Mother Nature, Not Global Warming, is Causing the Wildfires in California

Reposted from the Chris Martz Weather Blog

Well, it’s that time of the year again, wildfire season, and like clockwork, people are losing their marbles about the wildfires in California. Articles, like the one from Politico below (Figure 1)¹, have been popping up left and right claiming that climate change is causing the wildfires.

Figure 1. Brown: California fires show ‘the horror’ world will face from climate change. – Politico

Figure 1. Brown: California fires show ‘the horror’ world will face from climate change. – Politico

Endless amounts of disinformation is being spread around on Twitter and Facebook from well-known media outlets, public figures, government officials, and even a handful of well-known scientists.

There’s no doubt that the dozen or more wildfires that have broken out in the state, including the Getty and Kincade fires, are serious. Firefighters are doing their best to try and contain these fires before any more serious damage occurs. But, playing the blame game on climate change does nothing for public safety whatsoever.

What’s really to blame for these fires?

The Kincade Fire in particular was caused by a broken jumper wire of the Pacific Gas & Electric company (PG&E), though “mother nature,” as you will find out below, has enhanced the fire and others that have since broken out across the state.

October through March is the prime time of the year for wildfires to break out in the Western United States (Raphael, 2003).² This is largely because atmospheric and surface conditions tend to be very favorable in the region for fire weather; that is a.) dry soil and vegetation, b.) low relative humidity, c.) warm temperatures, and d.) strong winds.³

In California, very strong north, northeast winds known as the Santa Ana Winds, are perhaps the most notorious wildfire hazards in the United States (Abatzoglou et al., 2013)⁴. These winds are very strong offshore foehn winds that develop in the Great Basin of California⁴ (Abatzoglou et al., 2013), typically during the cool season; autumn through spring (Figure 2) (Raphael, 2003; Abatzoglou et al., 2013).² ⁴ Thus, right off the bat, it should be no surprise to anyone that there are wildfires ablaze in California as I write this; that’s almost like getting surprised when a hurricane hits Florida.

Figure 2. Monthly climatology of Santa Ana Wind events (Abatzoglou et al., 2013).

Figure 2. Monthly climatology of Santa Ana Wind events (Abatzoglou et al., 2013).

These winds are formed when a large area of high pressure develops at the surface in the Great Basin or western Rockies (Abatzoglou et al., 2013).⁴

After the monsoon season ends, stronger radiational cooling overnight continuously allows colder air to develop at the surface, and because colder air is denser, it sinks and increases the air pressure at the surface, while decreasing the pressure aloft causing a trough to form in the jet stream flow (Abatzoglou et al., 2013).⁴ The stronger the radiative cooling is, the stronger the surface high [pressure] will be, and the stronger the high is, the tighter the pressure gradient will be between the high and surrounding areas of lower pressure. The tighter the pressure gradient is at any given location, the stronger the winds will be as they attempt to equalize the pressure differences.

Winds around high pressure systems flow anticyclonically (clockwise) in the Northern Hemisphere, thus when high pressure is situated over the Rockies or Great Basin, the winds blow from the north or northeast towards the Pacific Ocean. If there’s a low pressure area over the Four Corners region, the cyclonic (counterclockwise) flow will aid in reinforcing the north, northeast winds towards the Pacific. As yesterday’s 00z run of the GFS model shows, this is exactly the case currently causing the Santa Ana Winds (Figure 3)

Figure 3. 12z run of the GFS; MSLP Anomaly (hPa) for 00z October 30, 2019. – WeatherBELL.

Figure 3. 12z run of the GFS; MSLP Anomaly (hPa) for 00z October 30, 2019. – WeatherBELL.

As per the usual setup, a cold air mass migrated southeast out of Western Canada over the weekend and has since settled into the Rocky Mountains. Temperatures this week in the Rockies are some record 30 to 40°F BELOW AVERAGE (Figure 4), and because, once again, cold air is denser than warm air, the cold air has sunk to the surface therefore increasing the atmospheric pressure at the surface and has decreased it aloft (denoted by an upper level trough). Because cold air is sinking, convective cloud development has been shut off leading to clear skies thereby enhancing overnight radiational cooling, which consequently increases the air pressure at the surface, tightening the pressure gradient, leading to stronger north, northeast winds.

