California Wildfires caused by cooler Pacific, La Niña

California’s Fires Result of a Cooling Pacific, Two Years of La Niña and Environmental Mismanagement

Guest Post By Joseph D’Aleo, CCM, ICECAP

While environmentalists and clueless politicans like CA Representative Linda Sanchez and not surprisingly Climate Progress’ Joe Romm sought to place the blame for the California wildfires on ‘global warming’. the massive California wildfires can be attributed to a cooling Pacific, two years of La Nina and environmental mismanagement.


La Ninas and/or a cold PDO Usually Means Drier California

You can see clearly from the following correlation chart of La Ninas (using the Southern Oscillation Index) with precipitation from CDC, that La Ninas favor dryness in the southwest.

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The basin wide Pacific multidecadal warming and cooling affects the frequency and strength of La Ninas and El Ninos. The cold PDO favoring more, stronger and longer lasting La Ninas and the warm PDO more, stronger and longer lasting El Ninos and fewer briefer, mostly weak La Ninas. The PDO turned cold in 1998 bounced some until 2006 when it began a significant decline. See the blue La Nina frequency increasing like it did when the PDO was last cold from 1947 to 1977.

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The rapid cooling in the Pacific in 2006 caused the El Nino winter of 2006/07 rains to fail in California. The La Nina that ensued became strong in the late winter and early spring of 2007/08 and came back again for a reprise in 2008/09 winter continued to produce sub normal rainfall.


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A few years back McCabe, Palecki and Betancourt published a paper that looked at drought frequency across the United States related to both the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Mulitdecadal Oscillation. Droughts in the United States were more frequent when the Atlantic was in its warm mode. When the Atlantic was warm, and the Pacific was also in its warm mode, the dryness was more across the northwest and southeast and when the Pacific was cold more across the southwest. Red areas have enhanced drought probabilities.

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We are currently still have a warm Atlantic mode and cold Pacific mode (D) and thus should expect the increased risk of dryness in the southwest. See these maps and read more here.

Environmental Mismanagement

This natural cyclical lack of rainfall combined with unwise policy that Dr. Scott Campbell reported concerning the prohibition against clearing up accumulated brush from the areas surrounding housing developments that were instituted at the insistence of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups has left more fuel for the fires fanned by the Santa Ana winds. The JPL’s Dr Patzert indicated, in a release, were also more common in La Ninas. The risk is also greater because more people built homes in the cooler hills among the trees, putting more than trees at risk.

In addition, environmentalists have reduced the amount of water that can be used for agriculture. Farmers in the Central Valley are asking for a new canal to get water from the Sacramento River, as well as a relaxation of environmental restrictions resulting from a 2007 court ruling limiting the amount of water pumped south from the delta – a giant sponge that absorbs runoff from the wetter north. The ruling was in response to a suit by environmental groups that held that the water pumping through the delta endangered several species of fish, including smelt, green sturgeon, and winter and spring salmon. More here.

What Lies Ahead

Given the current El Nino is in the cold PDO mode, it should be weak and tend to be brief. It may peak this fall and weaken this winter. The increased tropical activity in the eastern Pacific is favored in El Nino years (in some El Ninos they reach California in the early fall in a weakened state – e.g. Kathleen in 1976). The similar El Ninos in the cold PDO tended to produce normal to below normal wet season precipitation and another active fire season next year.

It is likely a La Nina will return next year. Expect another fire season. See more here.


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If there’s been a lot of rain, the wildfire risk is elevated because there’s a lot of brush.
If there hasn’t been much rain, the wildfire risk is elevated because everything is dry as a tinderbox.
If there’s been normal rainfall, the wildfire risk is elevated because… because the wildfire risk in southern California is always elevated.
Maybe the weather (or climate change) isn’t the driver of wildfires. Maybe wildfires are just part of the environment there, and people should have thought about that before moving there in the millions.


This is it: The water cycle:
Hey, kids, repeat after me:
-Sun heats seas
-Sea water evaporates, cloud grow above,
-Cloud rains.
When seas cold, no cloud, no rain. Comprende?

the giant sequioa has adjusted to wildfires:
The cones open only after wildfires.
So you are right: wildfires must have been in California for very long times, if the longest living tree has adjusted to them.

There was a story from the Australian fires earlier this year. Bush clearing was illegal. One man cleared the appropiate area around his house and was fined $50,000. After the fires, his was the only house that survived. I cannot vouch for the authenticity.


