By Charles The Moderator,

I have lived in California all my life, the first half in SoCal, the second half in NorCal.

A funny thing happens ever year.

If we have a below normal amount of rain, in the spring we get warnings that it’s going to be severe wildfire season, because the brush is so dry.

If we have an above normal amount of rain we get warnings that it’s going to be severe fire season, because there is so much extra brush.

If we have a normal rainy season we get warnings that’s it’s going to be severe fire season, with some hybrid explanation or an allusion to a previous fire season.

With the winter season likely to be a wet one in California, see Anthony’s recent post here, I propose a contest, which begins January 1st, 2011.

The first person to identify a news story expressing one of the three options noted above and note it in this thread will win a modest prize and a hat tip for fame and glory.  I suspect April or May we will see a winner.

I suggest that those that wish to participate bookmark this post to keep track. I’ll set up notifications for myself to be emailed on activity in this thread.


You need to find a real news story (or press release), not make it up yourself. I will be the judge.

The warning needs to come from a relevant State or Federal official, or a Fire Department official.  I will be the arbiter of qualification.

charles the moderator

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Mike Bentley
December 24, 2010 8:24 am

Um, you said a “relevant” state or federal official?
Is there any such thing???
Mike (and Merry Christmas!)

John Gorter
December 24, 2010 8:31 am

Sounds a bit like the predictions that we usually get in Perth, Western Australia.
John Gorter
(now Italian domiciled and getting very wet)

Julian Flood
December 24, 2010 8:33 am

A few years ago we had a week walking in Galicia, the climate of which is, I believe, not dissimilar to California. When I read of climate change causing fires in the forests there I alway ask about the eucalyptus. On patches of burnt out pine, still black after a year from forest fires, you could see the scorched eucalyptus bursting into leaf, unencumbered by the shade of their neighbours which had been burnt to dead boles, while all around baby eucalypts were pushing through the soil. And among the pine trees there were deep drifts of eucalyptus bark, perfect as tinder.
Sometimes there are fires because we are growing the perfect fire starter, a tree which uses fire to dominate dry landscapes.

December 24, 2010 8:35 am

And that year when the Pyromaniac convention came to town didn’t help either.
Science and sanity will prevail because of people such as you.
Thank you.

Pamela Gray
December 24, 2010 8:36 am

I have a better bet. My bet is that the first mention of a prediction will be January, not May or April. If I win that prediction do I get my name in lights?

December 24, 2010 8:38 am

Looks like the national 2010 fire season will be the least bad in the last decade, less than 1/2 the average acreage burned.
It was a very quiet fire season here in northern California.

Terry Jackson
December 24, 2010 8:43 am

Too funny!. My dad worked at LA County Flood Control District and this first came up at dinner about 1962. Some things just don’t change. Oh, and I’ll bet you have a winner in January.

December 24, 2010 8:47 am

But with the new Global Warming Laws in effect, will anyone capable of issuing said pronouncement still be employed in CA by April?

December 24, 2010 8:48 am

There should be a double hat tip if the same story mentions climate warming, er change, um, disruption.

December 24, 2010 8:50 am
This article is funny on a number of levels. First, JPL predicted with certainty a dry warmer winter for CA back in September 2010 “that’s a given”. We have now had one of the wettest coolest winters on record.
“This La Niña is strengthening and will surely impact this coming winter’s Northern Hemisphere climate,” said Southern California weather guru Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
That’s a given. What is in doubt is the degree to which the weather phenomenon will affect the area. Calling La Niña “the diva of drought,” Patzert declared, “it always brings a dry winter.”
Now to CTM’s point about fire season prediction in CA. JPL predicted a warm dry winter which according to JPL means that next year’s fire season will be worse as a result.
“But she could be a naughty little girl if she worsens conditions that fuel Southern California wildfires, as Patzert fears. While not a threat here, La Niñas also bring more hurricanes to the Atlantic.”
Patzert had more bad news for as diverse a group as ranchers, skiers and firefighters. Because of the strength of the current La Niña, “The next few months will reveal if the current (Pacific Ocean) cooling trend will eventually evolve into a long-lasting La Niña situation.”