Figure 4. Tuesday October 29, 2019’s 12z GFS 2m Temperature Anomaly map for the CONUS. – WeatherBELL.

Figure 4. Tuesday October 29, 2019’s 12z GFS 2m Temperature Anomaly map for the CONUS. – WeatherBELL.

As the winds flow from the Great Basin and desert regions over the mountains of California, they then begin to downslope down the mountains towards the coastline.⁵ Downsloping winds decrease the relative humidity of the air and warm the air temperature through adiabatic pressure increases, thereby creating a warm and very dry wind.⁵ Occasionally, these winds can reach hurricane-force strength (at least 74 miles per hour).⁵

With the addition of the fact that we are on the tail end of the dry season in California, the Santa Ana Winds can further dry out vegetation making them more vulnerable to catch fire.⁵ These winds may also spread existing fires, which is what we are currently seeing.⁵

The fact that we are seeing fires exactly right now is not surprising considering I was forecasting them days before most of the fires broke out and escalated.

Has Climate Change Played A Role?

While there is a clear and concise explanation for how the fires started and a solid meteorological explanation for the worsening of the ongoing wildfires, as I stated above, one can certainly ask the question, “has climate change, man-made or natural, played a role?”

While the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA4, Chapter 6) shows that the area burned (by million acres) has increased since 1985⁶ (Figure 5), one must look at the entire record (1926-present) and natural climate variability to see why we’ve observed an increase in forest fires over the last four decades.

Figure 5. Total U.S. Area Burned and Federal Suppression Spending on wildfires. – NCA4, Chapter 6.

Figure 5. Total U.S. Area Burned and Federal Suppression Spending on wildfires. – NCA4, Chapter 6.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has a large table listing the annual wildfire statistics for the United States; both the number of fires, and the acreage burned by such fires.⁷ Using the data provided from them, I made two graphs, both of which are shown below.

The first graph (Figure 6) shows the acreage burned by wildfires in the United States from 1926 to the present.⁷ As you can see, prior to the early 1980s, wildfires were far more common in the United States.

Figure 6. United States Total Wildland Fires. – NIFC.

Figure 6. United States Total Wildland Fires. – NIFC.

With regards to the amount of acreage that has been burned by wildfires, that too has declined substantially since 1926 (Figure 7).⁷

Figure 7. United States Total Acreage Burned by Wildfires. – NIFC.

Figure 7. United States Total Acreage Burned by Wildfires. – NIFC.

While the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) warns that data prior to 1983 may be too high or too low⁷, it can be safely assumed (based on peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed studies) that the historical record is sufficient.

Studies like Littell et al. (2009) concluded that wildfire burn acreage was just as high, if not higher during the period 1916 through the Dust Bowl Era in eleven western U.S. states.⁸ During the 1950s through the 1970s, wildfire burn acreage was lower, and since 1985, has been elevated.⁸ The study also concluded that while forest management and fire suppression practices have been implemented nearly half of the variations in wildfire activity is directly linked to natural variations in the climate.⁸ (See Figure 8)

Figure 8. Observed and reconstructed area-burned comparison. Time series of observed total wildfire area burned (WFAB) for 11 western U.S. states (bars, adjusted for area reporting bias) and reconstructed total WFAB for 16 ecoprovinces (line) for the period 1916–2004. – Litell et al. (2009).

Figure 8. Observed and reconstructed area-burned comparison. Time series of observed total wildfire area burned (WFAB) for 11 western U.S. states (bars, adjusted for area reporting bias) and reconstructed total WFAB for 16 ecoprovinces (line) for the period 1916–2004. – Litell et al. (2009).