The law of unintended consequences seems to affect liberal legislation and environmental efforts a lot more than it does conservative efforts.

P Walker

Is it possible to sue entities such as the Sierra Club ? A lawsuit effectively killed the Aryan Nation in northern Idaho several years ago .

excellent observation. And the Rocky Mountain West has massive fires to look forward to because of years of fire suppression and now a natural cycle of beetle kill in the older, less healthy forrest.


Jim Cripwell (08:59:13) :
There was a story from the Australian fires earlier this year. Bush clearing was illegal.

You find it here:


That area hasn’t burned for 65 years according to media reports. So there is just a huge amount of fuel there. This was bound to happen at some point. We had years of torrential rainfall in the 1980’s in that area and all the fuel for all those wet years is still sitting there. Much of that area also experienced a pretty bad pine beetle infestation in the early 1990’s during a 6-year drought so there is a lot of debris from dead limbs and trees that were killed as a result of that.
So they have been sitting on a tinder box for 65 years and it for whatever reason finally got enough of a spark to ignite it just when wind and weather conditions for “perfect” to fan it into a huge conflagration.
One thing “global warming” does is allows politicians to blame “climate change” for things so they are not held responsible for managing things like forest resources more responsibly. Maybe there should have been some controlled burns in some of the wetter years.


The title of this article grossly understates the complexity of the wildfire phenomenon. Duncan makes a good point but seems somewhat distracted by demonising Californians, and, indeed, gets it wrong in the end. His fatuous remarks about average rainfall leading to elevated fire risk belie the quantitative changes in risk from wet and dry season rainfall variability. Wet season rainfall positively correlates with dry season fire risk by controlling the burden of burnable fuel. What Duncan fails to mention is that there is a strong lag attached to this effect of about 6-9 months. Of course, stated the way you say it Duncan you make Californians and forestry service bods look stupid. Joseph, you get it partially right by describing effects which can modulate dry season rainfall, which are negatively correlated with dry season fire risk.
Generally, there will always be at least a week of elevated heat wave temperatures in near coastal SoCal which will lead to extreme fire risk. This is why El Nino nearly always leads to increased dry season fire risk since the wetting effects of the rain 6-9 months ago have gone and you are left with more dry fuel. The trick with regard to the post’s point is that La Nina can increase the length of the hot dry period, as can any other effects which modulate the length and intensity of heat waves. So, to dismiss AGW as an effect seems inconsistent with the established theories of what controls the fire risk when and where. Which seems about par for the course on WUWT and from your good self Joseph.
Duncan does make a good point stating that the increase in property damage due to brush fires is directly related to the intrusion of residential development into areas which are obviously fire risk zones.
REPLY: Since “glug” comes from a NASA JPL address during work hours, why not drop the pretense and give us your “expert on the spot in the middle of the fire opinion” rather than hide? Or is this sneaking around “par for the course” at JPL? – Anthony


Before global warming Southern California, never had steep canyons with dry grass and brush, with hot dry summers and no rain.
But it seems I’ve heard that kind of talk before in the Mama’s and the Papa’s post apocalyptic epic “It Never Rains in Southern California”:
Got on a board a west bound seven forty seven
Didn’t think before deciding what to do
All that talk of opportunities, TV breaks and movies
Rang true, sure rang true.
Seems it never rain in Southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours man it pours.
Out of work, I’m out of my head
Out of self respect I’m out of bread
I’m under loved I’m under fed
I wanna go home
It never rains in California
But girl don’t they warn ya, it pours, man it pours.
Will you tell the folks back home I nearly made it
Had offers but don’t know which one to take
Please don’t tell them how you found me
Don’t tell them how you found me give me a break
Give me a break
Seems it never rains in Southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours man it pours


And after the brush is cleared and the rains come the mudslides. Maybe, just maybe a little of the personal responsibility that I hear so much about is in order and they shouldn’t be building in these locations.


OT – sorry
Does anyone know why have not updated there graph for a while now?

John F. Hultquist

I don’t know if the State still uses the signs that say “Keep California Green and Golden” that were along the main roads leading into the State from Oregon years ago. The “Golden” part actually referenced all the “dry season” dormant grass and other vegetation indigenous to this climatic type, often referred to by its common name “Mediterranean” after the dry high-sun season areas near the Mediterranean Sea.
I also remember seeing (at several major parks) very large tree sections with markers for such things as the birth of Jesus and the landing of Columbus. These displays also always had a marker pointing to a fire scar from several hundred (or thousand?) years ago.
One other thing that seems to be indigenous to California is a group of politicians best described as clueless.