December 24, 2010 8:55 am

Global warming ‘will give Britain longer, colder winters’ as melting sea ice plays havoc with weather patterns
Read more:
“Rising temperatures in the Arctic – increasing at two to three times the global average – have peeled back the region’s floating ice cover by 20 percent over the last three decades.
As the Arctic ice cap has melted the heat from the relatively-warm seawater escapes into the colder atmosphere above, creating an area of high pressure.
That creates clockwise winds that sweep south over the UK and northern Europe.
The study was completed last year – before Britain was hit by a freezing winter and heavy snowfall.”
Hmmm. What does one do with a mind set that prefers a hypothesis and a model over observational phenomena?

doug arthur
December 24, 2010 9:08 am

I assume the officials and their family members can’t enter the contest.

Jenn Oates
December 24, 2010 9:16 am

We joke about that in our family too…so we’ll keep an eagle eye out. 🙂

David L. Hagen
December 24, 2010 9:28 am

Your observations confirm the persistence of cultural memories of Chicken Little‘s warning.
The Anxiety Center is granting the Chicken Little award.
These memories provide opportunities for reaping profits with Chicken Little and Oil Prices
(For the reality see Robert L. Hirsch, The Impending World Energy Mess.)
Alan Caruba (April 2009) explores Solar Scenarios

Too much magnetic activity destroys the electrical system. Too little brings on either a little ice age or triggers the next full scale one. The Earth is at the end of the 10,000 year cycle between ice ages, so the potential for the latter scenario is very real. When it arrives, it will do so very swiftly.
If you are tempted to dismiss either scenario, history has another story to tell. During a particularly brutal winter in 1779-1780, the surface of the Hudson River was solid ice for five weeks. Early settlers traveling west in covered wagons crossed a frozen over Mississippi near present day St. Louis in 1799. In England, the Great Frost of 1683-1684, the River Thames was completely frozen for two months and nearly a foot thick at London.

In June 1965, Johnny Cash’s

“truck caught fire due to an overheated wheel bearing, triggering a forest fire that burned several hundred acres in Los Padres National Forest in California.[61][62] When the judge asked Cash why he did it, Cash said, “I didn’t do it, my truck did, and it’s dead, so you can’t question it.” . . .He said he was the only person ever sued by the government for starting a forest fire.”

He went on to record “Chicken in Black” Are there any more “climate change” Chickens in Black out there?
While we wait, perhaps readers could contribute further evidence of the persistence of such “Chicken Little” or Henny Penning) warnings.

D. W. Schnare
December 24, 2010 9:40 am

Official Press Release — Washington DC.
Due to the extreme wet weather, and global warming, I, a relevant federal official, predict a severe fire season for the upcoming California summer.
David W. Schnare, PhD.
/smirk off

Don E
December 24, 2010 9:42 am

The SF Chronicle will have this story next month!

Gary Hladik
December 24, 2010 9:48 am

Heh heh. Noticed the same thing here in Silicon Valley. Like Lake Wobegon’s kids, every predicted fire season here is “above average”.

December 24, 2010 9:58 am

Lived in the San Fernando valley as a kid around 1960 and watched the hills burn every spring. It was pretty impressive as a kid. A decade later The Doors sang about the hills burning on their LA Woman album. 40 years later and they still burn.
The more things change; the more they don’t.
Merry Christmas to one and all from Anchorage.

December 24, 2010 10:02 am

No fair using Google….

December 24, 2010 10:08 am

In my English childhood I was told the same story but it was about Chicken Licken who met Henny Lenny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Drakey Lakey, Goosey Loosey, Gander Lander and Turkey Lurkey before Foxy Loxy.
We remain separated by a common language.

Jeff Alberts
December 24, 2010 10:11 am

“If we have a below normal amount of rain, in the spring we get warnings that it’s going to be severe wildfire season, because the brush is so dry.”
How about “below average” instead of “below normal”, since there is no “normal”.
Reply: Normal is the accepted term for the 30 year running average. ~ ctm

December 24, 2010 10:19 am

I would expect if much sooner with proposals to significantly increase taxes — by eliminating tax breaks to the rich — with significant amounts of the increase taxes going to schools, of course, and to combat increased fire danger caused by right-wing hamburger flippers.