While annual variations in wildfire frequency and intensity are primarily driven by changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the frequency of Santa Ana Wind events, studies, including Kitzberger et al. (2007) showed that the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) drives multidecadal changes in wildfire activity.⁹

The study showed that periods when the AMO is positive (warm), droughts tend to occur from northern Mexico to the Rocky Mountains in the U.S., the Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest, whereas California observes above average moisture.⁹ The negative (cool) phase of the AMO tends to result in less fire activity in California.⁹

Moreover, Kitzberger et al. (2007) found that when the AMO and PDO are both in their positive phases, the northwestern U.S. is drier leading to increased wildfire activity and potential.⁹ During coincident negative phases of these two oscillations, the southwestern United States tended to by dry and hot/warm.⁹

As far as Santa Ana Wind events go (because they enhance and spread fires as already stated), Abatzogoul et al. (2013) found no such increase in the frequency of both extreme and total wind event days from 1948 to 2010 (Figure 9b).⁴

Figure 9b. Number of Santa Ana Wind days by year from 1948-2010. – Abatzogoul et al. (2013).

Figure 9b. Number of Santa Ana Wind days by year from 1948-2010. – Abatzogoul et al. (2013).

As far as the scientific community’s confidence in attributing individual wildfires to climate change, confidence remains low and results have been inconclusive, as the National Academy of Sciences shows in the chart below.¹⁰

Graph showing the relative confidence in linking various extreme events to climate change.

Figure 10. Relative confidence in attribution of different extreme events. – NAS.

To blame the fires in California on climate change is pure superstition, utter nonsense, and has no basis on reality. Mother nature, not global warming, causes wildfires .

REFERENCES

[1] “Brown: California fires show ‘the horror’ world will face from climate change.” Politico. October 28, 2019. Accessed October 28, 2019. https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2019/10/28/brown-california-fires-show-the-horror-world-will-face-from-climate-change-1226036.

[2] Raphael, M. N., et al. “The Santa Ana Winds of California.” March 17, 2003. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/1087-3562%282003%29007%3C0001%3ATSAWOC%3E2.0.CO%3B2.

[3] Haby, Jeff. “FIRE WEATHER.” Weather Prediction Education. Accessed October 29, 2019. http://www.theweatherprediction.com/habyhints2/549/.

[4] Abatzogoul, John T., et al. “Diagnosing Santa Ana Winds in Southern California with Synoptic-Scale Analysis.” March 6, 2013. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/WAF-D-13-00002.1.

[5] Erdman, Jonathan. “The Science Behind Santa Ana Winds.” The Weather Channel. October 16, 2018. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://weather.com/science/weather-explainers/news/2018-10-15-santa-ana-winds.

[6] “Forests” Fourth National Climate Assessment Vol I + II. 2018. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/downloads/NCA4_Ch06_Forests_Full.pdf.

[7] “Total Wildland Fires and Acres (1926-2018).” National Interagency Fire Center. 2018. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_totalFires.html.

[8] Litell, Jeremy S., et al. “Climate and wildfire area burned in western U.S. ecoprovinces, 1916–2003.” 2009. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4af3/67682e73d0f2a2d45592baa571bf5332bfe3.pdf

[9] Kitzberger, Thomas, et al. “Contingent Pacific–Atlantic Ocean influence on multi century wildfire synchrony over western North America.” 2007. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6604237_Contigent_Pacific-Atlantic_Ocean_influence_on_multicentury_wildfire_synchrony_over_western_North_America.

[10] “Climate Change and Extreme Weather.” Penn State University. 2016. Accessed October 29, 2019. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l10_p9.html.

Advertisements

73 thoughts on “Mother Nature, Not Global Warming, is Causing the Wildfires in California

    • Santa Ana winds come from the direction of the Santa Ana canyon and Santa Ana mountains and are named thusly. Diablo winds come from the direction of Mount Diablo and are named thusly. Both are types of Foehn winds with local names…they are also called Chinook winds in Canada and the Rockies.

    • Focusing on how fires start is pretty much a red herring. There will always be something.

      The real issue is how intense they are, and the failure of increased fire suppression funding and technology suggests that it is our management that is at fault.

      Of course, managers angling for bigger budgets are always going to blame something other than their own decisions.

      • Overgrowth of Forrest base level shrubs and trees through suppression has contributed to larger fires. Most fires are people caused. There are more people. There are more power lines. There are more homeless encampments. There is more arson. Couple all that with dry hot wind events at the driest time of year, you have increased fires.

          • If you thing rocket science is hard, you should look at rocket engineering.
            Any rocket scientist can calculate an orbital trajectory (for that matter so can anyone with college level calculus).
            Now, how do you turn that equation into a safe reliable machine that will accomplish that task.
            Rocket science is easy.
            Rocket engineering is a bitch!