“After the fires, his was the only house that survived. I cannot vouch for the authenticity.”
I recall the same story. A similar thing happened in California at Lake Tahoe where the local politicians refuse to allow people to clear trees and brush close to their homes. One individual did so anyway, paid a large fine, and found their home the only one in the neighborhood to survive a wildfire there last year.


A major component of the wildfire problem is too many people building homes up in the hills. They’re free to do so, but not very smart in the long term. Same thing with building on coastal sand dunes. These areas would be better off if those who built there carried the full cost. That might only allow the rich to live in these beautiful but dynamic places, but 1) there are way fewer rich than most people think and 2) the rest of us wouldn’t have to subsidize the risk with higher insurance premiums and tax-funded rescue efforts. The environmental groups would ultimately achieve a goal of wild space preservation if they got smart enough to use undistorted market forces to their benefit.

crosspatch (09:39:42) :

That area hasn’t burned for 65 years according to media reports. So there is just a huge amount of fuel there. This was bound to happen at some point.

The full PDO cycle is about 60 years, so, yeah, it’s about time.
In the 1990s I went to San Jose on business for a week around the Feb/Mar change, and after being in events like a 40 year flood, mudslides, 11 days of rain out of 12 days, and snowfall almost to the valley floor, I started calling California “The Disaster State”.


Expect one of these up here in the Bay Area sometime over the next ten years. We, like LA, have areas of dense chaparral that have not burned for 60 – 70 years. And like LA there are developments carved out of such areas, and all of the typical human foibles generally responsible in most cases for starting these sorts of blazes.

Pieter F

And this fact was broadcast by how many news organizations?

Bill IN L.A.

Duncan (08:37:18) :
“If there’s been a lot of rain, the wildfire risk is elevated because there’s a lot of brush.
If there hasn’t been much rain, the wildfire risk is elevated because everything is dry as a tinderbox.”
I have lived in the Los Angeles County most of my life and I have seen many of these fires. We are at risk in late summer of every year but to get the really wild fires you need a combination of things. First is a string of years with good wet springs. Normally the mountains around here are brown in color but when you have a very wet spring it turns a beautiful green. If you get a few of these years in a row the fuel load grows considerably. If you get a fire during one of these green years it is usually extinguished quickly and receives little media attention. When a string of wet years is followed by a year where we get almost no fall or spring rain everything dries out. This will create moderate to strong fires. If you get many years of green followed by two or more years of drought then you get the perfect conditions for fires. Currently the drought is severe enough that we are under water rationing. Right now the only thing living in my yards are the plants that go deep enough to get their own water. This fire happens to be in a place that has not burned in many decades meaning that the fuel load has had numerous green years to grow in. We have had almost no winds during this fire which to me is what makes its size and ferocity so interesting. If this fire had been started a few weeks later when the early fall winds pick up then it would have been on an unimaginable scale.
It is the weather/climate that drives the fires here but it’s not as simple as it’s dry or wet this year. I am just happy to see someone that isn’t automatically attributing this to AGW.

Douglas DC

Any one who has lived in and made a living fighting fire in a fire ecology, can deal with the hazards-it is called “urban interface” you should be allowed to clear the brush from around your home and property. Also i feel Shake roofs should be banned from every building code on the planet.In my logbook as a former Airtanker pilot, I made note of every home with a shake roof that usually went *Poof* right before our very eyes.In total-one hundred and fifty eight homes-Thirty some in Oregon in one fire.Metal or even a good composite goes a long way to saving your home- also concrete based, siding.
Outfits like CDF have a good program on how to deal with it.But local jurisdictions are sometimes willfully ignorant of how to deal with the problem
and, in fact, exacerbate it.CC&R’s too are a big detriment to safety…

M White

Jim Cripwell (08:59:13) :
“Fined for illegal clearing, family now feel vindicated”
“Mr Sheahan is still angry about his prosecution, which cost him $100,000 in fines and legal fees. The council’s planning laws allow trees to be cleared only when they are within six metres of a house. Mr Sheahan cleared trees up to 100 metres away from his house.”