December 24, 2010 10:25 am

I also noticed something else about California:
If rainfall comes in even 0.1 inch below “normal”, then it is a drought.

December 24, 2010 10:28 am

So if “Global Warming” causes a cold winter today, what caused cold winters when we didn’t have “Global Warming”?

December 24, 2010 10:41 am

Check out this website on 01 Jan 2011 for Seasonal Outlooks by Region:

December 24, 2010 10:44 am

Lost the website in previous post:
Seasonal Outlooks by Region at

Layne Blanchard
December 24, 2010 10:47 am

With all the Precipitation in CA, will they turn the water back on for the Central Valley?

December 24, 2010 11:13 am

There was already one of these stories back on Dec 16th:

That’s thanks to a combination of ample spring rainfall, a cool summer and weather patterns that minimized fire-stoking winds and lightning in the mountains and deserts, said Tom Rolinski, meteorologist with Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The good news could change by early next spring, however. Temperatures are expected to rise and precipitation to fall below average, setting the stage for trouble next year, Rolinski said.
If all those factors do play out, then I think we will probably see an earlier start to this coming fire season for 2011 with more activity,” he said.

Douglas DC
December 24, 2010 11:28 am

In my years as an Airtanker pilot, I cannot count how many time the “Worst Fire Season Everrr!” was announced, either state wide or nationally. Quite often they were
right. Never flew except for water drops, (practice and proving) and had a very, very ,clean Aeroplane….
“Tell me in November how bad the season was.” -Attr.Ray Ornbaum. one of the
greatest tanker captains that ever lived….

December 24, 2010 11:53 am

Agree with a few mods:
“If we have a below normal amount of rain, in the spring we get warnings that it’s going to be severe wildfire season, because the brush is so dry. Then Mary Nichols, CARB Chairwoman, will say something absurd.
If we have an above normal amount of rain we get warnings that it’s going to be severe fire season, because there is so much extra brush. Then Mary Nichols, CARB Chairwoman, will say something clueless.
If we have a normal rainy season we get warnings that’s it’s going to be severe fire season, with some hybrid explanation or an allusion to a previous fire season. Then Mary Nichols, CARB Chairwoman, will say something insulting.

Al Gored
December 24, 2010 12:05 pm

The fire problem in California – which is primarily was of scale and intensity – is due to fuel build ups. The native Californians used fire as their primary land management tool (for multiple pragmatic reasons) and their regular burning minimized fuel build ups. The ‘natural’ landscape which the Spanish first saw was the product of this ‘aboriginal burning’ management.
No matter how warm or dry it may be, if there is no fuel fires cannot burn.
There is a vast new body of research about this topic – which was not just a California phenomenon – but since it contradicts the ‘pristine wilderness/primitive savage’ myth that is the First Big Lie of ‘Conservation Biology’ and the ‘wilderness’ movement, it has been suppressed and carefully ignored/denied.
If it wasn’t a busy Christmas Eve I would post a bunch of references. In the meantime, just google ‘aboriginal burning’ and take it from there.

December 24, 2010 12:23 pm

boballah beat me 🙁
A simple google news search of 30 seconds is all it took to find a doom and gloom predictions of wildfire next year by a California official.

maelstrom the firestarter
December 24, 2010 12:25 pm

This is brilliant.
I just did search string “California record flooding wildfires 2011” and came up with real, named fire officials saying the flooding is particularly dangerous in areas hit by wildfire earlier this year.
Good luck to all. What’s the prize btw?

Robert of Ottawa
December 24, 2010 12:37 pm

John MacDonald, just why does the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have a crimatologist on staff? How about a few thermodynaic engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians? No wonder NASA can’t launch people into space any more.

