Understanding Wildfires, Willie Soon, Ph.D.

From DDP 38th Annual Meeting, August 15, 2020, Las Vegas, NV

33 thoughts on “Understanding Wildfires, Willie Soon, Ph.D.

  1. What Dr. Willie doesn’t mention is that many fires are caused by Pyroterrorism. Look that up on Google. The U.S. Forest Service had a conference on Pyroterrorism. Plans exist on the internet on how to make remote-controlled incendiary devices. Global warming may explain the severity of fires but does not explain the increasing frequency. Whenever we have a Santa Ana in SoCal we have fires. Not the week before. When the conditions are ripe, the arsonists get busy. The Press will not mention Pyroterrorism It is not politically correct and will scare the populace. The Press should warn the public to look for suspicious activity around fire-prone areas. But even that is not PC.

  2. In Australia the majority of inhabited area bushfires are traced to the activities of pyromaniacs and firebugs, many of whom turn out to be members of Rural and Urban Fire Brigades. Their love of fires leads them to be firemen.

    • Many fires are also started by campfires of clueless campers, and irresponsible drivers & passengers flicking their cigarette butts out of their vehicles.

      And as I’ve previously commented – because green councils have banned collection of firewood from rural roadsides, these strips of fuel act as wicks to spread fires faster than they can be contained.

      So, on a windy summer day, we get –
      cigarette butt > dry roadside grass > built-up roadside firewood > stands of eucalyptus forest > conflagration.

      The great pity is – removal of roadside fuel used to be carried out FREE every autumn by members of the community, much of it donated to elderly & disadvantaged people in the local communities for winter firewood.

    • While a very few pyromaniacs are found to be firemen, the New South Wales Bushfire Inquiry’s 460-page report has a table listing all the significant bushfires in the state last season. Only about 1 per cent of the land burnt can be definitely be attributed to arson. By far the main cause was lightening. No pyroterrorists detected.

      • so Arsonists cause at least, definitely 53,000 ha of bushfires..

        These would mainly be in urban areas where they are quickly brought under control

        Not in overloaded National Parks and State Forests which were just let to burn because of inaccessibility.

        Since November, authorities in NSW have charged or cautioned 183 people for some 200 bushfire-related offences – malicious and otherwise.
        Of those, 24 people have been charged with deliberately lighting bushfires.
        Another 53 were charged or cautioned for failing to comply with a total fire ban and another 47 with discarding a lit cigarette.
        ——————————-
        In Victoria, where the East Gippsland region has been ravished by bushfires, arrest data covering the current season isn’t yet available.
        But in the year to September 2019, 21 people were charged with deliberately causing a bushfire.
        A number of bushfire-prone states have executed special operations to target firebugs.
        ———————————————
        On September 10 last year, Queensland Police established Taskforce Overcross to “prevent, disrupt and investigate all significant bushfires across Queensland”, a spokesperson told news.com.au.
        To date, police action has been taken with respect to 101 people on 172 charges, including 32 adults and 69 juveniles, who have been dealt with for “offences relating to recklessly and/or deliberately setting fires”.

        Deflection from the fact that arsonists are quite prevalent … now why would you choose to do that. !

  3. If you look at the years before last years fires, you will see 2 years of quite wet weather, followed by 2 years of very dry weather.

    This lead to a large build-up of small tinder-like fuel load..

    Combined with negligently small amounts of clearing burns and land management, this lead to the highly ferocious fires burning through National Parks.

    Inadequate fire breaks separating urban areas from these fire prone areas is nothing to do with climate, and everything to do with the green agenda.

  4. “Natural” forests have natural (big and hard to control) fires. Blaming climate change is ridiculous. Most fires are started by humans via accidents, arson and power lines going to humans downed by tree limbs allowed to grow too close to the wires. How would a tenth of a degree warmer, or two tenths of a degree warmer, change anything?

  5. “Natural” forests and “old growth” forests are not quite the same thing.

    Where humans have cleared a forest, a large proportion of the re-established trees are near-peers in age. In an old growth forest, there are many old giants with little or no underbrush beneath them. Only when an old giant falls is there a patch of sunlight for new tree establishment.

    The old growth forests are much less susceptible to forest fires. They can burn due to tree kills or steep slopes making it easier to create crown fires, but it is difficult to establish a sustainable fire at ground level.

    I recently cleared a small forest of invasive Siberian Elms. The land had been cleared, but not re-seeded for grass. The elm seeds blew in – and there were 50,000+ trees/acre. As that forest aged, there would have been massive amounts of underbrush as 99% of the trees succumbed to the fierce competition.