George E. Smith

Well the big fire in the LA National desert; aka LA National Forest can be laid directly at the feet of the Federal Government. That fire was almost certainly set (either deliberately, or by accident) by pot growers who plant their crops in the National Forests. The Feds don’t bother to police their activities; and State Police who often overfly those forests, and see those pot fields, are prohibited by law from reporting what they see; the Feds say it is an invasion of privacy issue. We are not talking of people growing pot on their own lands, but on the National Forest lands.
The feds, have remote sensing that can find a quarter on the ground, and can tell what subspecies of pot the chumps are growing; but they aren’t going to waste their time looking for a cash crop that eventually leads to the collection down the way of tax revenues (figure that one out).
The State has no jurisdiction, and the feds say it is invasion of privacy for State Police to report illegal activities in those forests. They know this fire started by human hand; just haven’t determined exactly by whom, and whether deliberate.
Most California fires are not wild fires; they are human caused.
As for the Delta water situation, the people who have contracts to export all that water; mostly do it for resale, since they get it for almost nothing. Much of it is pumped to SoCal to fill all the reservoirs down there. (Pyramid Lake over the grapevine, you couldn’t add another thimble full of water; it is fed by the bountiful waters of the LA National Desert/Forest, augmented by pumping over the mountains from the central valley aqueducts, and eventually from the Sacramento/San Joachin Delta.
The farmers in the central valley do have water for agriculture; they would rather not use it, if they can steal Delta water for peanuts; and ultimately the whole of the Monterey Bay fisheries sytem depends on adequate fresh water coming out of the Delta on its natural run to the Pacific.
The striped bass and other introduced species like black bass (large, small, and spotted) have all lived in harmony with the native salmon, and steelhead for over a hundred years; including the Delta smelt. It is the water pumping activituies, and water removal that has destroyed the Delta , along with raw pollution that communities put into the Sacramento and San Joachin , and Tuolumne rivers; and that includes chemical runoffs from those same farms that are screaming about the water. They need to clean up their own effluent, before they point the finger at others. The delta was fine before they started pumping water to Socal water speculators.


[quote]Duncan you make Californians and forestry service bods look stupid. [/quote]
What is the definition of Stupid?
A forestry service that pays rangers to protect forests and put out natural fires for 50 years and then only recently starts paying rangers to start controlled “burns” to reduce the new huge risk of a massive conflagration that they are responsible for creating in the first place.
We have the same legacy problem in Canada – it is completely moronic. Fire fighters are being killed. All because we try to control nature and do what is best for nature?
In 1000 years time, as we head into a bitterly cold glaciation period with the ultimate potential for MILES of ice to build up over many highly populated Northern Hemsiphere Cities, will we be on a massive GOVERNMENT project to un-sequester CO2??


Areas with a strong dry season will always be fire prone, but sometimes humans make things worse. Fires usually occurrs much more frequently when humans are around, which in turn changes the composition of the vegetation. Some plants are “pyrophytic”, i e they actually benefit from frequent fires. Either because they survive fires better than other plants, or because they germinate and grow after a fire.
The classic example is eucalypts. There has always been eucalypts in Australia, but they have never been nearly as widespread or as dominant as they are today. During earlier interglacial australian forests and woodlands vere much more diverse, and much less fire prone.
So wha happened? About 40,000 years ago the aborigines arrived and started “fire-stick farming” Australia. By now eucalypts have become dominant almost everywhere and the process is probably irreversible. Other trees simply don’t have a chance to mature and replace the eucalypts, there is always a fire first. So there you have it: an extremely fire-prone continent, and there is nothing much you can do about it.


“Wildland fire in ecosystems: effects of fire on flora.” (9MB PDF)
* Map on page 7 (PDF page 15) shows how often the plants tend to be burned. 60 years between burns is a long time.
* Chaparral is on page 158 (PDF page 166). That’s in the “Stand-replacement fire regime” section, because the entire tree tends to burn in a fire through a chaparral stand. Most of the trees are only a few meters tall.
“By the end of the 19th century, newspaper accounts of fires burning through this type for days and weeks in southern California became common.”


Jeremy (11:28:14) – Actually you can blame the Army. When Yellowstone Park was created, the Army was sent there. They decided that they should put out fires. That created the policy which was eventually adopted by the Forest Service. But you have to give the forester academics credit, as they have been studying the subject quite well.


You’d have to be awfully cynical to say environmentalists wouldn’t want accumulated brush cleared up so that when a fire did start it would be big and they could use that as political leverage to advance their cause.