        • Your comments are correct. Excessive forest scrub and ladder fuels in California forests is the primary reason for larger & more destructive fires. Many forests in Northern California that could be easily walked through thirty to forty years ago are impassable now due to overgrown brush and saplings. A healthy acre of mature forest should have about 50 healthy large trees, with minimal old undergrowth. Most forests in this state have closer to 200-300 trees per acre with many of the standing trees dead, dying or unhealthy due to competition/lack of sunlight, etc. And as for the cause of fires, you are spot on. More people, more infrastructure, more opportunities for fire creation. Thanks for bringing up both points.

  1. California is very unfortunate in many ways.
    For example, it is the only place on earth which has forests consisting of trees which can catch fire.

      • Not to mention that the Peshtigo fire is estimated to have killed between 1500 and 2500 people. The number is very uncertain since entire towns and their records were destroyed. There where several other large fires that day in Wisconsin and Michigan. Common denominator – dry weather and very strong winds.

        The CA fire problem developed over decades due to enviro driven restrictions and could be mitigated over time by allowing those evil capitalist lumber barons to harvest some trees on the condition that they clean out the accumulated excess fuel.

      • More incendiary than creosote bush, sagebrush, tumbleweeds, juniper and mesquite as just a few of many?

        The West is filled with incendiary plants.
        Coupled with decades of forest litter makes for destructive fires.

  2. California was cooler and wetter than normal last year ending the drought. They are claiming cooler and wetter weather is proof of global warming induced fires!

  3. Mother nature may be creating the problems, but the power outages are a result of poor governance. At least the Titanic had lights when it went down.

  4. There is no evidence for human-caused climate change, so it is ridiculous to claim human-caused climate change is causing the fires in California.

    Something that doesn’t exist, or at the least, can’t be demonstrated to exist, like human-caused climate change, can’t be blamed for causing wildfires.

  5. Many of California’s largest fires have happened in September, October, and November going back 140 years. Possibly the biggest was the Santiago Canyon Fire in the last week of September 1889. Yes, that’s correct. 1889.

    There’s so many more people in California today than ever 40 years ago which means more potential for human-caused fires whether intentionally or accidentally started. Of course there are significantly more people living in fire-prone areas too, making these fires much more destructive.

    Southern California chaparral is made to burn. It burns hot and the ecosystem recovers fairly quickly.

  6. brilliant
    thanks
    this thing needs to be said over and over

    pat brown new that and he did manage forests well
    but something went wrong in the gene transfer to is son jerry
    who discovered that if you can sell yourself as a climate warrior and if you can sell the idea that saving the planet is more important than stupid state governance, you can just goof off and be a hero at the same time.

  7. “While the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) warns that data prior to 1983 may be too high or too low⁷, it can be safely assumed (based on peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed studies) that the historical record is sufficient.”

    NIFC is the source. And that isn’t their warning. And they certainly don’t say that anything can be safely assumed. They warn:

    “Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures prior to 1983 should not be compared to later data.”

    • Nick,
      Prior to 1983 people were so reliable in their studies and accuracy, they were able to,
      1. Put men on the moon multiple times.
      2. Design and develop the worlds most sophisticated, fastest and most technologically advanced aircraft i.e. Concord.
      3. Provide such accuracy of data and experimentation they were able to develop nuclear weapons and nuclear energy reliably.
      4. Launch Voyagers into space, they are still functioning today and able to confirm their position as they leave the extreme outer reaches of the solar system. The list of achievements prior to the 1980s is almost endless, incredibly impressive and real.
      Scientists/People prior to 1983, were more than capable of detailed analysis and did keep very reliable records. your comment would suggest something different.
      Perhaps you and the NIFC, were alerting the reader to the fact, the accurate un-adjusted real historic records, prior to the more modern post 1980s practices, should not be compared with the falseness of our modern manipulated data. In which case I agree with the sentiment.

      • Rod,
        “Perhaps you and the NIFC, were alerting the reader to the fact”
        NIFC is the source here. They are saying that their data should not be used for that comparison. Who are you gonna believe?