  6. Wildfires in California, Australia, Brazil, Africa, etc. have always been around and are in reality decreasing, not increasing due to our ability today to fight them instead of letting them burn out on their own. The severity today is just another manufactured crisis to control the people. If anything has changed it’s the MSM and their treatment of “news”. Rather than inform it’s designed to scare the populace into group think.

    • Yes, and CNN is reporting that the fires are the “worst in recorded history”. Not yet sure if they
      blamed them on Trump. But likely.

  7. Interestingly, ash is falling around my house at this very moment and the air is thick with smoke. I think that the nearest wildfire is about 50 miles away, Cameron peak area, West of Winter Park, CO.

    It’s been generally hot and dry the last few weeks and it hit just over 90 degrees F today. Amazingly, in two days the high is forecast to be 33 degrees F with precipitation as snow. Last fall we saw a similar extreme but it was a month later.

    • Sorry, I mistook the Cameron Peak fire with the Williams Fork fire. Reportedly, the ash we are receiving is from about 60 miles away.

    • 50 miles – got you beat!
      Central Washington State: Fellow with a backhoe just 0.6 miles from us took the electric lines down this morning. Fire started hard and fast but authorities had many units in the area because of a much larger fire 25 miles south (Evans Canyon Fire), contained yesterday. All OK. We won’t be allowed on the road today, so can’t go look.

      Stay safe.

  8. The inquiry into the 2019/20 bushfires in NSW had two interesting charts produced by the BoM. These show the trends for number of spring days with Forest Fire Danger Index above 25 and the first day of the year when the FFDI exceeds 25. The report is available at this link:
    https://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/assets/dpc-nsw-gov-au/publications/NSW-Bushfire-Inquiry-1630/Final-Report-of-the-NSW-Bushfire-Inquiry.pdf
    It explains the source of the FFDI – it is not a simple calculation. It only considers weather related aspects such as dryness, humidity and temperature. It does not consider fuel load.

    I have taken a screenshot of page 82:
    https://1drv.ms/u/s!Aq1iAj8Yo7jNg2NoYKZpnHCDcTQS

    Both trends support a claim that conditions for fires are getting worse. However, looking at both trends as process control charts, there appears to be some change in the process around the year 2000. The data before that date appears different to the data after.

    Australia has had automatic weather stations for quite a while that provide data much more frequently than manual stations. Most of the AWS sites were established through the 90s and early 00s. I figure the trends shown are largely the result of how the data used to calculate the FFDI is more a function of the measurement system than actual weather conditions.

    The only contribution increasing CO2 has made is the forest productivity; being able to grow faster with less water.

    • It is worth noting that most of the global warming experienced in Australia is the result of BoM data homegenisation.

      The rollout of automated weather stations provided one of the changes that gives the long term trend a nice boost. An electronic instrument has much faster response than LiG thermometer so the peaks are going to get higher with electronic. Many of the AWS are located at airports. This has also contributed to global warming in Australia as jet exhausts can now provide the temperature peak.

      With conversion to AWS data, many of the long established sites in remote locations were closed. That provided the opportunity to remove these records from the sites that contribute to the homogenised data set. Good, long term records like Broken Hill were no longer contributing:
      http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/cdio/weatherData/av?p_display_type=dataGraph&p_stn_num=047007&p_nccObsCode=36&p_month=13
      The data is still there if you look at closed stations but it does not contribute to the surface temperature dataset that drives public policy and the climate change alarm.

      • One more thing. The BoM does not consider any temperature data before 1920 in the determination of temperature trends. As the Broken Hill record shows, and other long term trends at undeveloped locations, it is inconvenient because it does not match the models or it would be difficult to tune the models to get the significant inflection.

        Call me skeptic.

  9. Hi there, I have a PhD in bushfire management & am a bushfire research whistleblower. The Australian stats show that lightning started most bad fires. There is big money for bushfire paid hierarchy in bad fires, very little dough in fires managed with traditional Indigenous Australian methods (ie firestick burning & putting out dangerous fires before they become uncontrollable). This, in a nutshell is where the problem lies… high fuel loads = apocalyptic fires in extreme weather = huge money spent on ineffective attacks on fires when they’re too hot to put out. Arsonist are in the mix too, but if fuel loads are low & potentially dangerous fires extinguished before they build to uncontrollable intensity there will be few bad fires. Pre-whites in Australia there is no evidence of intense bushfires but lots of evidence of many low intensity fires. Please read my submission to the royal commission & the NSW parliamentary inquiry for more details… I’ll post urls after this post.