It’s simpler than that, environmentalists decry all activities by humans including prevention activities and blame whatever happens on humans. They don’t need a logical pathway to the cynicism you describe.
And Duncan ripped off my 20 year old fire danger rant. Duncan and I go way back.

Joe D’Aleo: I’m not disagreeing with your post, just the relationship between the PDO and ENSO.
You wrote, “The basin wide Pacific multidecadal warming and cooling affects the frequency and strength of La Ninas and El Ninos. The cold PDO favoring more, stronger and longer lasting La Ninas and the warm PDO more, stronger and longer lasting El Ninos and fewer briefer, mostly weak La Ninas. “
It only appears that way due to the smoothing you’ve used. The PDO lags ENSO.
Zhang et al (1997), who were the first to calculate the PDO, and Newman et al (2003) determined that the PDO was a lagged effect of ENSO.
Link to Zhang et al:
Link to Newman et al:
Newman et al state in the conclusions, “The PDO is dependent upon ENSO on all timescales. To first order, the PDO can be considered the reddened response to both atmospheric noise and ENSO, resulting in more decadal variability than either. This null hypothesis needs to be considered when diagnosing and modeling ‘internal’ decadal variability in the North Pacific. For example, the observed spatial pattern of Pacific SST decadal variability, with relatively higher amplitude in the extratropics than in the Tropics, should be at least partly a consequence of a reddened ENSO response.”
Newman et al wrote under the heading of DATA AND RESULTS, “ENSO also leads the PDO index by a few months throughout the year (Fig. 1d), most notably in winter and summer. Simultaneous correlation is lowest in November–March, consistent with Mantua et al. (1997). The lag of maximum correlation ranges from two months in summer (r ; 0.7) to as much as five months by late winter (r ; 0.6). During winter and spring, ENSO leads the PDO for well over a year, consistent with reemergence of prior ENSO-forced PDO anomalies. Summer PDO appears to lead ENSO the following winter, but this could be an artifact of the strong persistence of ENSO from summer to winter (r 5 0.8), combined with ENSO forcing of the PDO in both summer and winter.”
Newman et al Figure 1, Cell d
Zhang et al refer to the PDO as “NP”, and, for an ENSO index, they use the Cold Tongue Index (CT). The Cold Tongue Index represents SST Anomalies of 6S-6N, 180-90W. In Figure 7 of Zhang et al, they illustrate the cross-correlation functions between the Cold Tongue and the other time series they examined. Note how in the bottom cell NP (PDO) lags (CT) ENSO by approximately 3 months.
Zhang et al Figure 7
They wrote on page 1011 (pdf page 8), “Figure 7 shows the cross-correlation function between CT and each of the other time series in Fig. 5. The lag is barely perceptible for TP and G and it increases to about a season for G – TP and NP, confirming that on the interannual timescale the remote features in THE PATTERNS SHOWN IN Fig. 6 ARE OCCURRING IN RESPONSE TO THE ENSO CYCLE RATHER THAN AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF IT, consistent with the conclusions of Alexander (1992a,b) and Yulaeva and Wallace (1994).” [Emphasis added]
This was also discussed in these two posts:


Glug (09:41:11) :
My comments were a little inside joke, a reference to a discussion I had with Charles the moderator a few years ago. The comments were designed to provoke a response from him, not as a manifesto of any kind.
Reply: You got a nice discussion out of it. ~ charles the ripped off moderator


There was a story in the WSJ a few years ago about a man in CA who ran afoul of the Endangered Species Act when he plowed the fields around his house to keep a brush fire from destroying his home. Seems there was a report of a “endangered” field mouse in the area, which overruled the endangered home owner.

I recall that I read that this particular fire was caused by a person; the ignition source.
The fuel source is another issue.
The headline of this post is not quite correct.
The oxidizer source is not an issue.

Ancient Native-American name for the Los Angeles Basin: (translated) Valley of Smoke.
Way before National Forest Service, and all the other interfering “experts” in land/water/forest/fire management.
It would make too much sense to allow private enterprise access to the national forests, clear selected trees or brush, and produce wood pellets for burning in wood-pellet stoves.

The La Canada / Flintridge arson team is currently investigating the origin of the Station fire, and indications are that it was arson. One should note that prior to this fire, this community was discussing laying off unneeded firemen….. fancy the coinkidink.
Thus, assigning blame to weather/climate is an unsupported argument.

P Walker (09:19:47) : Yes, the Sierra Club can be sued.


