While Jerry Brown claims ‘climate change’ is the source of the Thomas fire, NASA demonstrates that it’s weather helping to put it out

From NASA Goddard:

What a difference a few days can make in the life cycle of a fire.  In this particular case, the Thomas Fire that is ongoing in the Ventura County around (and surrounding) in Southern California.  The following images were taken by the Terra and Aqua satellites on Dec. 16, 17, and 19, 2017, and during those times fire conditions improved visibly.  A difference in winds, in humidity, in the ability of firefighters to control the fire’s perimeter, and in the amount of fuel left for the fire to consume can bring a raging fire to heel.  This does not mean the fire cannot gain strength again if conditions worsen, but it is heartening to realize that weather conditions can allow firefighters to get a better handle on events as they have in the last few days.

This the Thomas Fire on December 16, 2017 as seen by the Terra satellite.  There were multiple areas of “hot spots” where the satellite indicates the fire is and where telltale smoke also pinpoints fire spots.  These areas are numerous and the clouds of smoke coming off the flames are all consuming.

Terra image of the Thomas Fire on Dec. 16, 2017.

By December 17, 2017, conditions had obviously changed for the better and the fires were able to be somewhat contained.  This image taken by the Aqua satellite on December 17, 2017, shows a much more subdued Thomas Fire.  There are still hot spots visible but the number has vastly improved.

Terra image of the Thomas Fire on Dec. 17, 2017.

By December 19, 2017, hot spots are not showing up via satellite instruments.  This does not mean the fire is completely out, but large hot spots are no longer detected by satellites.  So, too, the copious smoke that was spewing from the fires is no longer in evidence.  This Aqua image shows a much calmer landscape due to improving weather conditions at the time.

Terra image of the Thomas Fire on Dec. 19, 2017.

Per Inciweb today, the Thomas fire is 60 percent contained at present.  At 272,000 acres, the Thomas Fire is now the second largest fire in the recorded history of the state of California.  Unfortunately, weather conditions that allowed the fire to be contained to the 60 percent mark are destined to change as weather conditions deteriorate this afternoon.  Inciweb reports that a forecasted strong north wind event will bring wind conditions similar to those experienced when the fire made its push into Montecito. With the introduction of these winds, critically dry fuels will be highly receptive to fire spread.  During Santa Ana wind events three things happen:  the weather warms, winds pick up, and humidity drops precipitously.  All of these events promote fire growth.   The Thomas Fire has experienced winds exceeding 70 miles per hour, temperatures in the mid 80’s and humidity below 10 percent.

NASA image courtesy NASA Worldview application operated by the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from Inciweb.

62 thoughts on “While Jerry Brown claims ‘climate change’ is the source of the Thomas fire, NASA demonstrates that it’s weather helping to put it out

    • What exactly is the “source of a fire” where it started? Surely CC cannot be responsible for a location? And, most assuredly CC was not the “cause” of the fire either. Although the climactic conditions did exacerbate the situation, they are existent and common so cannot be the result of any recent change.
      I’m gonna raise the “pferdeshisse” flag on this one.

  1. I keep hearing that hotter temps have a major impact on wildfire spread. With the same dry, windy conditions, I can’t imagine that a 10 or 20 degree change would really make that much difference.

    • We store firewood outside the house, and I have never found much difference whether it’s been zero or minus 30C….

      • Seasoned (dry) firewood ought to have less than 20% moisture. It can get too dry and burn too fast.
        Bringing cold dry wood into the house won’t make a difference, while wet wood can have the moisture frozen. Getting that to burn requires thawing and driving out the moisture. Very inefficient.

    • Humidity, humidity, humidity. We practice control burns of the prairie grass here in Kansas in the spring.

      If you start too early in the morning when the relative humidity is high and there is even a trace of dew on the grass, it is impossible to start a fire that will spread.

      You can light a clump of grass with your torch and watch it burn, meanwhile the adjacent grass clump will start steaming. The latent heat of vaporization to drive out the water on and in the grass is so high, that the flaming clump of grass will burn itself out before it manages to ignite the adjacent clump.

