Mann's new study finds human activity is a major factor driving wildfires

Study weighs human influence in wildfire forecast through 2050

Wildfire_in_California[1]

From GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2016)–A new study examining wildfires in California found that human activity explains as much about their frequency and location as climate influences. The researchers systematically looked at human behaviors and climate change together, which is unique and rarely attempted on an area of land this large.

The findings suggest many models of wildfire predictions do not accurately account for human factors and may therefore be misleading when identifying the main causes or drivers of wildfires. The newest model proportionately accounts for climate change and human behavioral threats and allows experts to more accurately predict how much land is at risk of burning in California through 2050, which is estimated at more than 7 million acres in the next 25 years.

The paper, “Incorporating Anthropogenic Influences into Fire Probability Models: Effects of Human Activity and Climate Change on Fire Activity in California,” appears Thursday in PLOS ONE.

Climate change affects the severity of the fire season and the amount and type of vegetation on the land, which are major variables in predicting wildfires. However, humans contribute another set of factors that influence wildfires, including where structures are built, and the frequency and location of ignitions from a variety of sources–everything from cigarettes on the highway to electrical poles that get blown down in Santa Ana winds. As a result of the near-saturation of the landscape, humans are currently responsible for igniting more than 90 percent of the wildfires in California.

“Individuals don’t have much control over how climate change will affect wildfires in the future. However, we do have the ability to influence the other half of the equation, those variables that control our impact on the landscape,” said Michael Mann, assistant professor of geography at the George Washington University and lead author of the study. “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas, better managing public land and rethinking the effectiveness of our current firefighting approach.”

The researchers found that by omitting the human influence on California wildfires, they were overstating the influence of climate change. The authors recommend considering climate change and human variables at the same time for future models.

“There is widespread agreement about the importance of climate on wildfire at relatively broad scales. At more local scales, however, you can get the story quite wrong if you don’t include human development patterns,” said Max Moritz, a co-author and a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Berkeley. “This is an important finding about how we model climate change effects, and it also confirms that getting a handle on where and how we build our communities is essential to limiting future losses.”

Between 1999 and 2011, California reported an average of $160 million in annual wildfire-related damages, with nearly 13,000 homes and other structures destroyed in so-called state responsibility areas–fire jurisdictions maintained by California, according to Dr. Mann. During this same period, California and the U.S. Forest Service spent more than $5 billion on wildfire suppression.

In a model from 2014 that examined California wildfires’ destruction over the last 60 years, Dr. Mann estimated that fire damage will more than triple by 2050, increasing to nearly half a billion dollars annually. “This information is critical to policymakers, planners and fire managers to determine wildfire risks,” he said.

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Note: for those who didn’t catch the nuance between the title and the body, this isn’t THAT Michael Mann of hockey stick fame at Penn State, it’s another person by the same name at George Washington University. Kudos to the commenters who noticed, it was fun to watch the responses.

139 thoughts on “Mann's new study finds human activity is a major factor driving wildfires

    • Suppose that a fire would have happened yesterday, except that due to human
      activity it happened a week earlier. Does that count as one of the 90%? If so,
      I suspect that an estimate of how many fires start as a result of human activity
      and an estimate of how much burning happens so might look very different.

  1. I’ll have to agree with Mikey here. For decades man has fought wildfires whenever they occurred. As a result the fuel levels in the forests are higher than they have ever been. As a result fires are both more likely and when they do occur, bigger.

    • You have the wrong Mann. The author of this article is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University. “Mickey” is a Distinguished Service Professor at Penn state.

      • @Aphan, actually, this study sounds something like science at first blush. Yes, perhaps a painful elaboration of the obvious, but still.

      • The researchers found that by omitting the human influence on California wildfires, they were overstating the influence of climate change.

        Ah , not THAT Micheal Mann. That explains a lot. For one brief moment I thought there was grain of sense creeping into the debate. Silly me.

    • And, since Idiocrats tend to allow building in the wilding areas (more building equates to higher and more property taxation), more losses occur. If you build in Wild Fireling Country…You’re gonna get burned eventually. I wouldn’t build a house in Wildfire country that could burn, I would build one with noncombustible materials and/or add a well to a gravity fed 100,000 gal. tank and have a Roof Line Fire suppression sprinkler system installed. When the fire gets close, my house and property just get wet.

    • You hit the nail on the head. Fuel loads are the driver. The result can be seen in Yellowstone, ,iles and miles of it.

      • In a manner of speaking, yes. Or more accurately, he was. The Forest Service is a pretty well run agency and has been well aware of how previous policies have contributed to the fire loading issue.

    • So the centuries of Native Americans setting fire behind themselves as they retreated from high ground in the fall did not shape the ecosystem in any way. The fact of redwood and chaparral fire resistant burls and the requirement of many plant seeds to be burned over in order to germinate apparently all evolved in the last 150 years. To those who want to claim hotter fires now have never apparently been near burning madrone or mesquite in the foothills.

      • Our Aussie bush needs a regular burn and has developed that way as soon as white man came along we stopped the burning ,increased the fuel loads and increased the wildfires .
        Greenies don’t like the current strategy of planned burning but it’s a must do for many reasons .

      • I agree with Robert. It’s not the burning off that is bad for the environment, it’s actually putting out fires. If property or human life is not at risk, the fires should be allowed to run their course.