Werner Weber (08:59:00) :
My Giant Sequoia’s love this Solar Minimum, one of the few species that do.

Stephen Skinner

Great article as always. Small thing. The top graphic of La Nina Annual Precipitation Correlation has the colours round the wrong way? I associate blue with wet and red with dry.


The same Environmental Groups have now filed injunctive suit and won to stop restoration/recovery efforts for last year’s massive fires in the Northstate.
The value of the timber left dead standing goes to pay for the replanting/erosion control in the fire areas.
These people stop all remediation until the standing dead timber is commerically useless. What remains is fuel for the next rounds of fire that finds these same places and runs through the area like a blowtorch, taking ever wider areas of forest out.
Instead of the cool, forested, moisture-holding, vegetative filtered clean water streams to support the fish these groups claim to want to save, we are left with arid wasteland fit only for fire brush, increased silt in streams and totally wasted renewable resource.
One thing that bothers me even more than the loss of renewable resources:
Who are these people who stop recovery? I live in the areas affected, and I have never met a single on of them, nor seen a single article from member X whom I could identify as a real person.
I have also yet to meet someone who knows one of them.
Journalists: Do your duty.
Who are these people?


Let’s see if I have this right.
You have vast tracts of forest with NO fire-breaks?
Isn’t this asking for trouble?


unfortuntely the introduction of the aussie Eucalyptus gum tree to California in the 1850s as left you with the fire relationship that goes with gum trees.
This story is just deja vu of last february in Australia.

John Cooper

A large phalanx of environmental groups sued to stop the U.S. Forest Service from grading firebreaks and performing prescribed burns in the Angeles National Forest (and several others). I’m unable to find the whole story, and the media isn’t interested, but there’s this case from 2006 where the Forest Service was enjoined by the District Court for the Northern District of California from making firebreaks (e.g. ‘roads’) Wilderness Society vs. U.S. Dept. of Forestry. Without roads, you can’t do controlled burns.
Then there’s this blog article: Figures. Feds Didn’t Clear Brush In LA Wildfire Areas Because Of Liberal Pressure.
The ‘controlled burn’ season in California starts in November, and the seven ‘environmental groups’ discussed in the above article filed suit and asked for an injunction against implementing the USFS “Forest Plan” in the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests in October, 2008. I suspect, but can’t prove, that the good judge from San Francisco granted their request for an injunction and thus the planned burns and firebreak cuts were never performed.

George E. Smith

“”” DaveE (14:06:04) :
Let’s see if I have this right.
You have vast tracts of forest with NO fire-breaks?
Isn’t this asking for trouble?
DaveE. “””
Yes we do; “fire break” roads that allow fire equipment access are not allowed in the National Forests because the greenies don’t want people using them to go into the forests. Also removing dead trees (by helicopter) is not allowed because they need to stay on the ground and rot naturally, and fuel forest fires; becasue some forest fires are natural and therefore good.
And speaking of Aussie gum trees, we don’t have them in the National Forests but we do have them in a lot of California residential areas; and they worked very well in the great Oakland fire of a few years back; we like the Wattle trees for the same reason; they burn good.

George E. Smith

“”” Miles (11:57:26) :
You’d have to be awfully cynical to say environmentalists wouldn’t want accumulated brush cleared up so that when a fire did start it would be big and they could use that as political leverage to advance their cause. “””
No you just have to be a realist; becasue it is their attitude that forest fires are a natural part of forests, and they think when you have a forest fire, you just let it burn itself out.
So in fact that is just what they did a few years ago, and they let a truly humungous fire just go; instead of trying to stop it.
If you go driving in forest fire country; you can be pressed into service fighting a fire; even if you don’t want to.