        • I believe the un-adjusted data providers Nick, I believe in facts, I believe in reliable data records.
          Unfortunately, as we all know, not all records are reliable indicators of fact. Therein lies the challenge. Sifting the truth from the lies is the issue that drives scientific study. With that in mind, it is staggering to think parts of the scientific community need to invent a readily debunked theory about CO2, then fight endlessly to maintain their useless hypothesis.
          I suspect all scientists worthy of the title scientist, are aware that CO2 driving climate is ridiculous, But it’s too late now, because the ever searching political class, ever searching for a convenient unifying scare story to deploy, have latched onto what can only be considered the most flimsy useless theory ever put forward.
          Too many reputations, too many research grants too many embarrassing retractions would be needed to reestablish scientific sanity by the scientific community, they are too far along the road to turn back. They have become slaves to the political class, thanks to their own lack of scientific integrity.
          Not sure where you sit in this divided community Nick?

          • Rod,
            Nick stokes the ‘scary’ climate change narrative. Thanks for so eloquently throwing a wet blanket over his petty intellectual arson attempt.

          • “I believe the un-adjusted data providers Nick”
            A great sceptical attitude! You don’t know who they are, or what they did – you only know that the people who gathered the data say it shouldn’t be compared. But you believe them, whatever it was they said. Because you like the sound of it, I guess.

        • Rocketscientist.
          The SR71 was and remains an impressive feat of aeronautical engineering. I would not wish to deny its position in the pecking order of impressive planes. I would simply say, those who know the technical challenge of designing a safe reliable serviceable at ordinary airports plane, capable of flying ordinary untrained people at twice the speed of sound without pressure suits, at acceptable cabin pressure while also serving them refreshment and providing actual toilets, rather than hygiene pads in flight suits, those aerospace engineers know how impressive that was.
          Having said that, it doesn’t really matter whether we chose the SR71, Concord, the Harrier Jump jet or any other achievement from pre 1980. The point was, our predecessors were every bit as clever, as bright, as detailed as careful and as diligent as we are today, probably more so.
          The examples I chose, hopefully show the previous generation were every bit as good as the best we have today.

    • While the quantification details prior to 1983 may not be clear, what is clear is there were periods in the 1920’s and 30’s when there was much higher area burned than subsequent decades when strong fire suppression was used and vigorous logging was allowed/permitted. Curtailing logging then while maintaining vigorous suppression practices has predictably led to the increasing wildfires in recent decades. Simply ignoring that because it doesn’t fit a narrative is dishonest.

      • “what is clear is there were periods in the 1920’s and 30’s when there was much higher area burned than subsequent decades”
        No, it isn’t clear. The NIFC specifically says that that comparison should not be made. I think they are embarrassed about the numbers. It has, for about a decade, around 50 million acres per year burnt. That is the area of all of New England. Or Nebraska. Each year. There just isn’t that much forest to burn.

    • Nick,
      The NIFC qualifier — “Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures prior to 1983 should not be compared to later data.” — strikes me as an attempt to deminimize the fact that recent experience in fire numbers and acreage burn are in no way “unprecedented”. The lack of a centralized data set might account for some duplication of reporting, but the first fifteen years (1926-1940 inclusive) of fire acreage summarized by NIFC is more that 6 times the last 15 years (2004-2018 inclusive). It is disingenuous to suggest that the ability to measure, report and summarize acres prior to 1983 was so incompetent as to account for a six to seven-fold greater acreage burned in the dust bowl era of the 1930’s.

  8. There are two fires raging in California. The one being the physical fires dealt with extremely well here by Chris Martz and the other being the political fire generated originally by that political animal the UNFCC ( United Nations Framwork Convension on Climate Change). This latter fire has been slow burning across the globe beneath our feet for many years and is popping up more frequently now, with this very apparent in the California situation being fanned by the current political winds of eco fascism.
    The Media loves it as it warms its toes on the rich pickings of scary stories .

  9. “The study also concluded that while forest management and fire suppression practices have been implemented nearly half of the variations in wildfire activity is directly linked to natural variations in the climate.”