      • One other factor besides poor fire suppression practices is natural climate change. Pre1550ish, western North America was much drier than the following centuries were, and now the climate may be shifting back to that drier state in the region.
        The largest wildfire in Oklahoma/Kansas recorded history from just a few months ago, for instance, were greatly fueled by eastern red cedars that have spread across the plains in the past several hundred years under the relatively wetter climate conditions.
        The spread of these trees across the plains has of course been blamed on man (what hasn’t), but that hypothesis ignores that the 200 miles on the western range of this species was semi-arid desert and desert with actively migrating dunes recently, and that farmers actively try to eliminate these trees but can’t stay a head of their propagation.
        A few vestiges of the old drier landscape still exist on the plains:
        http://fitzvideo.com/skysurfing2/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/IMG_4792_Cropped.jpg

    • At what point in semantic history did “forest fires” become “wildfires?” Just asking.

    • Are we sure that CO2, in addition to causing increased greening, doesn’t also cause a tipping point at which wild fires burn with greater intensity? /sarc off
      Re increased greening. Since CO2 causes increased greening doesn’t it stand to reason that one should expect a linear relationship between increasing CO2 levels and growing membership in GreenPiece?

      • Ray,
        I’m STILL laughing at the hilarious nuances in your post.
        But your “fire” thing got me thinking….if there is less oxygen in the atmosphere, and “fires” need oxygen to burn…and CO2 is what they put in some fire extinguishers, then wouldn’t less oxygen in the air, and more CO2, just put forest fires out faster? (totally sarc on)

      • Well in truth it is thought that one reason O2 levels never got above 35% was the immense range and intensity of the fires that burned.

  2. The timber experts say it’s due to multi-agency bungling on the part of the Feds mismanaging federal lands. I’ll go with their expert opinion over Penn State meandering pseudo science.

  3. Reminds me of the alarmists who constantly cry about how the dollar value of property destroyed by storms is increasing, without factoring the fact that there are both more, and more expensive homes in the danger zones compared to decades ago.

  4. And…. if you play (build) in a fire pit you may get burned ….
    And Mann seems to be needing attention ….again/still……

  5. “In a model from 2014 that examined California wildfires’ destruction over the last 60 years, Dr. Mann estimated that fire damage will more than triple by 2050.”
    Will have the population subjected to destruction have tripled during that time too?

    • But with millions of trees being removed to make way for wind turbines and solar farms, won’t there be less wood to burn? Or are turbines and panels more flammable?

      • The most dominant material used for the blades in commercial wind turbines is fibreglass (also known as GRP) with a hollow core. This is a highly flammable material, and in motor vehicles (Lotus famously) and small boats have fire retardants included in the body work. Whether turbine blades have any protection against fire I do not know.

  6. Interesting study.
    To clarify though, Anthony you do realise that the lead author is Michael L Mann from George Washington University, not Michael E Mann from Penn State? It’s just that when you entitled this post “Mann’s new study….” it sounds like you think it’s the same Mann who is talked about on these pages so often…..

  7. I thought this was pretty well known for a long time now. For years our forestry workers were dedicated to putting out wildfires and keeping our forests from burning. But, after the big conflagrations a while back, they realized that they were misguided. Preventing natural burns only allowed underbrush and decayed trees to build up, so when a fire started, it was likely to get out of hand and burn far more than more frequent minor fires would have done. Policies were changed and natural fires were allowed to burn, except where they encroached on towns and homes.

    • Yes. After the Yellowstone fire, Wyoming has allowed fires in wilderness areas to burn naturally and sometimes other fires where no one is likley to be harmed. People are sometimes upset, but the idea of a wilderness area is human intervention is not happen.

    • There is one thing in California you can count on every year. Wildfire.
      Each year, just about this time, CalFire issues a dire warning. It comes in two flavors. The first is that it rained so much that the fuel loading with the extra tall dry grasses is so overwhelming that fires are predicted to be the worst ever. The second is that it rained so little that everything is tinder dry and that fires are predicted to be the worst ever.

    • Wildfire incidence is different in every region and the “fire-return interval” is very varied. West coast forests may have an FRI of a century or more, while interior savanna at the same latitude might burn every few years.
      Experimental fires at Archer Lake in Alberta, on adjacent stands of pristine and deliberately killed (girdled) Jack pine showed surprisingly little difference in overall fire behaviour between green trees and red-needled ones.
      For the most part, in British Columbia, we don’t have “frequent minor fires”. If an area burns, pretty well all the trees die, though they don’t fall for many years.

  8. … said Michael Mann … “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas, better managing public land and rethinking the effectiveness of our current firefighting approach.”

    This Michael Mann has a firm grasp of the obvious.

  9. Part of this is mismanaging wild lands that naturally tend to burn routinely. I do wonder if the Forest Service gets to overide the California Air Resources Board to set fires or not.
    I missed it was a different Michael Mann, too.

  10. Sweet Old Bob, Forest fires, as are plains fires and even fires in the Everglades “can” also all be natural phenomena caused by lighting. The wood of pine trees that have endured hundreds of years of fires here in the Florida pine forests are praised by builders as some of the most durable woods for building. Sadly much of the available hard wood pines have been harvested but lots are still being preserved in the Everglades National Wildlife Refuse but with a caveat. They call the wood from the pines here in south Florida, “Dade County Pine” because most of So. Florida was in Dade County back years ago. The pine wood, normally a soft wood, being exposed to periodic fires over many year get denser after each fire. Without the fires, the underbrush gets to heavy and kills off the new pine seedlings. It is an environmental cycle. If we interrupt it by prohibiting/putting out the fires or burning the underbrush at the wrong times it disrupts the environmental cycle. The Army Corp of Engineers and the So. Florida Water mismanagement District have harmed the ecosystem here in Florida, coupled with excessive development so much it is almost indescribably. I wish that I could rely on government to really protect us, but they cave in to the all mighty dollar just as the private sector does.