      We are burning last year’s dormant grass, so it is pretty good fuel in the early spring. Wait a few hours and the same field will turn into an inferno that will race to the fire-breaks.

      The local NWS stations even have specific weather pages for the daily burn conditions. They will provide humidity, wind speed, and wind direction updates throughout the day. In my experience, temperature barely matters.

    • Having watched fires all around me, all my life, here in Santa Barbara, I can say from experience there are what we call fire days. It isn’t wind alone, or humidity alone, or temperature alone which make the fires so bad. The three actors come together, and that is what drives the worst of the fires. Santa Anna winds (sundowners), compression heating of the air as it spills over the coastal mountains, and the low humidity which goes along with those conditions, make for high fire danger. The mesquite which grows around here has a high oil content. Once ignited, it wants to burn with a vengeance. We can have fires without “fire day” conditions here, but the common SoCal combination of factors can turn any small fire into a raging inferno. Most fire fighters will likely tell you, all they can do is hang on until the wind drops and the humidity rises. Water won’t burn, so it sucks up energy a fire needs to grow. Even small changes in humidity can have a significant effect on a big fire.

    • I do wild land fire weather forecasting. A condition which greatly enhances fire danger is called “cross-over”. This occurs when the humidity value is equal to or lower than the temperature (in degrees C). For example, a humidity reading of 30% and temperature of 30C is cross-over and considered dangerous fire weather. A humidity of 20% and temperature of 30C would be “deep cross-over” and considered extreme fire weather.

      • Yes it does. But above 35% it may not be quite as drastic. It also applies going cooler. For instance an RH of 15% at 15C is also dangerous fire weather, even though you may think that 15C is too cool. This is where people can get lulled into a false security when RH readings are very low with relatively cool temperatures.

    • Has little to do with temperature of wood. Its the dessicated understory and leaf litter that goes off and spreads. If you are silly enough to have exploding gum trees than that helps a lot also.

    • Everyone in CA should read the section in John McPhee’s “Control of Nature” that explains perfectly why CA with its geology and climate is always going to have killer mudslides and wildfires. You can’t fool Mother Nature but you can be a natural fool like Moonbeam.

  2. I lived for the first 58 years of my life in So. Calif. We always called it the “brush fire capital” of the country. But, of course, it’s no worse than many other places. It just seems that people in So. Calif. are so silly and/or arrogant that they think they can get away with building houses in fire areas, as well as flood plains and mudslide territory, the edge of crumbling sea cliffs, ets. Gov. Moonbeam is merely shit frosting on a dog turd cake.

    So glad I moved to Wyoming. We have fires here too, but they are managed by well educated, rational beings most of the time. And no vast areas of McMansions to burn either.

    • Here in New Hampshire, people sometimes call our White Mountain Natl Forest the “Asbestos Forest” because it’s nearly a rainforest. Our main fire season is April/May when the high sun and lack of leaves on the trees let the ground dry out.

      We did have a “big” fire this October in difficult terrain during a dry spell. It burned about 70 acres and remained smoldering in the ground until we finally got some rain a few weeks later.

    • Living near Ramona Calif. ( the law requires a PERMIT to mow the lawn, trim the hedge, prune the fruit trees, and jail time if you THINK about removing that dead tree leaning over the house.)
      This fire should be encouraged to continue until it gets to moonbeamsville .

  3. The normal ecology of the plants in Southern California, indeed almost all the state, involves fire. The question is when, not if, it will burn. This is not the Olympic peninsula in Washington State, a rainforest.

  4. Go read about a real reason for cause of increased fires , importation and spread of fire loving Eucalyptus trees to californa

      • The story I heard about eucalyptus in California is that the wrong species was imported. The intent was to use the trees for hardwood timber, and what they wanted was Jarrah (E marginata) and what they planted was Yarrah (E rostrata), which has curly grain and is so hard when it dries it is almost uncuttable with steel tools.