Weather doesn’t burn; fuels do. Fuels are biomass, the product of biology, something that has been going on in Cal and elsewhere on this planet for a very long time.
Human beings encountered SoCal at least 13,000 years ago. They soon discovered that massive conflagrations denuded the landscape and made survival (by humans) a tough go.
So humans (the regular kind, like you and me) figured out that if they burned off the landscape every year, the fires were less severe, the grass grew back quickly, game animals benefited, root crops benefited, an oak savanna developed, and humanity prospered.
About 12,500 years later, the resident land managers and stewards were eliminated by disease and conquest, and Euros took over. The Euros proclaimed manifest destiny and that God gave them this “wilderness,” even though everybody was aware that human beings already inhabited the place and done so for millennia.
Intoxicated by the creation myth they promulgated, the Euros failed to understand the traditional land management, learned the hard way over thousands of years. The Euros rejected stewardship by anthropogenic fire, and allowed creosote-laden fuels to build up to catastrophic levels.
As a predictable and preventable consequence, kaboom! holocausts break out every few years. Yet even after some 300 years of Euro myth-managed blindness, the current residents are STILL unaware and in denial of the time-tested lessons learned by the previous residents.
No, taking all the homes off the hills will NOT prevent catastrophic fires. No, cooling the planet with carbon restrictions will NOT prevent the fires. No (I love you Joe but) El Ninos and La Ninas are not the cause; fuels are.
Catastrophic fires are plaguing North America from SoCal to Alaska and everywhere in between. It ain’t the climate, because the phenomena of megafires occurs in all climates. It’s the fuels, Einsteins. No fuel management, no fire prevention.
Take a lesson from posterity, from thousands of years of experience: be good stewards of the landscape or Mother Nature will bite your backside. Manage the fuels or suffer the fires. There are no other choices.


Yeah, right, just like the 2005 wildfires… in the middle of an El Nino event.


Apologies Duncan.
Bill in LA makes some very good and accurate points.
Regarding the main post, I’m not sure why Joseph is claiming that Joe Romm attributes this particular fire to AGW. Sure it makes a nice sounding argument, but he does nothing of the sort. The article by Keith Kloor that is linked to on this point is totally misleading and the author has paid no real attention to what Romm’s article stated. Romm specifically indicates that this fire is exceptional for our current climate. He only makes the point that in a warmer future such exceptional fires may become more normal. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement as more frequent fires may lead to less severe fires, but the post, as it stands now, is misrepresenting Romm.


George E. Smith (14:34:34) :

natural and therefore good.

That’s one I’ve never understood.
What’s so damned wonderful about natural typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, (insert disease), or natural cyanide, arsenic, (insert poison)?
Too illogical for me!


I have seen many fires roar through the Southern California landscape — as regular as clockwork, especially after growth (El Nino) plus drought (La Nina). As someone who used to support many environmental organization. I have stopped for a number of years because their agenda changed. It turned into anti-agriculture, anti-capitalism, anti-energy development, anti-intelligent water resource enhancement, anti-intelligent management of forests, and many other forms of looney marxist-leftist-progressive — NOT LIBERAL –purposes.
I oppose rampant, thoughtless development, much of it into fragile or marginal ecological areas, making all of us pay higher insurance rates and higher taxes. Furthermore “they” put undue burdens on firefighters — who die and get severely injured protecting us — and other public services. (This is the opposite of looney M-L-P; it is greedy selfish capitalist.)
I am all for suing the so-called environmental organization for their current destructiveness and would be delighted to begin with the Sierra Club. Any other takers? Can we get a group movement?
All Southern Californians can fall down on their knees and thank the great gods of high pressure systems that we were not in the clutches of Santa Ana conditions.

Philip Mulholland

Meet the Knobcone Pine, a species so well adapted that its survival strategy depends on fire. Special adaptation features include seed bearing from the sapling stage and more significantly, embedded cones encased within the trunk containing viable seed lasting as long as the tree lives. These encased seeds are protected from harmful fires, but can only be released to germinate after a massive fire totally destroys the encasing timber of the parent tree.

Paul Vaughan

Re: Bob Tisdale (12:09:35)
Bob, thanks for pointing me to a bunch more useful stuff – like the EOF mapping software at KNMI & Ninderthana’s comment about PDO & ENSO. One very important thing we need to keep in mind is that .74^2 is only 55% of the variance, so while Newman et al. have given us something very interesting to chew on, they have certainly not closed the case (45% unexplained), as Ninderthana points out.
Before today, some of the earlier (somewhat controversial) discussions about PDO & ENSO were not sitting well with me, but your comments of today have pointed to the clues I needed to pull a number of threads together. As often: Thank you for your reliably-valuable contributions.
Supplementary – for anyone trying to make sense of the indices mentioned upthread:
Zhang, Y.; Wallace, J.M.; & Battisti, D.S. (1997). ENSO-like interdecadal variability: 1900-93. Journal of Climate 10, 1004-1020.
TP: the tropical Pacific, defined as the region 208N-208S, 1608E-808W;
G: the entire global ocean as represented by all available gridpoints as in Parker and Folland (1991);
G – TP: the entire global ocean exclusive of the tropical Pacific region TP”