    • Yup. Plus many. Firefighting big Everglades lightning caused burns makes no encironmental sense.
      Back in Illinois on the old military (TNT production) Jolliet Army Munitions Plant plot (over 10000 acres) they have found they have to set prairie fires in order to restore that patch of tallgrass prairie. Army fire supression totally ruined it. Of course, fire and TNT do not mix so the Army’s perspective was understandable at the time. Chicago Botanical Gardens small tallgrass prairie (just a few acres with a walking trail from the bridge) was deliberately built on an artificial island in the meandering Skokie River so that periodic necessary burns would not be a problem.

      • It really doesn’t matter what caused the fire. Lightning, people, spontaneous spoor combustion, doesn’t matter.

      • If it hadn’t been a cute little bear, it would have been Smokey the Deer or perhaps Smokey the ‘Possum. Advertising for a worthy cause uses the same techniques as propaganda.
        I was struck by the 9 out of 10 figure. Somehow I find Mann’s data more credible. 🙂

      • Should be “Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 97% of Forest Fires” to make it more credible

  11. So humans are making forest fires…less common, leading to a fire deficit?
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/09/1112839109
    Understanding the causes and consequences of wildfires in forests of the western United States requires integrated information about fire, climate changes, and human activity on multiple temporal scales. We use sedimentary charcoal accumulation rates to construct long-term variations in fire during the past 3,000 y in the American West and compare this record to independent fire-history data from historical records and fire scars. There has been a slight decline in burning over the past 3,000 y, with the lowest levels attained during the 20th century and during the Little Ice Age (LIA, ca. 1400–1700 CE [Common Era]). Prominent peaks in forest fires occurred during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (ca. 950–1250 CE) and during the 1800s. Analysis of climate reconstructions beginning from 500 CE and population data show that temperature and drought predict changes in biomass burning up to the late 1800s CE. Since the late 1800s, human activities and the ecological effects of recent high fire activity caused a large, abrupt decline in burning similar to the LIA fire decline.Consequently, there is now a forest “fire deficit” in the western United States attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological, and climate changes. Large fires in the late 20th and 21st century fires have begun to address the fire deficit, but it is continuing to grow.

    • Our understanding of forest fires has changed a lot recently. Once upon a time, we tried to stop every fire. That led to a big accumulation of fuel because dead trees didn’t burn in a timely manner. That, in turn, led to really nasty fires that couldn’t be controlled. There was a huge cost in lives and property.
      These days, we let some fires burn and even deliberately start fires. link In that light, it is possible that bad forest management practices would lead to a fire deficit.

    • “Medieval Climate Anomaly”
      That’s funny. I’d be curious to know which climate epoch they DON’T consider an anomaly.
      Idiots.

      • That’s easy…anything that deviates from the hockey stick’s straight shaft of course. And don’t forget that it’s a travesty that we can’t explain that anomaly!

  12. Captain Cook’s journals describe the east coast of Australia as being covered in a haze of smoke (1770 or thereabouts). Geoffrey Blainey, sometime Professor of Australian History at the University of Melbourne, suggested that Australian Aborigines knew how to start fires, but were never known to put them out. Aborigines used fires to hunt and Blainey suggested that such hunting may have wiped out the giant marsupials that once ranged the region.
    However, it is also equally well-known that lightning strikes are a significant cause of fires in Australia. Especially in those areas where the population is so sparse it is not likely that men caused them.
    I would think these causes would likely swamp any effects of AGW.

    • It’s not if Australian bush will burn but when. I spend the southern summer there every year and there’s a pillar of smoke somewhere most every day. There is some research I’ve read that suggests regular burning by Aborigines led to the desertification of large parts of it as Australian was much lusher prior to them spreading over the landscape. Of course correlation does not mean causation.

    • Apparently the early Portugese navigators referred to southern Africa as Terra dos Fumos so not only Australia..
      Expat – have you read Bill Gamage’s “The Biggest Estate on Earth”?

  13. Synopsis: All them previous studies were wrong, but you can believe this one.
    ‘Dr. Mann estimated that fire damage will more than triple by 2050, increasing to nearly half a billion dollars annually. “This information is critical to policymakers, planners and fire managers to determine wildfire risks,” he said.’
    Critical. Srsly? How many are preparing their 2050 budgets now? 2040?
    And no damage was done by all the previous studies that were ‘misleading when identifying the main causes or drivers of wildfires.’ Nobody cared; no one did anything differently.
    ‘The newest model proportionately accounts for climate change and human behavioral threats and allows experts to more accurately predict’
    Are these the same experts who were misleading before?
    Dontcha love a little argumentum ad novitatem?

  14. A study not from Penn States Mann that I totally agree with. Natural Climate change has often dried out California forests. For thousands of years, many times. We have foolishly increased forest fuel load via ‘Smokey Bear’ policies and a refusal to thin (let nature take half her course, not the other compensating half). Then let humans do their thing in these newly tinderbox forests. Cigarette butts, campfires, arson.
    Yup, we overestimated natural climate change and underestimated anthropogenic causes of forest fires. As for anthropogenic climate change, so far there is no solid observational evidence that there has been any whatsoever. Even in California. With one exception, the accidental goof up now called the Salton Sea.