      • Highly suspect story there Tom. Here in Oz the name Yarrah doesn’t exist and never has, but there is a Yarri which occurs in Jarrah forests and is a recognised timber species. I had to go searching for “rostrata” which also hasn’t existed for a zillion years. You are referring to E. camaldulensis, known as the River Red Gum. The Jarrah and Red Gum come from opposite sides of the continent and look nothing alike. I can assure you that red gum is entirely cuttable with steel tools, as are all eucalypts. Even the hardest ironbarks are milled for things like railway sleepers (ties). There used to be a sizeable milling industry built on red gum until the forests were locked up by the greenies. It wouldn’t matter which species of eucalypt was imported, they all burn like mad, from the arid species through to the alpine species.

        Like all eucalypts, the species mentioned above shed leaves and bark during the hot season in the way that deciduous trees shed leaves in autumn. We have trees with names like Candlebark, Blackbutt and Stringybark which give you an idea of how they burn. They also drop branches frequently. This creates an incredible ground fuel load right at the time of year when you least want it. In Oz we used to do controlled burns during winter to get rid of the excess fuel, but green-red tape has largely strangled that traditional fire reduction strategy, so now we have megafires each summer and the same greenies who stopped the hazard reduction burns now blame those fires on global warming.

        • The red gum in California is quite difficult to cut with a chainsaw when dry, and has twisted grain. The source for the names was a reprint of a British source from circa 1910.

      • megafires each summer and the same greenies who stopped the hazard reduction burns now blame those fires on global warming

        When you have control of the narrative and a stupid/corrupt press to spread and amplify your message, anything’s possible!

      • “the same greenies who stopped the hazard reduction burns”

        Greenies don’t stop anything. Local authorities do and I think their original intention: putting fires out, was understandable if uninformed.

      • Tony
        I can only speak for New South Wales, but I believe the other states have similar rules.

        In the old pre-greenie days before about 1990 all hazard reduction burns were controlled at a local level by the Bushfire Captains and Deputies who could issue a permit on any day outside a Total Fire Ban period. Local authorities now have virtually NIL control over large hazard reduction burns. Local bushfire captains can issue fire permits for small scale burns like burning a dead cow or burning off a house block or a paddock. They cannot authorise burning off any decent-sized area of bushland unless it is a back-burn to contain an existing wildfire during actual fire-fighting operations.

        All large scale burns have to be pre-approved by the Rural Fire Service head office outside of Sydney. That approval process is fraught with challenges thrown up by green types who infest that office and the State departments it answers to so that an application typically takes up to a year for approval of a hazard reduction burn. At any stage in the process it can be blocked. It has to be approved by resident ecologists, meteorologists etc many of whom are infected with the green contagion.

        A permit is now issued for a specific area on a specific day and if conditions are unsuitable for burning on that day it’s just tough luck. The burn does not take place at all. Bushfire officers must start the application process over from scratch ready for next year. The result is a backlog of hazard reduction burning that grows each year until a catastrophic fire comes along and does the job the greenies wouldn’t allow and totally devastates the wildlife in the process, then then greenies get to complain again.

  5. @terry — Interestingly I can’t find anything in the news about eucalyptus and its relation to the recent fires.
    As I remember Santa Rosa was choked with eucalyptus trees. Theory has it they have specifically evolved
    to promote wildfires: http://wildfiretoday.com/2014/03/03/eucalyptus-and-fire/ .
    They should be systematically removed as an invasive species — even hard core environmentalists
    should not object.

    • ‘They should be systematically removed as an invasive species — even hard core environmentalists
      should not object.”

      I think you overestimate the logical capacity of environmentalists.
      Here in Alberta, Canada, our front range pine forests evolved to burn every few decades. It is very unusual for a forest to age more than a person’s lifetime. But when a forest does reach that age, it becomes a tinderbox with dead fuel lying everywhere setting up conditions for massive and devastating fires. And yet environmentalists in this province screamed bloody murder and launched a legal challenge to cut select parts of it. They even referred to a proposed cut area as “old growth” even though there is no such thing in a fire evolved forest that burns constantly!

      The area in the southern part of the front range was recently preserved as off limits to selective logging and will surely be the site of the next devastating fire. Just this summer, an adjacent area near Waterton National Park burned with near devastating consequences.

