display of both on that matter

  36. Neil Jordan says:

    The California fire season prompted two climate change blame items in today’s Department of Water Resources California Water News:
    Governor Brown blames climate change for early fire season
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/political/la-me-pc-fire-jerry-brown-global-climate-change-environment-wildfire-sparks-camarillo-20130506,0,6218955.story
    SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown put the state’s early wildfire season in global terms Monday, saying the state would have to grow accustomed to more forest fires as a consequence of climate change.
    [...]
    “Our climate is changing, the weather is becoming more intense,” Brown said in an airplane hangar filled with trucks, airplanes and helicopters used by the state to fight fires. “It’s going to cost a lot of money and a lot of lives.”

    Governor Brown blames climate change for budget restraint
    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/05/jerry-brown-calls-climate-change-reason-for-budget-restraint.html
    Jerry Brown calls climate change reason for budget restraint

    Gov. Jerry Brown, who is preparing to submit a revised budget proposal for the coming fiscal year this month, has found a new argument for financial restraint: Climate change.
    [...]
    “It doesn’t look like the people who are in charge are going to do what it takes to really slow down this climate change, so we’re going to have to adapt, and adapting is going to be very, very expensive,” Brown said. “That’s another reason why we have to maintain some budget discipline.”

  37. Bill Jamison says:

    It’s unusual but not unheard of for southern California to have wildfires in May. But this is another case of ‘weather is not climate’ since the wildfires were caused by an unusually dry winter (in some areas it has been record dry) combined with an unusual May ‘Santa Ana’ – where very dry hot winds blow off shore instead of the usual cool moist on shore winds ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Ana_winds ). The relative humidity was in the low single digits (including one report of 1% rH!) and temps were in the 90′s across much of southern California when the fires started. The conditions were exactly the same as they often are in September and October so it’s fair to say that they came early and they were unusual. I don’t believe it’s reasonable to attempt to blame it on anything other than weather though.

  38. peter scammell says:

    From what i read it would appear that temperature has gone up 0.63 of a degree in the last 150 years or so. If that is enough to cause spontaneous combustion in Southern California or anywhere else, then we really are on the edge of destruction.

  39. Kaboom says:

    Bill McKibben is the data outlier (or was that outliar) in the AGW camp designated specifically to make the other hyperventilators look more mainstream in a statistical fashion.

  40. Olaf Koenders says:

    The only way he can afford to feed himself is off doomsaying.

    The rate the AGW camp is collapsing, I project it won’t be too long before he’s totally unemployable, banished and starving in a cave, waiting for the Rapture that never comes. Now THAT would be a hoot.

  41. Jim Thomason says:

    Chuck L – THIS is the Blazing Saddles clip I always think of with regards to Bill McKibben and crew:

  42. john says:

    Forest/wild fires caused by wind turbines are not reported by the wind industry. As a FORMER wind power consultant and Fire Chief, I am very concerned about this.

    http://www.pennenergy.com/wirenews/powernews/2013/04/19/regulators-advocates-opponents-of-wind-energy-take-sides-after-fire-destroys-a-4-million-turbine-at.html

  43. john says:

    Furthermore, here is an editorial response to the turbine fire in a heavily forested region in Maine… I really object to the language used by the author in the last paragraph of this excerpt.
    Turbine fire illuminates need for reporting mandate

    http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/26/opinion/editorials/turbine-fire-illuminates-need-for-reporting-mandate/

    The Jan. 16 blaze that destroyed the gearbox and electrical components behind the blade of a Kibby Mountain turbine is the first reported case of a turbine fire at a wind farm in Maine, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Speculation about its cause and the possibility that repeat incidents could trigger forest fires is contributing to a heated political debate about wind energy in Maine. Objective, publicly accessible data, not politically motivated guesswork, should drive that debate.

    The statutes that allow expedited permitting of grid-scale wind energy projects in Maine do not require notification of fires, but they should.

    Mainers have a right to know about fires or other potentially hazardous situations at large-scale industrial facilities like wind farms. A simple change to wind farm permitting rules to require that operators report fires at their facilities in a timely manner would help public safety and industry officials compile data that could be used to mitigate future hazards.

    A template for such a reporting system exists with the DEP’s current guidelines for public notification of hazardous waste and materials spills. Because the DEP now has permitting authority over wind development, the agency would be an appropriate first point of contact — after emergency responders — that could relay information about the fires to the Maine Forest Service, Maine Emergency Management Agency, State Fire Marshal’s Office or other affected parties.

    A fire reporting mandate would also keep the focus on public safety impacts of wind energy generation technology and help puncture the bellows of opponents whose conspiracy theories inflate with notions of a “cover up.”

    Note : I wrote the following article for The Daily Bail several weeks ago. I will be doing more in the future. I did touch a bit on the fire aspect and included some photo’s.

    http://dailybail.com/home/why-wind-power-wont-work.html

  44. MattS says:

    These are not the facts you are looking for. [Waves hand] :)

  45. Bruce Cobb says:

    Weepy Bill tweets twaddle to twits.
    Film at 11.

  46. MattN says:

    Data has no place here…

  47. thelastdemocrat says:

    The AGW Cultists have made so many vague predictions that they almost cannot be proven wrong. This problem is addressed by the scientific method, where your prediction has to be pretty specific, and you take a significance “p-level” penalty for multiple tests!

  48. ferd berple says:

    droughts in the US and Africa follow the 18.6 year lunar cycle. perhaps due to tidal effects. as the moon’s orbit moves above and below the equator, the tidal effects pull water from one hemisphere to the other, affecting ocean currents and rainfall patterns.

  49. ferd berple says:

    fires in the LA region are normal. if you had no fires, that would be climate change.

    What Bill and the LA Times are saying is that normal climate is evidence of climate change. Which is true. Everything is evidence of climate change, because there is nothing that climate change does not cause.

    Even if things stay the same, that is evidence of climate change because climate normally changes. So if the climate doesn’t change then this is strong evidence that the climate is changing.

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