    • Ristvan, there is actually a study out there that pins down fire prevention as the cause of climate change. Fire prevention produces more plant growth, plant growth produces more water vapor, water vapor produces climate change…

  15. Bushfires in Australia originate from both human activity and natural causes with lightning being the predominant natural source, accounting for half of all ignitions in Australia. Accidental or deliberate (arson) fires of human origin currently account for the remainder. It is hard to see a role for CO2 here.
    Deliberate and accidentally lit fires are more prevalent near populated areas and have a higher risk of infrastructure impact. Arsonists place people and property at serious risk, particularly on extreme fire weather days. Many fires in uninhabited areas go unreported. More bushfires occur on Sunday than any other day. Possibly idle hands are the Devil’s workmate.

    • I lived in Australia from 1965 to 1988, some 18 years of which were in outer eastern Melbourne in a bush fire prone area. The closest fire to us was December 1972 when a fire, which destroyed 80 or so homes in close vicinity, came within 300 metres of us. It was around this time that environmental activists were beginning to make their presence felt and were promoting action to prevent controlled burns to reduce litter. Australian bush is relatively open rather than densely treed, and the majority of fuel for fires is in the litter which accumulates around the eucalypts (not mention the oil vapor from the leaves which causes the crowns to explode). There were many fires during the time we lived there but I note that the much of the severity of the many fires in the subsequent 20 years has been attributed to bans on clearing the forest litter and on controlled burns. There is a curious irony in that several varieties of Australian eucalypts require the heat of a forest fire to crack their nuts to enable them to germinate.

      • I live in an outer eastern Melbourne ‘high’ bushfire prone area and can tell you the the bush is thick, thick, thick with trees, undergrowth and bushy shrubs, so thick there are places you can’t even see through it let alone make your way through it. Local council’s policy here is to let all dead branches and trees remain because that’s ‘habitat’ for the critters.
        And they don’t want the fuel load removed either because it’s natural.
        Luckily for us, during the 1999 bushfire, there was a wind change just as the fire was about to leap from the bush into the estate where my house sits. The fire did trek down one street to the east of me and some houses were eaten, but the rest of us were spared.
        The greenies policies here are getting people killed and I see no sign of that changing. Current government policy is, “Bushfires are a part of life in Victoria…” so those the people just have to put up with it. The government is not going to do anything to reduce the risk.
        Oh, and the ‘new and improved’ CFA (Country Fire Authority) website to check for bushfires is 100x worse that the old one we relied on before the ’99 fires – slow, doesn’t load up correctly, difficult to navigate… it’s a mess here.

  16. Man is the driving force behind the wild fires, specifically the National Forest Service. The fire prevention program that they have had in place over the past 100 years has greatly altered the density of the forests making catastrophic wild fires infinitely more probable.
    http://forestfire.nau.edu/images/trees_per_acre.gif
    https://youtu.be/NsIpZlAsGCU
    https://youtu.be/1PXFuZFJmnY
    Dense forests burn more severly. Although it may be more difficult to get a fire to ignite in a dense forest, once it does, it burns at high temperatures killing most trees in the area. Dense forests can form naturally (e.g. following a natural high-severity fire) or as a result of human activity (e.g. due to the suppression of frequent low-severity fires.)
    http://www.colorado.edu/geography/boulderfires/FireEssentials.html

    • Co2islife, that is a great graphic! I knew the density argument but did not realise the sheer scale of the change due to human intervention.
      Now we have the great Dr Mann and Co to advise us, we learn that nature should take its course and humans should get out of the way. That’s the bottom line. No doubt this forest density thingy is made worse by CO2 fertilization.
      If we could just eliminate people, housing and infrastructure the savings would be enormous. When faced with unmanageable threats like fire and weather we should act swiftly and comprehensively. We have a duty to either remove the forests or the people. There is simply no way to manage both in a shared space. It’s too expensive.
      Plus we could use all those trees to build housing and infrastructure.

    • Another factor that I have heard about has to do with the density of the undergrowth.
      With infrequent fires, the undergrowth gets more dense, which allows those fires that do start to reach the crowns of the trees. This permits the fires to get hotter and spread much more quickly.
      Frequent fires mean that individual fires are smaller and cooler, resulting in some scorching of tree bark, and that’s about it.

  17. Give that Mann a cigar. Maybe, just maybe, not everything is about “climate change”. Did he just boot himself off the CAGW gravy train?

  18. “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas, …”
    I think this advice can also be applied in Canada. Both British Columbia and the Yukon plus at least half of the North West Territories are highly prone to wildfire where there is any vegetation at all. Almost 80% of Ontario is also prone to this menace. If we banned people from building structures in these areas nature could take its course without our interference.
    Other places where the dead hand of human influence in the natural order is witnessed include Siberia, Sweden, Finland and substantial parts of Eastern Europe.
    Fortunately and on the other hand, great progress has been made in dealing with destruction by wildfires by removing the threat of these infernal trees. Look at the progress already made in Indonesia, Tajikistan, Southern Mongolia, India and Pakistan where millions of sq km of trees have already been cleared. It is a good thing because obviously people and forests don’t get along.
    We should perhaps put together a forest clearing effort to remove the Amazon forest to protect the indigenes who have every right to continue to live there. I understand the Brazilian government has been active in removing this threat which, as discovered by the intrepid Dr Mann, is an unmanageable threat. Imagine the native forest people of the Amazon trying to come up with a billion dollars!
    This work is a major conceptual advance in forest, risk, fire and climate science. Thank you Dr Mann. Your important conclusions will reverse a lot of current thinking on the management of fire and indeed forests around the world.
    And to think that China has already started planting billions of these infernal trees, creating a huge and expensive risk oblivious to the unmanageable problems they pose. While I am here I will bring it to their attention. The Forestry University is almost next door on Qinghua Avenue West here in Haidian.
    We are going to have a pretty serious look at Colorado too. The number of smokers in that state has been rising rapidly posing an existential threat to the economy and animal population.
    God bless Berkeley! You have saved us again.