December 24, 2010 12:45 pm

I think comments to posts here automatically close in 15 days or so. E.g. is accepting comments, the post before it, is not.
I don’t know if that can be changed or if you have changed it. If it can be changed, can you reopen ?
[Reply: I was able to open it. Try this: ~dbs]

December 24, 2010 12:47 pm

While browsing around on this topic, I didn’t find any brush fire forecast (yet), but didn’t find this little excerpt from the LA Times about CA’s current rain:

There are no easy answers for the strange weather this year, scientists say. In general, as the globe warms, weather conditions tend to be more extreme and volatile, Patzert said.
hehe, just gotta love the “warming” reference, especially when the whole piece talks about how they can’t explain anything. Oh, but probably “warming” did it. … hahaha

December 24, 2010 1:02 pm

I am suspecting we will have a winner long before April or May. The very idea of “wetter means more brush for fires” is already found in a couple of comment posts.
From the (cough, cough) The Huffington Post

Michael Valentine 20 hours ago (5:27 PM)
The better to fuel next summers’ brush fires.

From California Rain Storms Continue To Set Records
I don’t think it will take very long for that kind of comment to bubble up into an actual press release of some sort. I have already found several sources coming dangerously close to suggesting this, but not outright saying it yet. It’s as if they really want to, but just can’t find themselves making that big leap just yet. .. hehehe

December 24, 2010 1:44 pm

Robert of Ottawa said: ” just why does the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have a crimatologist on staff?”
I think you meant ‘climatologist’, but it’s a good Freudian slip.
Patzert is a media mouthpiece for JPL. He serves as seemily the only ‘expert’ in southern California that the lemmings in the print and electronic media will quote after any kind of weather event that deviates in some way from the perceived ‘average’.
He seems to be a ‘luke warmer’ which explains why the press likes him. He has a good sense of humor and provides some entertainment value along with a wee bit of science. This provides good PR for JPL!

John Cooper
December 24, 2010 2:50 pm

Not entering the contest, but I lived in SoCal in 1969 and remember the HUGE mudslides on January 20th (?). I recall walking up to a house in Glendora (somewhere close to Grand and Sierra Madre Ave.) where the mud was halfway up the interior walls and there was an oak tree sitting in the living room.
I wonder if anybody, anywhere, has taken a moment to say a silent thank you to those who built and paid for the LA County flood control system back in the fifties.
Reply: I grew up in West Covina and competed in track and field against Glendora High ~ ctm

December 24, 2010 3:01 pm

We get pretty much the same thing here in British Columbia. Every camp fire was declared a provincial emergency with breathless reports from the front lines by brave reporters. Mostly on radio, as there weren’t that many real fires to put on video. They recycled a Fraser Valley fire for months, but folks started to notice and they had to use newsreel from years earlier. No mention that arson is still the leading cause of forest fires either. Usually set by those that make money fighting them. The whole panic and fear industry has become a well oiled machine.

December 24, 2010 4:37 pm

‘You need to find a real news story (or press release), not make it up yourself.’
I hope that include lighting the fire, then calling the fire station and the local newspaper, oneself as well?
Because that would seriously cut down the crazed climate hippies trying to prove a warmer world.

Gary Hemminger
December 24, 2010 5:58 pm

The reason why we get these fire warnings are the same reason we get the “we are in a drought” warnings, even in wet years. The state doesn’t want to spend money on infrastructure to add more water to their water storage systems, nor invest properly in fire abatment systems. This state has simply not invested in infrastructure properly for decades.

December 24, 2010 6:21 pm

Ric Werme says:
December 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I don’t know if that can be changed or if you have changed it. If it can be changed, can you reopen ?
[Reply: I was able to open it. Try this: ~dbs]

I can read the page (and any other WUWT post) just fine. There’s no comment box, so the post is closed to comments and to anyone trying to check out WordPress’ handling of HTML. I.e. the page cannot be used for its intended use.
The point of my first post was to claim that the only winner can be someone who sees a winning new story within the next 15 days. “Comments to posts here automatically close in 15 days or so.” Let me try again. Comments to a post may be made for fifteen days after a post is created. After 15 days there is no comment box.
I think this is a relatively recent change.
Reply: I’ll look into it. ~ ctm
Reply 2: I have removed the setting that closed threads after 15 days. I’ll consult with Anthony if he wants to reinstate it perhaps with a longer timeout. ~ ctm