    • I’m a former fire chief and town forest fire warden from Maine in the North Maine Woods region. Logging and recreation are the primary industries.

      Most fires I’ve responded to are indeed lightning strikes. Others are caused by faulty motorized equipment (Bad exhausts/muffler spark arrestors), careless campers and improperly disposed of smoking materials and rarely, fires caused by trains by tracks. All in that order.

      Proper logging has been the prime reason no major disasters have happened in decades as well as a good team of forest fire rangers and game wardens keeping an eye out as well as a bunch of outstanding bush pilots who fly after any thunder storms looking for activity.

      Just my professional observations although proposed wind turbine development in this region has me quite concerned, both from a mechanical failure standpoint and lightning.

      Eco terrorism has not been an issue…yet.

  10. Hi again All, here is the url to my corrected copy of the submissions I sent to the Australian royal commission & the NSW parliamentary inquiry. The submission traces big fires’ money trail & the suppressed history of knowledge about fuel & firestorms….
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/vm319mv7xoyndof/%C2%A0NSW%20Bushfire%20Inquiry%20Submission.pdf?dl=0.
    The submission also exposes another myth – emergency managers’ claims that climate change drives bad fires. In fact there’s a large body of rock solid evidence that it’s the other way round – bad fires are wrecking the weather, making it more conducive for bad fires.
    http://www.stopbushfires.com

    So far the royal commission – run by federal parliament has not published my submission – after all they just gave paid bushfire paid hierarchy an extra $46mil for two old passenger jets after the bad fires – my submission is embarrassing to say the least!!! It’s really important as many people as possible know the facts, so here they are!!!
    Warm regards
    Christine Finlay PhD bushfire management

    • Christine,
      I expect Jo Nova would be interested in a guest post from you on your findings. She runs a climate blog in Australia that has a strong following. Plenty of followers have direct interest in bushfire control.

      I am not too concerned about the Climate Change chest beating in the NSW report because the recommendations are not throwing money directly at that. However I am concerned at official reports containing information from the BoM that is potentially flawed.

    • There are benefits for them in mishandling wildfires. They will manage to make a whole lot of animals go extinct and wipe out entire ecosystems to a bad series of wildfires. Then they will be able to claim that climate change did it and the gravy trains rolls on.

  11. Here in Finland we have a lot of forest to burn. But we have find out that if we extinguish all fires at the start then it do not burn a lot. So there is nearly 1000 forest fires per year but burned area is normally under 10 km2 per year.

    https://www.metsakeskus.fi/metsapalot

    What it take to extinguish all wild fires?
    1) You must see the fire when it start. If it has allredy burned square miles it will burn much more. We have a surveillance for smoke at landscape.
    2) You must have a road to the fire area. We have roads to every forest.
    3) You must have water. We have lot of lakes.
    4) Firefighters. We have them too.
    5) Cleaning dead wood out of forest help too.

    So you can let your forest burn or you can extinguish all fires when they are small ones. Our neighbour Vladimir has chosen first option but we have chosen the second.

    • Our service area has over 3,000 miles of permanent maintained logging roads…

      NORTH MAINE WOODS

      There are over 3,000 miles of permanently maintained roads and several thousand miles of temporary, unmaintained roads. In most areas two generations of timber have been cut and the current harvesting operations you may see mark the third time the trees in this giant tree farm have been cropped.

      It would take us 4 hours at times one way to respond to incidents. We were a small volunteer department and on a tiny budget. Fuel was the biggest expense.

  12. On the somewhat lighter side.

    We were in a US Forest Service campground several miles south-east of Mammoth Lakes, California.

    Raining, lightning and thunder. Sitting under the trailer awning with some liquid refreshment. See a lightning strike back towards town. See the smoke start to rise. Had the ‘police’ scanner on; hear the Mammoth Lakes Fire Dept called out. Hear the Incident Commander call for a helicopter and bucket.

    The helicopter comes up from Bishop. The pilot apparently wasn’t familiar with the area. He saw a pond and dipped the bucket on his way in. He dropped. The IC came up on the air, slowly and distinctly, “Where did you get that water?” He had picked it up from the pond that is the end result of the Mammoth Lakes waste water disposal system.

    • Put the fire out AND provide nutrients for the trees and plants . Win-win.

      Just so long as the fire-fighters didn’t get sprayed. !

  13. I think I remember reading in the past where a single large wildfire produces as much CO2 as the entire amount of CO2 produced by vehicles for an entire year.

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