    • The majority of people live alone coastlines like in So. Florida, willing to endure the potential affects of natural disasters like hurricanes, flooding and tsunamis. How many people are willing to live along the San Andreas fault and other fault lines around the world? Pretty hard to find a place where their are no potential natural disasters. I personally will take a hurricane any day over a nuclear reactor disaster. Talk about a bad idea and there are those that are still claiming the new ones are safe. They’re machines made by humans; THEY ARE NOT SAFE. THEY WILL BRAKE. Just ask those arrogant Japanese.
      Have you ever noticed that it is often arrogance that gets us into trouble, yet we consider confidence a positive trait. Confidence is when a person is right yet often people are lying or wrong?

      • I have never read a more concisely incorrect line of reasoning in my life.
        How many people died directly because of the reactor at Fukushima? I think there was one technician electrocuted trying to hook up an emergency pump (though the press was very confusing on that), and five other workers died from: falls, debris entrapment and one heart attack. That electrocution could happen any day anywhere so attributing it to the accident is specious. That accident overall was very dramatic and got loads of news coverage, but produced very little loss of life. Once they start letting people back in to clean up, the town will very likely be back to normal in five years.
        Likewise at Three Mile Island. Both of these were older generation plants without the safety enhancements of the newer generation plants. Three Mile Island was an operator mis-response to a known design flaw in the coolant system (not well-known yet because safety communication in the nuclear industry didn’t exist then, communication was one of the huge improvements post-TMI). Fukushima was a two-fold design problem – Backup generators in the basement in a known tsunami area and use of terrestrial rather than marine diesels for those generators. Actually implementing either of those corrections would have prevented the loss of coolant event, but both would have been better. Chernobyl was human caused from the beginning and was a type of reactor that the US only operated for a couple of years due to the lack of redundant safety features.
        About things that “brake” (I am sure you meant break in your all-caps declaration). I am sure that you would apply the same standard to automobiles. In 2014, 1,254,526 people died worldwide on the highways and byways, and yet no one died in 2014 from a nuclear safety incident. Heck even something insanely dangerous like going to war only killed 119,463 in 2014, and yet not a single soul was killed by your irrationally feared nuclear.
        Life is a risk, and the safest thing for you to do is go find a cave (in a non-earthquake zone of course) and live there. Oh wait, you might want to check the walls of your cave as many geological formation include rather high background radiation and radon releases. And if you really want to freak out, if you live in a high rise apartment in one of the large cities, acquire a Geiger counter and point it at the concrete walls of your building. The thing will go wild, oh no what ever will you do.
        Sorry about the snark, but irrational nuclear fear tends to bring out my innate ignorance bully.

      • Personally I prefer to have my nuclear reactors brake whenever they are going to fast.
        The new ones are safe. As to the old ones, they were safe too. Outside the Soviet Union, nobody has died from an accident at a nuclear plant built for power generation. The Soviet design was rejected by the west as unsafe, and to save money the Soviets decided to not build a containment vessel.
        On the other hand, thousands of miners have died mining coal in the last 100 years.

    • hmm? building in wooded areas, is risky..yes
      BUT
      idiotic govts opening land FOR housing with NO Clearing bar a few feet around allowed by Law, thanks to the greentards is also a BIG part of the death toll.
      you can live in bushy areas fairly safely IF you have a wide and well cleared area you can firebreak with 4 metres max in from a fence line near a bloody gumfilled scrubby Nat park is NOT enough..
      and the yuppies buying bushblocks who think allowing rampant bush to the door is nice…need to be walloped over their thick heads by the poor firies who have to try n save em later.

      • Hear! Hear! Also those stupid people who ‘give away’ part of their land to the councils to create a ‘wildlife preserve’ on the property – land no one is allowed to enter anymore so it gets scrubby and dangerous.

  19. One of the reasons the Forest Service (and the Park Service as well, I suspect) does not do more controlled burning or preventive thinning of the forests is lawsuits.* “Environmentalists” sue the government over just about anything and everything, which generally means that agencies have to wait for a resolution/settlement/judgement before they can do their job. Why? Because:
    Logging forests is bad! Never mind that studies show forests that are regularly logged are usually healthier than “pristine” overgrown forests, we MUST SAVE THE TREES!!!
    Manage forests in the Pacific Northwest to benefit all species and be in various stages of growth/succession? DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THE SPOTTED OWLS??? They prefer old-growth forest, therefore ALL forest must be managed to remain old-growth forest. What do you mean old-growth forests eventually die and restart the cycle? Nature does not change unless EVIL CAPITALISTS make it change!
    A couple of years ago, I sat in on a lecture by a lawyer for a prominent environmentalist group. He actually said flat out that the majority of their lawsuits were filed to try to force the government to settle, since lawsuits are so expensive and tie up so much time. I am still not sure what is sadder, the fact that he would admit that in front of a group of college students, or that no one seemed to think this was worthy of concern. Of course, these were students who were studying conservation, so all but two of us were little environmentalist drones. I was quite disgusted with how nasty most of the students were when discussing views with which they did not agree. When I pointed out that demonizing and disrespecting the “opposition” was inappropriate, not to mention counterproductive, the response was (and I quote): “well, look what they say about us!” Later, I read that people in their teens and twenties are extraordinarily less tolerant of opposing views that they have been in the last few decades, in that they actively engage in shunning, ridiculing, and harassing anyone who dares express a different viewpoint. This perfectly described my experience.
    *I am closely connected with someone who works in a capacity related to the topic, but I cannot be more detailed than that, as I do not want to make them a target for anyone or any side. 😛 We live in a sad world.