December 24, 2010 7:35 pm

Myself and others give SFGate a hard time in the comments sections anytime they publish an article regarding rainfall or snowfall. They almost never fail to bring up the words “drought”, “water tables”, “water inventory” or “fire danger” no matter what the low or high extent the rainfall and snowpack may be.
One poster there will even keep a tab of articles from years past at SFGate and the moment a new rainfall or snowfall article appears – they’ll post a link to one in the comments section with the tag:
“Don’t bother writing a new article columnists and editors – just repost this one from 2 years ago. It’ll fit just fine!”
Interestingly though, they have managed to go two weeks without the FUD…so maybe (fingers crossed) folks are coming around…

December 24, 2010 7:36 pm

can i write it myself if i am a fire official? all right, i am only an engineer, not quite an officer 😉
and the truth is, every season is potentially a devastating fire season in california. it’s really a matter of each individual fire.
so someone is going to win something!

Bob Diaz
December 24, 2010 10:32 pm

It’s a pity I can’t deal with, “severe wildfire season” and the worst one ever, because:
(1) The Y2K Bug was really bad and shut everything down.
(2) The Killer Bees are causing people to drop dead everywhere.
(3) The Hole In the Ozone Layer has made it unsafe to go outside.
(4) Bird Flu has killed almost everyone.
(5) Global Warming….
News Media Credibility approaching ZERO.

December 24, 2010 11:34 pm

Forehead says
There is a vast new body of research about this topic – which was not just a California phenomenon – but since it contradicts the ‘pristine wilderness/primitive savage’ myth that is the First Big Lie of ‘Conservation Biology’ and the ‘wilderness’ movement, it has been suppressed and carefully ignored/denied.
In your part of the world maybe. In my part of the world it’s very well known. No conspiracy here. In fact it is part off the “wisdom of the aboriginals” story which is quite popular.

December 24, 2010 11:41 pm

Cynicism aside,
you guys do understand don’t you that to get a decent bush fire season you need lots of fuel that is dry. And to get that you need a good growing season or seasons followed by very dry windy weather.
So it all comes down to timing, with rain in spring and early summer followed a dry off.
Err, you don’t understand that????
Reply: The problem is, no matter what the conditions occur during the winter we are told every single year, without fail that this year’s coming fire season will be exceptionally hazardous for some combination of those conditions that occurred. This happens every single year. Sure, every summer and fall in California suffers from a fire hazard risk. But, when you are told year after year after year that this season will be exceptionally bad you have to point to the messenger and laugh. ~ ctm

Brian Johnson uk
December 25, 2010 1:48 am

When I lived in Marin County 30 years ago, I was told by a Muir Woods ‘gardener’ that the massive Sequoia seeds would not germinate unless fire had heated the seeds up [so tiny that it does not seem possible to grow to 250 feet + in height, let alone survive a forest fire!] and I still wonder how nature survived endless fires [lightning strikes mainly] without the massive fleets of water bombers! No SUVs and no Anthropogenic CO2 production either!

December 25, 2010 3:19 am

Julian Flood – what’s wrong with that?
Gum trees are destined to take over the world.
Go Ausie go.
(Sorry for that, that’s not my style at all).
But here in Australia we get exactly the same types of warnings for exactly the same reason.
If it’s wet or dry, the next summer will be a very bad fire season.
On the otherhand the warnings have been rather muted of late for some reason.
It seems all the very brave emergency crews are battling to save life and property from the ravages of flood.

amicus curiae
December 25, 2010 7:17 am

as Aussie dan said above.. we were in the middle of flooding and a week of rain here, and the fire ban rating?
was High!
if they keep locking land away for useless parks and stopping grazing in the high country, the massive fires will keep happening.
idiots who are brainwashed by falsehoods making rules that have NO bearing in reality, kill more people than the fictitioius warming does.