      The lesson is, don’t assume any environmentalist or government agency knows anything about the subjects they claim to be so concerned about.

      • The mountain pine beetle has co-evolved with the pine. And when you get a lot of fairly mature pine trees, the forest actually creates the food supply (pine trees) in these mature forests so as to cause the explosion in the pine beetle. It would be like planting your garden all to cabbage and then wondering why you get a cabbage worm. This notion that lack of -40 temps for 3-4 weeks every winter that is supposed to kill all the beetles just doesn’t hold any water, since those cold temps are an anomaly, and the memory of those cold conditions recently are from the colder 1960’s and 1970’s. And of course the LIA had a lot of cold winters that checked the pine beetle, but the pine forests never the less burn anyway when they become mature and the conditions are ripe for fire. Foresters know this, but the CAGW crowd love to trot this story out and try and prove claims about global warming/climate change as being the root cause of the pine beetle.

      • “..don’t assume any environmentalist or government agency knows anything about the subjects they claim to be so concerned about.”
        Even more so the press and those who read and believe the tripe they report

    • Virtually all of these fires that are aided by the Santa Ana winds are burning in the explosively combustible chaparral that covers these hills. The worst fires are in areas where the tinder dry chaparral debris has built up over years without fire. When they burn it’s a genuine inferno.

    • Oakland Hills Fire 1991. Eucalyptus groves and singular back yard trees contributed in down wind spotting. Residents of those hills wanted privacy barriers of living vegetation bounded by wooden fences. All contributed to the ‘Hills’ burn down, but was not the singular cause of the fire storm. Australian Foresters and Fire Suppression personnel have great respect for the forest of eucalyptus that is on fire. A 200 ft plus tall ponderosa tree in native setting – Modoc Plateau can burn vertically spotting down wind 3/4 mile. The Bay Area eucalyptus trees began as a replacement to the over used abused native trees from about 1890 forward, some being given out by state foresters and others at fairs and other events. This continued through the 1930’s including other parts of California.

      • Here in Oz I have personally witnessed spotting 10 miles from the nearest fire front. Not just burning leaves, but entire twigs still burning as they landed, carried by the updraft of the fire. Spotting ahead of the fire front is one of the big headaches for Oz fire fighters. Here the main fire trucks concentrate on the fire front while they have a number of strike units (a 4WD with a tank on the back) which go around putting out spot fires as fast as they can before those fires take hold.

        Something not mentioned by others here is the intensity of the eucalypt fires due to their volatile oils. The oils in the leaves vapourise ahead of the actual flames and create a combustible mix with the air. In the Jan 1994 Sydney fires official aerial observers reported flame heights of 200ft+ above the actual burning vegetation.

  6. I continue to read a number of posters here who have their own unique pet-reason for these CA fires to propagate … too much fuel … too dry (desert environment *snicker*) … too many McMansions … too many people … Global Warming … lack of brush clearing … not enough taxes for firefighters … weather …

    I wonder how many of those excuses would be given by a parent whose child is caught holding a book of matches while their living room is going up in flames? Would Mom calmly tell their little darling not to worry … “because it was mommy’s fault for buying the lacy shear drapes that burn so quickly” … “Mommy should have arranged her furniture into fire breaks” … “Mom should have installed fire resistant hardwood floors” … “mommy should have turned-down the thermostat” … “mommy should have turned-on the humidifier” … “mommy should have taught her little darling that driving their pedal car increases Co2 (from little Timmy’s rapid exhaling) which causes fires” … or … or … or … would mommy smack the matches out of her little pyromaniac’s hands, run out of the house, and put her mentally-diseased little darling on a long time out ?

    We have all become weak minded enablers … making excuses for the Fire bugs in our midst. Blaming ourselves for the pyromaniacs who just happen to start fires when the Santa Ana’s start blowing. Or … did the offshores START the fires? Time to crack some heads. See something, say something.

    • Huh? You seem to have the conclusion that California flora will not burn except for human intervention, careless or malevolent. That ecology is fire-adapted to a great extent, and humans have been there as long as the flora, that is, since the end of the last ice age. An issue is improper management of the wildlands, influenced by people who do not appreciate the use of fire is such terrain.