    They did not link to “natural variations”. That is a Chris Martz embellishment. And they said (in 2009):

    “Climate change can potentially lead to larger and more frequent fires and to cascading effects on vegetation and carbon balance (e.g., Kasischke et al. 1995) and other ecosystem services, but the climatic mechanisms and the implications of climate change vary with ecosystem vegetation.”

    • Nick,
      I can “potentially” become Prime Minister. it is possible… but very unlikely.
      Simple question for you Nick. Do you accept, wild fires in the USA are less damaging i.e consume less area and kill less people today, than they did in the early twentieth century, when CO2 was at ~ 310 PPM?

  10. A major factor not mentioned is fuel load. In the U.S. we stopped harvesting in about 1980 on federal lands and essentially shut down our forest products industry. However, the trees and other vegetation kept on growing. Today we have 60% more merchantable timber than we had in 1953, per USFS inventory figures. This is a massive increase in fuel load.

    If you look at the newscasts of the fire zones you will typically see large concentrations of trees or chaparral. Therein lies a large portion of the problem.

  11. Drhealy,
    Astute comment. The other thing that was lost was roads the timber companies built and maintained. People don’t seem to realize how important roads into the forest. Firefighters can’t get to the fires without roads.

  12. Have a look at http://joannenova.com.au/ for a comparison between California and SW Western Australia which has a very similar climate, and each state’s forest fuel reduction policies. The link between poor forest management and the intensity of wildfires is marked.

    The Australian forests/bush need periodic fire for plant germination and new growth, but if the fuel load gets out of hand, the result can be an inferno that kills all the trees and sterilises the soil to the depth of a metre or more. We have to be stewards to our forests and look after them.

  13. Some understory species regenerate after fire from seed in the soil. The key to reduction is multiple burns that stimulate germination AND THEN kill off the seedlings before they are mature enough to produce more seed.

    This leads to an open, grassy understory which will, obviously, still carry fire. However the reduced intensity and lack of “ladder fuels” – fuels which carry fire from the ground to the tree canopy – mean that fires are less lethal, spread more slowly and are far less likely to jump fire breaks.

  14. I would forward this to the BBC with a personal copy to Boaty McBoatface, sorry, I mean Sir David Attenborough, so sorry, an easy mistake to make. Unfortunately sending anything involving real study and science to the BBC these days, is a waste of effort. They simply refuse to accept anything that does not confirm, the latest negative world events are due to man made climate change. The BBC’s ability to attach climate warming/change labels, to everything negative, reached peak fictional lunacy, when Attenborough’s attributed walruses falling off cliffs, as evidence of man made climate change!
    At every news bulletin and during every otherwise well produced natural history program the same, “CO2 is bad” meme is pushed into the minds of the innocent listeners. What chance do the upcoming generations have when they are fed such utter nonsense by the national broadcaster? People are committing suicide fearing the world is about to experience a fiery end, simply because of this endless, constant and false propaganda, scare story.
    It has to stop.

      • Dear god, John. Can it get any crazier? Bear in mind, a large proportion of inhaler users are children. Their teachers are thumping the message into them, day after day “greenhouse gasses are bad and must be reduced/eliminated”. Followed by, “We only have 12 years left it is that bad we must save the planet”. Then the kids are told, your inhaler is a prime driver of climate change, because it is a greenhouse gas propelled medicine. Can you imagine the abuse from the twitter and Facebook tyrants the asthmatic children will get, from thoughtless peers in their schools, given that gem of negativity they can adopt and deploy?
        Are the BBC completely insane?

    • When the BBC covered the fires a few days ago, they reported that they were being made more intense by “historic winds”. It’s clear what they were trying to imply, but had they said historically normal winds it wouldn’t be scaremongering, therefore not in line with BBC policy. Even I, a Brit, have heard of the santa ana winds.

  15. The increase in wind power infrastructure, which heavily loads the power infrastructure during times of high wind, increasing the risk of malfunction and fire, may also be a contributing factor. These phobia-inspired constructs may be argued to exist primarily due to a fear of climate change, ergo the fires have been caused by climate change.

  16. Maybe if everyone in California holds their breath, thereby depriving the fire-starter climate of its fuel. Make it a law.