December 26, 2010 10:57 am

It hasn’t snowed on Christmas in Atlanta in 128 years. But parts of Atlanta got up to 10 inches of global warming yesterday.
And areas in San Diego got up to 5 inches of drought last week. With the sun being anomoulously quiet, with a cooling trend for a decade and cooling oceans since ’02, there is ample speculation that the Earth is headed toward weather conditions last experienced in the 1800s. For example, weather like during the Maunder Minimum (e.g., 1790 to 1830).
Similarly, there have been other cold periods like the Spörer Minimum, the Dalton Minimum. These periods also coincided with an ebbing in solar activity. Throw in a few volcanic eruptions in the northern latitudes and the global warming alarmists in the West may live to reap a bitter harvest.
Misery, poverty and death is the reward of the unprepared. How will the West deal with a lack of energy brought about by the dogma of the Leftist agenda?
The real question among smart people now is, how long a Western secular, socialist society can cope with a high dose of reality? And, who will the intolerant liberal fascists choose to blame next?

Brian H
December 26, 2010 12:52 pm

Wagathon says:
December 26, 2010 at 10:57 am

who will the intolerant liberal fascists choose to blame next?

Anyone and everyone who objects to or stands in the way of their fundamental principle: “Everything everywhere should be controlled and managed by US! US!”

R. Craigen
December 26, 2010 9:24 pm

Do we get a prize for being the first to note the correct reason for increased forest fire risk — forest fire suppression? Every hack by now knows that preventing small natural burns increases the later risk of large uncontrollable conflagrations because it leaves a continually increasing amount of flammable detritus. At some point a major fire becomes unstoppable, and the longer it is put off, the worse it will be.
I recommend a prize for the first to find a mainstream press article that properly analyses the california fire risk on this basis. 🙂

January 2, 2011 6:53 pm

Hi Charles,
For a minute here I thought I had a winner:
Same old stuff from National Geographic:
From the Rocky Mountains to the coast of California, wildfires are burning bigger, hotter, and closer to home. Why is the West ablaze?
Most climate models now strongly suggest that the recent drought is not just a temporary phenomenon but part of a long-term drying trend made worse by global warming. There comes a point where no amount of money, no measure of heroism, is enough. Far from “wholly within the control of man,” fire becomes unstoppable.
But nuts, he doesn’t give us one of your three alternatives. And overall it’s not a bad article, emphasizing the role of natural fire in maintaining ecosystems.
I’ll keep looking.

January 4, 2011 9:05 pm

Fortunately, AGW True Believer heretics are not hard to find. AGW heresy is the natural process of anyone with the required intellectual courage and necessary scientific integrity to make the conscientious decision to apply reason and logic to the facts.
At least as far as the global waming alarmism hoax goes, it’s a win for truth. The field of climatology, however, will forever be blackened as the chosen academic domain of secular, socialist government-paid numerologists, astrologers and witchdoctors of voodoo science who are ideologically opposed to the abandonement their ‘religious adherence to consensus dogma,’ e.g.:
“Let me ask you this. So how are things going for you lately? A year ago, the climate establishment was on top of the world, masters of the universe. Now we have a situation where there have been major challenges to the reputations of a number of scientists, the IPCC, professional societies, and other institutions of science. The spillover has been a loss of public trust in climate science and some have argued, even more broadly in science. The IPCC and the UNFCCC are regarded by many as impediments to sane and politically viable energy policies. The enviro advocacy groups are abandoning the climate change issue for more promising narratives…
“What happened? Did the skeptics and the oil companies and the libertarian think tanks win? No, you lost… And because of the high relevance of our field, we need to figure out how to provide the best possible scientific information and assessment of uncertainties. This means abandoning this religious adherence to consensus dogma.” ~Judith Curry, 25-Oct-2010

January 5, 2011 6:10 am

Not sure if this qualifies as a “news story” but here it is:
“All the hills are as green as Ireland,” said Bruce Risher, intelligence officer for the U.S. Forest Service whose job includes long-range forecasting for fire season. “If we were to dry out from March on, if those grasses were to cure early, that would possibly bring an early start to the (fire) season.”
Reply: That might be a winner, but it’s really borderline. I was hoping for the imperative, not a set of what ifs. I will ponder. You may be a slow winner. ~ ctm

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