      • Show us the kid with a burning book of matches.

        Last I read on the topic is that the cause of the recent fire is still unknown.
        There was even an article about Moonbeam’s failure to bury electrical transmission wires, since high winds cause trees to fall and drag down wires causing a fire.

    • Theoretically, if you cause a wildfire (deliberately or through negligence or anything else), the government can charge you for the cost of fighting the fire.There is a Boy Scout council that had to pay a massive fine because a campfire was improperly extinguished, causing a lovely blaze.

      However, most wildfires are started by lightening strikes. Normal and naturally occurring. The main reasons wildfires have become so extreme is increased population (more people/structures exposed to fire) and initially well-intentioned fire suppression policies. Unfortunately, even though it seems widely acknowledged that there is a massive problem with undergrowth-choked forests, there are plenty of litigious idiots who think that clearing the forests to a more natural state (using the literal sense of the word!) is evil, therefore they must stop the government from doing something that is actually needed.

      This is why we can’t have nice things.

    • “Time to crack some heads. See something, say something.”

      Just a tad more complex than that.
      Fire have existed since before crackable human heads evolved.

  7. It boggles the mind how the Jerry Browns of this world, who have lived privileged lives and been exposed to the finest educational opportunities, can be so stupid. Or their commitment to the “ends justify the means” philosophy of the New Left always trumps rationality. In either case, a screw is loose somewhere.

    • “It boggles the mind how the Jerry Browns of this world, who have lived privileged lives and been exposed to the finest educational opportunities, […]”

      You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, and sometimes he will just lay down in it and have a bath. The University he went to has been taken over by the fragile crowds decades and decades ago. MB is not the sharpest tool in the shed, he never was.

      All those hippies in one spot during the 60’s, 70’s and eighties, I knew there was going to be problem later on…godamit
      I wonder when that big earthquake, is going to break Caly off and have it slip quietly into the sea.
      Of course they have all turned cannibal maybe they will eat each other.

  8. This proves that California could run on an AI bot engine instead of a human Governor. They just need to install a small collection of meaningless prerecorded messages on climate change. Of course it would need to be controlled by the party headquarters. No science needed.

  9. No problem.Climate Change can explain everything, so it is climate change that put it out and climate change that made it big. And you know that climate change is caused by GW.
    I wonder how many cigarettes the smoke equalled?

  10. Nature article Dec 19, “Extreme weather explicitly blamed on humans for the first time”
    Quote, “Now, unseasonably hot and dry conditions are driving wildfires in California.”

    A man I worked with about 45 years ago lives in California. He sent a few photos showing their lovely view of scrub/brush desert-like hillsides. They will scream “climate change” when their house and thousands around it burn in a few years. (Well, I hope not…)

    California’s biggest problem is that millions if its total population of 40 million live in similar scrub/ bush mountainous deserts.

    Meanwhile here in Alberta a Prof Flanagan reported the other day that forest fires have increased in Alberta because of climate change in the past 75 years. Apparently a modest increase in wildfires is the result of the temperature increasing > poplar >> pine >> spruce >> fir succession species grew here since the last glaciation BECAUSE of fires that were part of the species-selection process. And to our peril we stop that process mainly because of where and how people want to live. Just like California, the problem is people and not climate change as we (here) all know.

    But we will waste billions and billions pretending to change climate and wonder why the forests are still burning.

  11. Sorry mods. In my previous post, I pasted a bunch of bullet points from a Word doc and they were stripped upon posting even though they appeared in the ‘Draft” window. (?) Here they are…

    Meanwhile here in Alberta a Prof Flanagan reported the other day about how fires have increased in Alberta because of climate change in the past 75 years. Apparently a modest increase in wildfires is the result of the temperature increasing > poplar >> pine >> spruce >> fir succession species grew here since the last glaciation BECAUSE of fires that were part of the species selection process. And to our peril was stop that process mainly because of where and how people want to live.

    But we will waste billions and billions pretending to change climate and wonder why the forests are still burning. Like California the problem is people and how and where they choose to live versus climate..as you all know.

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