  17. Doesn’t seem to address climate bedwetter allegations of drought and heat. Say, didn’t they get a lot of moisture in the past year with reservoirs replenished? Any temperature extremes in Northern Cali 2019?

    • Yes, lots of rain in the spring. If you look at the Oroville data the rain stopped the beginning of June, great conditions for lots of brush to grow and with no significant rain since it dries out leaving vast amounts of potential fuel for fires.

  18. stronger radiational cooling overnight continuously allows colder air to develop at the surface, and because colder air is denser, it sinks and increases the air pressure at the surface……

    Well, if the eco-loons possessed any logic, that statement would throw them for a loop — colder air is ultimately responsible for the worst fires. But don’t worry, they don’t.

  19. Mother Nature is the only oracle of truth. She has but one commandment: my way. Period. No highway, no alternatives.
    As with all oracles Her answers are always true but sometimes misleading. There is a Method which may be used to weed out the misleading answers. Our smartest ask Her questions in just the right way and can rule out humanity’s previous acceptance of misleading truths.
    Mother Nature. Like a goddess, but She doesn’t give a damn. Nor blessing. Not a goddess to worship, but only the singular Oracle of Truth.
    Got a theory, Bud? Ask the Oracle in just the right way and She may justify your theory. No other way to truth exists.

  20. 85 to 95% of wildfires are caused by human activity.
    Limbs across power lines, sparks from downed power lines, campfires, stray bullets, arson, construction, … cigarettes….. NOT Global Warming, not climate change, but humans.

    Climate and weather certainly affect fire behavior, but the fires are overwhelmingly started by humans, not Mother Nature.

  21. Dry air crosses the barrier of mountain peaks and falls on the other side towards the valleys. Falling, it heats up, but this time dry-adiabatic, i.e. about 1 ° per 100 m. Hence, fenhe winds are dry and much warmer than air at the same height on the opposite side of the mountains. The higher the mountain barrier is, the greater this difference can be.

  22. Nice meteorological assessment, essentially that winds are not caused by man. This is true. Many things are not caused by humans, including heavy snow, smallpox virus, toenail fungus, Norway rats, and photosynthesis.

    In the case of the latter, an entirely natural process fixes CO2 into cellulose and other plant compounds. The biomass generated by photosynthesis, if left to aggregate, becomes fuel for massive wildfires. It’s the fuel that burns, not the wind.

    Truthfully, all those natural processes are not the fault of man. We can, however, do some mitigation, such as invent (or discover) and apply wind-firm power poles, snowplows, vaccines, fungicides, rattraps, chainsaws, mulchers, burn piles, and fire-breaks. We are not helpless victims of nature.

    I realize that the point of the article was to dispel the notion that global warming caused the fires. The headline/title “Mother Nature, Not Global Warming, is Causing the Wildfires in California” is correct in a certain sense. But one could also state that “It’s the Fuels, Stupid” and not be technically wrong. The bottom line is that we can mitigate the problem if we have the will to do so.

    • Mike,
      Can you pass your sensible approach on the the authorities in California who are preventing those human interventions you advocate we need to take to mitigate natures negative balancing activities.

  23. Dear Mr. Evans,

    Which “authorities”? The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) are absolutely aware of the causes and cures. They try, issue white papers and reports, but no substantive actions are taken.

    The State Legislature is a wreck of idiots and has been for decades. The Governor is useless.
    Many of the hazardous landscapes are County land, but the County Supervisors are as bad as the rest of the elected elite. The voters put those morons in.

    The universities are no help. Tragically.

    You would think that after 40+ years of disastrous fires the residents might catch a clue, but they haven’t. There are literally hundreds of communities in California that are surrounded by or at least adjacent to unmanaged lands with a 100+ years of fuel build up.

    Take Monterey for instance. In the 1800’s the ridges above town were cattle pastures. Dairies made Jack cheese. Today Jack’s Peak is impenetrably overgrown with pine, live oak, poison oak, wild lilac, and dozens of other plant species. You can’t find a blade of grass. The fine fuels tower 75 feet above the ground. It’s a catastrophic disaster waiting to happen. Ditto a hundred other towns and cities.