    • I always loved the spotted owl arguments. Then it was discovered that the bar owl that loves open prairie is the SAME GENETIC SPECIES with different coloration due to environment gene expression as a chick. So if you clear cut some old growth forest, the next generation is bar owls. 50 years later when the forest has grown up the population is spotted. Isn’t nature a wonderful thing?!

  20. “Assistant Professor of Geography”…yeah, tell me more about your future predictions of fire damage.
    “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas, better managing public land and rethinking the effectiveness of our current firefighting approach.”
    Sharp guy…”better managing public land and rethinking the effectiveness of our current firefighting approach.” Sounds destined to be a politician – sees a problem, offers nothing of substance as a solution
    “We can reduce our risks by disincentivizing housing development in fire-prone areas…” or, alternatively we could incentivize housing in those locations. Human development is less fire-prone than undeveloped nature in these areas…not to mention that the associated infrastructure that comes with it makes it easier to fight fires.

  21. In the Sierra Mountains, especially I’ve noticed around Yosemite, they do what’s called ‘controlled burns’. Not sure how successful but interesting approach.
    Living in CA I’ve experienced many lighting storms over the Coastal Ranges coming in from the Pacific. A few years ago over a 1000 wild fires were sparked off.
    If we want a natural environment I guess we just let it burn.

    • May not be what you think. In the southeast, controlled burns are done to kill off ground cover arising on the forest floor. It keeps new plants from crowding out the old.
      Don’t know about west coast. Could be to burn off debris, or it could be same as in SE, to prevent succession.

      • It is burn off debris and undergrowth that is no longer disposed of because ecological changes: monoculture, varmints, beavers, etc.

    • When we visited Yosemite in the early ’80s we visited the Mariposa giant sequoia grove. The ranger guiding our tour pointed out a baby sequoia that had sprouted after a controlled burn some 12 years before. In fact a controlled burn (elsewhere in the park) was in progress during our visit. The trees are so adapted to fire that they actually need fire to reproduce optimally:
      http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/yosemite-sequoias-fire

  22. I didn’t like his Hockeystick much but I enjoyed Heat (1995 — De Niro is always good value) and Collateral (2004).
    Versatile guy.

  23. As I understand it, this is a projection of what might happen in over 30 years if the climate models are accurate and if the projections of human behavior are accurate. I doubt that I will ever consider it worth the amount of my time it would take to read it. Some of the information about how appropriate our current beloved federal overlords are behaving with respect to rational forest management might be interesting, but I have little interest in trying to sort the useful from the pure speculation.

  24. Somebody could coin a phrase from the reactions we’ve seen in this thread- auto response to the words Mann and “study”.
    Knee- jerk, Mann- jerk, whatever.
    Make up some stuff, fund a study, pay for a few pages of subroutines…
    Science.
    Out.

    • New Zealand has the largest man ( not MANN ) planted forest in the world, ( created work for all during the depression ) today it is logged, and replanted, no fires !

  25. I imagine that CO2 does increase fire likelihood and consequence due to increasing plant productivity, increasing the rate of accumulation of fuel and shortening the average fire period for a given area…

  26. This is absolute nonsense. If the climate models were removed, the result would be exactly the same. Man is indeed a likely cause. Forests near urban areas suffer both intentional and accidental fires on a continuing basis, ala the LA and Oakland water sheds. Forest management areas are subject to gross environmental mismanagement starting with the wrong trees (Eucalyptus instead of Oak) and then going on to letting excess under-growth build up allowing infernos.
    note. Archaeologist have ascertained many of the early fires were intentionally set by Indians to clear areas for oak planting.

  27. “…humans are currently responsible for igniting more than 90 percent of the wildfires in California.”
    So Smokey was right, and he didn’t need a model: “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Well, 90 percent anyway. The other 10 percent must be caused by climate change because this study only allows for those two possibilities. We all know there were no wildfires before climate change and people came along. /sarc

    • Can we get a percentage of wildfires started by careless smokers dropping cigarette butts out of car windows? Could be a tax payer-funded PhD in this.

  28. How does the math work that 90% of CA wildfires are caused by man, which is the other half of the equation? Is that not the other 90% of the equation? Millenial New Math?

  29. Note to George Washington University Michael Mann: Although it may upset your family, it’s not illegal to change your name.

  30. Like they do in PA, When there is a small fire which they spot from fire towers, they put it out right away, before it gets out of hand. PA also has firebreaks which if properly maintained can prevent large spreading of fires. I just say put them out when they are small, as soon as possible. Now Pa doesn’t have Santa Ana winds, but CA should take that into account. They seem to wait too long before they send in the big planes with the big fire retardants…(after the fires are out of control, they seem to send in the big planes) They should send in the big planes at the start…just sayin….

    • Putting out the small fires is why we have a fire control problem today.
      PA is fairly heavily populated.
      Can you imagine the uproar is we tried to cut firebreaks throughout Yellowstone?

  31. I never made it past the following sentence:
    “The newest model . . . allows experts to more accurately predict how much land is at risk of burning in California through 2050.”
    Only a person devoid of any critical reasoning skills could write such gibberish. I’d like to know whether the authors bought their time machine or whether they built it themselves. I’d also like to know what metric is used to evaluate the accuracy of a prediction of the future “risk” of an event. Technically, I suppose that every square inch of California is “at risk” of burning by 2050, but somehow I don’t think that their model just forces a 100% answer with a single line of code.

    • Small fires don’t show up in the tree rings.
      Medium fires show up as some scorching and scoring.
      Really big fires, no tree rings as the tree burns up completely.

  32. Shame the anthropogenic influence didn’t extend to burning down a particular tree in the Yamal peninsular. Or carbonising certain bristle cone pines. We might have been spared the Hockey Schtick.

  33. One only has to look at the history of management at Yellowstone to know it is Federal management of land that is causing fires to be worse.
    So humans are responsible, federal humans, for land management.
    Burned acreage is still much lower than the past, regardless of cooked numbers.

  34. When we visited Yellowstone some years ago we were informed that lightning caused at least 35 fires a year in the park. When trying to verify this a few minutes ago I came across:
    “Lightning may ignite dozens of forest fires during a single summer, but most of them go out naturally after burning less than half an acre. Others torch isolated or small groups of trees, become smoldering ground fires, and eventually go out on their own. On rare occasions, wind-driven fires have burned through large areas of forest, as in 1988, when multiple fires crossed more than one million acres in Yellowstone and on surrounding federal lands despite massive efforts to extinguish them. Without frequent small and occasional large fires to create a mosaic of plant communities in different growth stages, biodiversity declines and leaf litter and deadfall accumulate much faster than they can return nutrients to the soil through decay.
    Evidence of fires that burned before the park was established in 1872 can be found in soil profiles, charcoal found in lake sediments, landslides, and old-growth trees. Research shows large fires have been occurring in Yellowstone since forests became established following the last glacial retreat 14,000 years ago.”
    source:
    https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/fire.htm
    Since I have forgotten all the chemistry that I learnt in school could someone please tell me whether the CO2 from these fires is identified as coming from “fossil fuel”? If not, how does one differentiate between the CO2 emanating from man made fires (including industrial and home woodburners) and natural fires?

  35. One of my university lecturers was demonstrating things you could do with Markov chains. This specific piece of research demonstrated that the forestation level of Tasmania reflected the fire conditions pre-white settlement. Things such as how often a particular area was burned, how hot, etc. If you look at the fire conditions post-white settlement, there would be hardly any forrest, mainly because there wasn’t enough time for the regrowth to mature and set new seeds.
    Anyhow, long story short. This is old news, we’ve known about it for over 30 years. Oh, and it didn’t need a computer to work it out.

  36. Headlines are one thing. They are meant to be provocative. The bylines are often more to the point. I went for the byline, then “fire damage will more than triple by 2050”. I glossed over the article looking for the meat behind the byline and found the article sort of uninformative, more like the general low-level background noise of AGW buzz you see everywhere. So it wasn’t comment worthy in that respect. You know… unremarkable stuff. Since it is now a social experiment with trees, the name Michael Mann, hyperbole in the headline, it begs a comment.
    How do y’all feel being guinea pigs? And when did Anthony realize that the Michael Mann wasn’t his pet devil?

  37. If 9 out of 10 fires are caused by human activity, and the other 1 out 10 is caused by climate change, that means that climate change is not caused by human activity.
    but what about fires caused by lightning? 10 out of 10 are already caused by humans and climate change, which either means that zero out of 10 are caused by lightning, of that lightning is caused by human activity or by climate change.
    of maybe it is human activity that is caused by climate change? after all, we didn’t develop agriculture of cities until the climate warmed up ten thousand years ago. and if the climate change and we returned to ice age conditions it seems pretty likely that a lot of human activity would change, with plenty of shivering and dying along the way.

  38. The CA Dept of Finance projects a population growth of 20 million more people by 2050: http://www.exurbiachronicles.com/?page_id=672
    California packs in about 250 people per square mile:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population_density
    At that rate, these 20 million new Californians will need 800,000 square miles to live and work on.
    At 2.56 acres per person (640 acres per square mile), that’s 512 million acres.
    Compared to this forecast, loss of land to wildfire is small, and temporary. Development of land into cities, suburbs, and highways is not.
    We shouldn’t worry about the 7 million burned acres. California has wildfires almost every year, and the plants will regrow. Almost every part of the state experiences wildfires with some regularity.
    Some California species (i.e. Lodgepole Pine) have actually evolved to *require* wildfire to reproduce.

  39. Well,, since wild fires have declined over the past 60yrs or so, and human activity has increased them, that means climate change has even less to do with fires than we thought.
    I find that most of these climate studies suffer from poor logic and failure to think broadly about problems they are working on. As such, critique is not really scepticism but rather a much lower form, like marking a high school social studies exam answer to a question. Hey, I don’t now much about fires but I feel perfectly qualified to critique such stuff at this level.

  40. On another subject: knowledge, information, patents, open source, etc. It seems like many papers are written for both peer review and profits and the scholastic market for information appears to be often times more costly then the non-scolastic market even though many scholars end up publishing in the non-scolastic market to sell more of their intellectual property. Very high priced text books are an example. Being from a poor family I just flat out couldn’t afford all the recommended reading and I was actually at times lucky to have the required texts. In 1971, a pretty crappy text book at today standards were $30 and $40 apiece. Is it still like this? The other issue I though interesting is intellectual property. I had the opportunity to meet the ex-astronaut and ex-CEO of Eastern Airlines, Frank Borman. Somehow the guy ended up with a bunch of laser patents, at least that’s what he told me. Pretty wealthy guy with auto dealer ships in New Mexico as well. Is intellectual property some of the things traded within the political system? When I see or read of NASA filing for a patent, it kind of astonishes me. Would somebody have to really pay NASA to be able to product one of their patented products, even though it was invented using taxpayers money? All government funded inventions, I though, were supposed to be open source. I was told during one of my own patenting processes, that if I used any public funding, I would not be able to get a patent. Is our system really this incorrigible. I know our justice system is.

  41. Why ignore Arson?
    California wildfire ‘selfie’ arsonist gets 20 years, $60 million fine

    The fire blackened nearly 100,000 acres, destroyed at least a dozen homes and displaced thousands of Northern California residents southwest of the Lake Tahoe resort area.
    Huntsman was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $60 million in restitution to the victims, the El Dorado County District Attorney said in a statement.

    A Psychiatric Study of Persons Charged with Arson

    A total of 29 court-referred individuals charged with arson were psychiatrically studied. From this pre-trial cohort from a large heterogeneous urban population base, a higher rate of psychosis was found than in other recent studies. However, consistent with these studies was the rarity of the diagnosis of pyromania. An important finding of this study was the substantial number of fires set by individuals who are homeless mentally disordered or substance abusing, or both.

  42. Wildfires destroy over 3000 homes. Do I sense an oxymoron, or is it just an ordinary moron?

  43. Imagine the carbon footprint of burning millions of acres of Yellowstone. Let’s carbon tax the Park Service to fund a forest thinning program to prevent future catastrophic wild fires.

    National forests contain an average of 77.8 metric tons of carbon per acre: a greater density than on private (60.7 metric tons of carbon per acre) or other public forest lands (68.3 metric tons of carbon per acre)
    National forests contain an average of 28 percent more carbon per forested acre than private land. This is due to differing management priorities on national forest lands than private lands.

    http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2010/10/0532.xml&printable=true&contentidonly=true

  44. Many forests of today contain 2

    4 times
    more trees than they did in 1875. The
    largest increases are for small and me-
    dium

    diameter trees (<12” dbh), but
    there are also a few more large

    diameter trees per acre.
    Today, most wildland fires are suppressed.
    Those that escape beyond control often
    burn with high severity, causing high mor-
    tality to trees of all sizes. Large, high

    severity wildfires are generally undesirable
    to forest users, including recreationists and
    some wildlife species. However, some mod-
    erately

    sized patches of tree mortality are
    not unnatural or uncharacteristic of pon-
    derosa pine and dry mixed

    conifer forests.
    Mixed

    severity fires occasionally visited
    these forests, killing patches of large trees
    (Sherriff and Veblen 2006).
    The disruption of natural fire regimes in
    western forests has generally led to in-
    creased stand densities. Some mixed coni-
    fer forests on the Uncompahgre Plateau
    have basal areas that are almost three
    times greater than conditions in 1875

  45. A century of putting out fires resulted in forests overstuffed with fuel, and the beetles traveled efficiently through the dense stands of trees. While a healthy acre of forest may have 30 trees or fewer, some now have 10 to 100 times that many…The USFS policy of fire suppression had an early and ironic start. In convincing Congress of the need for national forests, and for a service to administer to them, the agency’s first head, Gifford Pinchot, told them that securing public land and then suppressing fires there would serve to protect public property. It was a persuasive argument in a time when wildfire was about the only thing left in the West that settlers hadn’t killed or wrestled into submission, and still feared. The need was galvanized not long after that when, in 1910, during a dry, windy summer crackling with lightning, many small fires grew into the largest wildfire in U.S. history…The Big Blowup, as it was dubbed, consumed 3 million acres in Montana, Idaho and Washington (that’s 35 times the size of the recent High Park fire near Fort Collins). At least 85 people were killed, five towns were reduced to cinders and much public land that Pinchot had fought to set aside, was incinerated.
    https://www.hcn.org/blogs/range/seeing-the-overcrowded-forest-for-the-trees

  46. The Wallow and Rodeo Chedeski fires in eastern Arizona took a big chunk out of the (previously?) largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, After fire fence line photos on the border between the USFS “managed” land and the Indian Reservations, where they practice healthy forest, sustainable production silviculture, were revealing. A healthy forest revitalizing burn on the Apache managed side contrasts sharply with the devastated once forested area on the USFS “managed” side. The habitat diversity maintained by the Apaches (a mosaic of forest, open meadows, ponds and lakes) is no doubt enhanced by healthy forest thinning producing increased water flow through the landscape – which is exceedingly beautiful as well as safe, healthy and productive of timber and beef. Biological diversity cannot help but increase in a varied, well watered and healthy landscape.
    This ideology that all human interaction with this world is wrong or bad and must be forbidden by dictate has got to go. There are better ways to think about and do this. Ideologies are always ultimately destructive as they must by their restrictive nature shun reality and act from false premises. Silviculture is still being thwarted here as the “NO human/nature interaction” bunch has taken over the healthy forest funding and USFS process – dragging their feet so that very little healthy-forest thinning can occur and flammable biomass is quickly building toward another catastrophe

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