    Two years ago Sonoma County had the worst fire in their history. Then, in the aftermath, nothing was done about the unburned hillsides covered with scrub oak, and now they are having an even bigger fire. The adage “live and learn” doesn’t apply, because they learned nothing.

    I’ve been harping about this situation for 25 years. I’ve given speeches, met with County Supes, wrote screeds, and generally made an ass of myself, but nobody seems to care, not enough to do anything. I’m at wits end. I’m not rich or powerful. I can’t make anybody listen or act.

    Even so, every time another town burns down, I feel guilty. I didn’t do enough. It’s my fault for being an ineffective voice. And it breaks my heart. So I troll the one or two sites where maybe someone will listen. For whatever that’s worth. Thanks for paying attention. Maybe you can shake some sense into California. I can’t.

  24. MULTI-MILLENNIAL FIRE HISTORY OF THE GIANT FOREST,
    SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA, USA
    Thomas W. Swetnam

    Summary here: https://www.nps.gov/seki/learn/nature/sequoia-fire-history.htm

    This is an under-appreciated study showing the frequency of fires in the Sequoia National Forest of California. Any discussion of “normal” or “natural” fire conditions in California should include references to the long-term record. Otherwise it’s just not productive. Fire causes and frequency are discussed.

    During the warm and dry period, from circa 800 C.E. to 1300 C.E., surface fires burned in relatively small areas of the Giant Forest (e.g., the Circle Meadow area) at intervals of 2 yr to 4 yr. Widespread fires at this scale (i.e., about 70 ha) and time period typically burned at intervals of a decade or less. Widespread fires that encompassed most of the grove in a single year probably occurred three to five or more times per century.

    To see the full report by Swetnam, click on the link in the summary.

  25. As I understand it, one important reason for the fires is that CA environmental regulations will not allow burning or other removal of accumulated underbrush. This amplifies the chances for a large fire

  26. I don’t wish to dominate the thread. This will be my last comment for awhile. But I cannot let the Swetnam paper pass undisputed.

    Swetnam et. al. blame (cite as the cause) the climate for the fire frequency and fire size in prehistoric Sequoia NF. They make absolutely no mention of the fact that human beings have resided there for more than 10,000 years.

    Every fire scar they sampled was from an anthropogenic fire, a deliberate burn set by the aboriginal residents. Climate had nothing to do with it.

    Swetnam et. al. practice “normal science”; that is, a type of science founded by Victorians in the 17th Century. Victorian science denies human agency in nature. The Victorians, after all, were white supremacy racists. They invented the concepts of “race”, social Darwinism, and eugenics.

    The fact is every aboriginal culture in the world practiced landscape burning (even the Inuits). California was not an untouched wilderness when the white men arrived. Human occupancy dates back at least 15,500 years. All those humans burned their landscapes.

    That fact is not allowed to be mentioned in modern ecology, because it violates the core principles, the foundations, which are profoundly racist.

    Humans have managed the vegetation in California since time immemorial. Modern residents don’t understand that. They think managing the vegetation is a sin against Mother Nature. Bad science leads to bad policies which lead to death and destruction.

    • This is a seriously misleading reaction, filled with loaded language which misses the point of the post.

      The opening post by Chris Martz is about the recent spate of fires in California, their increasing frequency, and the irrational attributions of those fires to the vagueries of anthropogenic global warming. This article (and you can knock yourself out with pejoratives about the author and his co-writers – all core players on the hockey team) documents exactly the kind of scientific conclusions that Californians (and history-challenged individuals) should heed: the fires in California are nothing new; the Medieval Warm period had the most fire frequency; there is a mean historical frequency of fires every few years; frequency is enhanced by evidence of drought; intensity of scarring is greater after wet years of undergrowth accumulation; biomass build-ups needs to be managed by human-set fires.

      The Sweatnam study is a very useful statistical tool which negates the erroneous claim by Gov. Newsome that (all) blame falls squarely on PG&E. There have always been fires. Sweatnam concludes

      … at best, the regional climate indices we have available (including lagging relations and multivariate predictors) would probably explain between 30 % and 50 % of the total variance in the fire frequency time series … Therefore, it is quite likely that local scale drivers of fire frequency were also important, such as human-set fires and other ecological processes driving vegetation and fuel variations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *