Did Global Warming Play A Significant Role in the Recent Northwest Wildfires?

Reposted from the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Monday, September 21, 2020

A number of groups and individuals are claiming that the recent major wildfires in the Pacific Northwest are predominantly or significantly the result of climate change produced by increasing greenhouse gases.
In fact, many have called these conflagrations “climate fires.”    Did global warming (a.k.a. climate change) have a significant impact on the Northwest wildfires of the past few weeks?

Consider the key fires in the Northwest U.S. this month: the huge, rapidly expanding fires on the western slopes of the Oregon Cascades. 

The fires that not only burned hundreds of thousands of acres, but produced most of the smoke that engulfed the region for over a week.  As I will demonstrate, the catastrophic Oregon Cascade fires of the past weeks were forced by strong easterly winds, and such winds may well weaken under global warming.  And I will show that the weather of the past summer was relatively normal.

Thus, although global warming will undoubtedly produce substantial changes in our climate in the future, the impacts of global warming on the recent Oregon fires were probably quite small.

Smoke reaches Portland.  Image by Tedder.I should note that BEFORE the recent fires I had been working on research and a paper on the meteorology of western Cascade fires and have a NSF grant to examine California wildfires.  Furthermore, I have worked closely with the Washington State Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources, as well as the USDA Forest Service, on Northwest wildfire meteorology and prediction. 

Fires on the Western Slopes of the Oregon Cascades and their Historical Context
A series of major fires exploded on September 7-8, 2020, ranging from the Big Hollow Fire northeast of Portland, the Riverside, Beach Creek and Lionshead Fires east of Salem, the Holiday Fire near Eugene, and the Archie Creek, South Obenchain and other fires to the south.  Several of the western Cascade Range fires, which have spread over more than 350,000 acres, had been initiated by lightning in mid-August, smoldering until strong easterly winds caused rapid expansion.

Fires along the western slopes of the Cascades are infrequent but regular, with research studies using proxy information (such as charcoal remnants in the soil and tree ring/scaring data) finding stand-killing fires occur roughly every 250 years (e.g. this reference).   Importantly, during the past century, few major fires has burned over western slopes of the Oregon Cascades, with the most prominent being the Yacolt Burn (1902, 500,000 acres) and the Eagle Creek Fire (2017, 50,000 acres), both near the Columbia Gorge east of Portland.  Interestingly, there has been far more fire activity over the coastal mountains of Oregon than along the western slopes of the Cascades during the past 120 years.  Thus, many of the recent fires along the western Cascades slopes were burning across terrain that had not experienced major fires in over a century.

Fires and their sizes since 1900 over Oregon. Image created by Lynne Palombo of the Oregonian.

Strong Easterly Winds Are Necessary for Major Wildfires on the Western Slopes of the Cascades
It has long been known that major wildfires over the western slopes of the Oregon Cascades have been limited to periods of sustained, strong easterly winds (from the east).   To quote a classic paper (FREQUENCY of DRY EAST WINDS OVER NORTHWEST OREGON and SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON, Cramer 1957):
The history of forest conflagrations in the Northwest is, for the most part, a history of the simultaneous occurrence of small fires and severe east winds.
Most of the biggest fires along the crest and western slopes of the Oregon Cascades started with small fires, either natural or human-initiated, which without winds would smolder or very slowly grow.  But add strong easterly winds and they can explode as seen on September 8th.
As part of my research, I determined every major fire on western side of the Oregon and Washington Cascades since 1900, and then examined the meteorology of each using observations, newspaper accounts, and the reanalysis grids (gridded analyses based on observation that go back to the 1860s).   EVERY such major fire, without exception, was associated with strong easterly winds.

The Tillamook Burn included a series of fires starting in 1933 that torched over 350,000 acres
Why are strong easterly winds required for the megafires on the Oregon western slopes?   

First, easterly winds tend to be very dry and usually warm, which helps desiccate surface fuels.  Westerly winds off the ocean are generally cool and moist, not only bringing high relative humidity but often moving fog and low clouds over the western Cascade slopes, both negatives for fires.  Easterly winds are from the dry, warm interior of the continent, and as the air sinks along the western slopes it is compressed and thus warmed as it moves to lower elevations (where pressure is higher).  Because of the warming, the relatively humidity plummets as the air sinks.   Very favorable for fires.

Furthermore, strong easterly winds not only facilitate warming and drying but also provides oxygen to fires, allowing them to expand rapidly.  In addition, strong winds push superheated gases ahead of fires (which helps then move quickly) and strong winds loft firebrands and embers that produce spot fires ahead of the main fire line.
The bottom line:  strong easterly winds are very important for starting fires on the western Cascade slopes, which are typically resistant to fire because of their relatively moist surfaces and extensive shading.

So the questions you must be asking at this point:   were the recent Oregon wildfires associated with strong easterly winds?   Is there a climate connection with such winds? Are easterly winds increasing as the earth has warmed the last 40 years?   And do climate models suggest that global warming will increase easterly winds over the western slopes of the Cascades?
The answer to the first question is an emphatic YES. The September event was associated with powerful and sustained easterly winds  over the Cascades, with some gusts reaching 50-70 mph (see map below of maximum gusts on September 8th in mph).  Enough to cause large numbers of power outages in Oregon.

Maximum winds on September 8 over western Oregon
The balloon-launched sounding at Salem, Oregon for 5 AM Tuesday, September 8th showed strong northeasterly and easterly winds though the entire lower atmosphere (shown up to roughly 10,000 ft in the figure).

Bottom line:  strong easterly winds occurred over the lower atmosphere of western Oregon from late on September 7, peaking on Sept 8th, and continuing in weakened form during the event.

Strong easterly winds are relatively unusual during the summer over western Oregon   So how unusual was this easterly flow event?   It turns out EXTREMELY unusual. 

To examine this, I searched gridded weather data (the NCAR-NCEP reanalysis) for a grid point on the western slopes of the Oregon Cascades.  Specifically, I examined the strength of the daily average zonal (east-west wind), looking for the days of strongest easterly wind.  For example, I checked surface wind (10-m above the surface) from 1950 to today for July through September–the relevant months– and found the top ten cases.

The grid point I used for this analysis
The results show that September 8 had the strongest easterly surface wind over the period examined (more negative means more easterly), substantially exceeding second place (Sept 17, 1971). And Sept. 9 was also on the list.  Only one other multi-day sequence was on the list (Sept. 16-18, 1971) and there were major fires that period as well.

Results of  one of my analyses
What produced this record-breaking easterly wind event starting Sept. 7th?  An extraordinarily area of COLD temperatures and associated high pressure area that moved southeastward to the east of our region, coupled with an unusual low pressure offshore.

Below is the pressure analysis at 5 AM on Sept. 8, with the solid lines indicating pressure (isobars) and the colors indicating differences from normal).  Strong high pressure was over Montana, while a trough of low pressure was along the coast.  Between these two features there was a large difference in pressure.  The colors indicate that the high pressure, centered in Montana was very unusual, with the difference from normal (the anomaly) being very unusual (4-5 standard deviations from normal for those of you knowledgeable about statistics)

Looking at winds at 925 hPa (about 2500 ft above sea level) at the same time, the strongest winds were over western Oregon, reaching over 6 standard deviations from normal.  Unprecedented conditions for this date.

Let me underline something I noted above: the anomalous high pressure was associated with very unusually cold air, air that would bring snow to Denver in the subsequent day.

Is there a trend of more easterly winds over Northwest Washington in the operational record?  
If one is interested in climate change, one MUST look at trends over time. Below is a plot of the top 10 cases of easterly wind at the grid point noted above–there is no evidence of an upward trend over time.    So with increasing temperatures as the planet has warmed, there is no apparent increase of easterly wind occurrence over the region.  This is a serious strike against the global warming/wildfire contention.

But let’s not stop there.  My group, in concert with Professor Eric Salathe of UW Bothell, are running a high-resolution climate model forced by increasing greenhouse gases–probably the most sophisticated local climate modeling in the country.  And we are doing this with an ensemble of many ultra-high resolution climate runs.  And we drove our regional climate model with global models forced with a very aggressive (and undoubtedly larger than expected) increase in CO2 (RCP 8.5). 

In these model how did the easterly flow near the crest of the Cascades change over time  (we picked a point near Washington’s Stampede Pass, but that is close enough)?

The answer is found below.  The figure shows the number of days per year during July through September that the winds exceed a certain speed (6.6 knots) from the east.  The simulations extend from 1970 through 2100 and the black line provides the mean of all the simulations. 

Wow.  The number of strong easterly events….the kind that start fires…DECLINES under global warming.  Let me say that again, it declines.

This makes a lot of physical sense and is consistent with results found by others in California.  As the planet warms, the interior of the continent warms more rapidly that the ocean.   Warms results in less dense air and pressure falls.  Thus, pressure falls more rapidly in the interior than on the coast, which increases westerly flow and decreases easterly flow.  Warming would also lessen the amplitude of the cold highs, like the one that occurred two weeks ago.
So we have observational data that shows that summer easterly flow over the Cascades did not increase during the last 70 years as the planet started to warm.  Furthermore, the gold standard in climate simulations shows late summer easterly flow declining under global warming.    So the absolutely key driver of major west side of Cascades wildfires–strong easterly winds– does not appear to be strengthened by global warming.  In fact, the OPPOSITE appears to be the case.  It appears to weaken.

These findings profoundly undermines the hypothesis that the Oregon fires are “climate fires” forced by increasing greenhouse gases.   As a popular TV series might say, this hypothesis is “busted.”

But let me take this one step further to completely address the “climate fire” claims. To put the proverbial “final nail” into the “climate fire” coffin.
How Unusual Were the Climate Conditions in the Months Before the Fire?
Were the weather conditions in the months leading the September fires highly unusual?  And has there been a significant observed trend towards considerably worse (dry/hot) conditions as would be expected if climate change was contributing to the Oregon fires?
To answer these question, let’s examine the precipitation over crest and western slopes of the northern Oregon Cascades—the region where many of the big fires originated and grew.  Below is a plot of the June to August precipitation over the region from the NOAA/NWS climate divisions data (Division 4 of Oregon) for 1900 to 2020.   The summer 2020 values is not exceptional at all (indicated by small arrow and the horizontal dashed line).  And there is little overall trend in the precipitation for that region.

Clearly,  precipitation in this region does not appear to be changing much with global warming.  Climate models suggests a small decline in summer precipitation (and an increase in overall precipitation) by the end of the century if we continue burning fossil fuels with abandon.
Temperature?  As shown below, the summer 2020 temperature for the western slopes of the Oregon Cascades was neither a record nor even exceptional.  One notes a modest upward trend during the past 30 years of approximately 1F.  That could be the global warming signal.   In any case, such a small warming hardly explains the catastrophic wildfires of this summer.

Finally, let me show you the Palmer Drought Severity Index (produced by NOAA) for September 12th.  The Palmer Index combines temperature and precipitation to evaluate whether drying/drought conditions are present.  This index indicates normal conditions over the western slopes of the north Cascades. 

The bottom line:  this summer was not one of significant drought or very unusual.  Until the September 7-8 fire initiation by the strong winds, the area encompassing fire was below normal in both Oregon and Washington.
Thus, considering observations and modeling, both strongly supporting each other, the major fire/smoke outbreak this month was the result of very, very unusually strong easterly winds, NOT global warming or climate change.

Those pushing the climate change narrative, including some politicians, activist groups and media are simply misinforming the public.

Such deceptive information undermines society’s ability to deal with wildfires in an effective way, such as improved forecast management (e.g., thinning, proscribed fires), more aggressive extinguishing of fires before dangerous situations like this month, and better warnings to move people out of harm’s way.
Short Comment on Washington Fires and Global Warming
Some individuals and groups have suggested that the explosive fires in Washington State that proceeded the Oregon fires, were the result of climate change.  This is also without any foundation.  Nearly all of the Washington State fires were grass fires (e.g., Cold Springs Fire–190,000 acres, Pearl Hills Fire–224, 000 acres) that were spread by extreme and highly unusual northerly winds.  Grass fires do NOT correlate well with climate, since grasses and small bushes inevitably dry out sufficiently to burn by early summer.  Even if the grass was not initially dry, it would dry out within hours under strong winds.  Such fires are controlled by the availability of ignition sources (often manmade) and strong winds and very powerful (50-70 mph) and unusual winds occurred on September 6th.

Grassland after fire in Eastern Washington this month.Courtesy WA State Department of Ecology


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Jim Steele
Reply to  Krishna Gans
September 22, 2020 6:55 pm

Great post by Cliff. Similar dynamics in the California fires

John Tillman
September 22, 2020 6:30 am

I’m glad Dr. Mass mentioned forest management. As in CA, OR’s air quality laws and other environmental regulations make controlled burning of undergrowth and slash piles infrequent. Nor are thinning and grazing or browsing sufficiently practiced to control the build up of fuel.

We also now suffer more man-made ignition, to include arson.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
September 22, 2020 6:33 am

The unintended consequence of course being dangerously bad air quality.

Patrick B
September 22, 2020 7:00 am

Unproved models are useless – whether proving or disproving climate change and its effects.

I understand that’s all the climatologists have, because of the long periods and lack of actual reliable data. But it’s still just mental masturbation until a model is shown it can predict future events.

Splitdog Homee
Reply to  Patrick B
September 22, 2020 8:57 am

Like grand theft auto modeling crime, models can tell you alot of stuff and they are fun.

September 22, 2020 7:05 am


and considering the number of places which burned which were not forests and thus not needing ‘forest management’…

Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 7:38 am

Everything’s going to burn when so many arsonists are running around doing the devil’s work.

John Tillman
Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 7:42 am

The fires which fouled the air in Oregon and California were most certainly in woodlands, most on US National Forests. Some of those in Washington State, as Mass notes, were in grasslands. But public grasslands are also woefully mismanaged.

Michael C. Roberts
Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 7:45 am

Griffmeister – I ask that you merely reread Dr Mass’ final paragraph in the submitted post. Therein is the explanation for “the number of places which burned which were not forests” – that is, grassland fires (which in Eastern Washington include shrubs such as sagebrush, tumbleweed, and various grasses, see: https://www.wnps.org/index.php?preview=1&option=com_dropfiles&format=&task=frontfile.download&catid=139&id=548&Itemid=1000000000000).
I fail to fully understand your intent with this response? Do you enjoy verbal diversions and non-sequitur banter? Is your intent to start us on a diversionary path in posting our responses to your off-track and misinformed submissions?
If that was your intent, I guess I’ve fallen into your Troll Trap. Still, logic seems to escape you even as it appears you’ve in fact read the post of Dr. Mass – you still fail to grasp the content and meaning of it.
I must admit, you (as an individual, or as some have implied are ‘Griff’ in fact a group of people submitting inane postings?) are a constant source of frustration, humor (or is that humour), and the display of a continuing lack of understanding of the concepts submitted here on WUWT. Also, time after time and in the face of submitted evidence to the contrary, you dig your mental heels in to stick with your mantra of ‘Humans Suck Overall/Glowball Warming is Caused by Human CO2 Release/Socialism is the Cure For All Human Ills’. Albeit, in a generally inoffensive manner, in the main.
I guess that is epitome of what is defined as ”Trollish’ behavior (behaviour).
Please, Get A Clue, will you?

(somewhat) Respectfully submitted,



Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 7:53 am

So Griff, did you just admit that climate models, especially those running RCP 8.5 are worthless at predicting the future?

Tim Gorman
Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 8:00 am


OMG! I live in the land of prairies! Those prairies *must* be managed as well, typically with controlled burns. If you don’t do that then at least two things happen. 1. Year after year thatch builds up and presents significant grass fire danger which can become widespread. 2. weeds, scrub brush, and spruce trees take root, grow, and present even more fire potential as well as making the grassland less useful for grazing.

The smoke haze from farmers and ranchers doing controlled burns in the spring is the same that we have seen in the skies from the fires out west.

Perhaps you should learn a little more concerning outdoor management before making idiotic comments.

Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 8:04 am

Griff, is it true you have no counterpoint to offer against the posted article?

If so, why bother trying stupid diversionary statements that doesn’t address the article discussion over the question about climate change causing the wildfires.

It is clear you are an idiot and a warmist/alarmist ideologist.

Frankly you have NOTHING but B.S. to offer, you are a pseudoscience bore.

Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 9:50 am

Burning dustbin
Certainely du to climate change 😀

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 11:10 am

you can do controlled burns in a grassland

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
September 22, 2020 1:04 pm

While not as bad as in a dry over-grown forest…

…. it can still be pretty difficult to control if there is a strong wind blowing. !

Speed of the fire-front can make things very dangerous

Reply to  griff
September 22, 2020 4:29 pm

griff, are you really as stupid as your posts make you sound?
Fire management is a topic that is not limited to forests. Everyone else here was already aware of that, why weren’t you?

Eamon Butler
Reply to  griff
September 23, 2020 5:07 am

Well Griff, it looks like everyone else has understood it. Why not you?

John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 7:15 am

I have lived in Oregon for over 70 years. Some of these forests are so overgrown that you cannot walk between the trees…solid walls of trees. After the fire passes through, they look like a bunch of toothpicks. Our federal forests are not only mismanaged, they aren’t managed at all. Private forests are kept clean, as their goal is to grow trees for lumber. You can’t do that in a thick stand of trees, they choke each other out, and disease spreads easily. I understand from another report I read that federal forests have up to 4 TIMES the trees that private forests maintain. I’d suggest that nearly 25% of federal trees are already dead or dying. And the forest floor on federal land? Fuggetaboutit. You can barely navigate through many such forests. There is such a massive fuel load that ANY fire takes off quickly, and there aren’t roads to get to them – they have to be fought from the air. Private forests have many roads, since they are meant to be logged, and they need roads to harvest. So, this situation has nothing whatsoever to do with climate…it is just careless mismanagement of forests and whatever weather is prevailing at the time. We can get thousands of lightning strikes (dry lightning) without rain in one day…why on earth is anyone surprised when fires take off???

Reply to  John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 7:42 am

+1 Same situation in W MT. Private timber lands are green and
healthy and the NF lands often are totally dead. Often for miles.
US 297 between Helena and Lincoln on Fletcher Pass is a perfect
example. Private timber ground on the east side is healthy
and the spruce bud worm dead fir on the NF goes as far as
the eye can see. Hiking into the mountains this time of
the year is entering into a death trap, esp in dead lodgepole
from the beetle kill. When the trees died around ’08 they
quit using water and when the needles fell off the canopy
opened up..each tree used on average 5 gal./day. So now
the grass is literally chest high and the dead lodgepole has
“jackstrawed” A smoldering lightning hit that comes alive in
that fine fuel will burn a section per hour in light wind. Think
of it as a grass fire where the grass is 200 ft high.. It is a disgrace
how our treasured lands are abused.

Reply to  Dan-O
September 22, 2020 7:44 am

correction –highway 279

Tom Gelsthorpe
Reply to  John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 7:52 am

You’re taking on a difficult assignment to introduce facts to an emotional/political football, yet I commend you for doing so. Good post!

John Tillman
Reply to  Tom Gelsthorpe
September 22, 2020 9:52 am

For the unforgivable sin of practicing science, Cliff Mass is on the Antifa hit list in Seattle and UW.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 9:50 am

There is a privately owned sawmill (name intentionally withheld) in western Oregon who had a portion of their private timber burn less than 2 weeks ago. 2 Points

1. Their timber did not burn because of mismanagement. It burned because of the east wind, low humidity, and end of summer fuel load. I suppose, but do not know that the the fire could have been worse if the area was not managed.

2. A decision was made last week to invest several million dollars in capital equipment within the next 4 months to increase mill throughput to process burned timber and not loose it to bugs. This is in contrast to federal and state forest that will be left to waste while politicians “discuss options”. For example, a large fire went through Santiam Pass near Hoodoo during the Bush administration. There are burned poles sticking up as far as you can see on a clear day. There are fewer poles now that the timber is rotten and wind blows them down. A monumental example of government waste and mismanagement.

Reply to  John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 10:18 am

John says,
“Private forests are kept clean, as their goal is to grow trees for lumber.”

If true, how come POTUS tells private land owners in California to do a better job keeping their forests swept?

Reply to  Bob
September 22, 2020 10:51 am

Because as you well know, “California leads the way” in environmental legislation which of course, prevents such activity. But its not me making that assertion. It’s the California legislative politicians that tell us that and it is their legislation signed into law that proves it. We can’t be too careful in California when it comes to protecting a snail or a small fish. You reap what you sow no matter how good your intentions may be.

John Tillman
Reply to  Bob
September 22, 2020 12:26 pm

Private landowners are also subject the CA air quality laws, so can’t burn their slash with little, controlled burns, either. Until it spreads a big fire.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Bob
September 22, 2020 1:04 pm

Bob, I doubt Trump singled out private land owners.

He did however call out State of California for mismanagement for fires in 2018. But as been said here, the problem is not so much bad management as no management. Thinning costs money. Logging does not but federal and state forests are not logged because practically every sale is challenged in court by local environmental do-gooder groups backed by large environmental mega funds like Sierra Club funded by well meaning yet misguided tree huggers and gullible folks that were brought up in the hyper-environmentalist era starting in the 70’s and 80’s and continues. There are endless funds for legal fees. Meanwhile sawmills, board mills and pulp mills give up and sell out. Its a huge problem. In Arizona there are so few mills left, the fire threat is beyond critical. https://4fri.org/ 4Fri has been struggling for 10 years to get private contractors to build mills and take logs. The times are out of balance. Honest, informed reporting would counterbalance the freaky climate fire show of Governors Newsome, Brown and Inslee.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Citizen Smith
September 22, 2020 1:29 pm

I should have mentioned the system has been breaking down for years. The endangered species act was the start but then the spotted owl listing blew up and Al Gore brokered the Northwest Forest Plan in 1993. This effectively transferred forest management to the court system. I remember Gore saying both sides were unhappy with the deal so it must be a good one. What an idiot.

Reply to  Bob
September 22, 2020 4:33 pm

Private owners can’t do anything the state won’t let them do.

September 22, 2020 7:32 am
Gregory Woods
September 22, 2020 7:35 am

‘Did Global Warming Play A Significant Role in the Recent Northwest Wildfires?’

Huh? ‘Significant’? Did GW play any role at all, when GW has yet to be proven?

Reply to  Gregory Woods
September 22, 2020 8:00 am

It’s the lukewarmer’s guide to the Recent Northwest Wildfires.

Reply to  leitmotif
September 22, 2020 4:40 pm

According to the cult of the sky dragon, the solution to bad science is more bad science.

Reply to  MarkW
September 23, 2020 3:56 am

Oh, MarkW, my little stalker.

You are the guy who said the proof of the GHE is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

How can anyone argue with your interpretation of the scientific method?


Reply to  leitmotif
September 23, 2020 8:27 am

You keep using that word stalker, like most everything else in your life, you obviously don’t know what that word means.

If following the science is a bad thing, then I’m guilty.
That CO2 absorbs IR energy has been demonstrated in a lab. If being exposed to science scares you, they have clinics for that.

Reply to  MarkW
September 23, 2020 12:24 pm

“If following the science is a bad thing, then I’m guilty.”

But you are not following the science, you are a victim of groupthink.

There is absolutely no evidence that the so-called GHE causes surface warming. You’ve just blindly accepted it.

“That CO2 absorbs IR energy has been demonstrated in a lab. ”

You simply don’t know the difference between radiation and heat. And that’s your problem as it is the problem with all lukewarmers.

A lukewarmer is just a warmist who hasn’t gone full retard.

“If being exposed to science scares you, they have clinics for that.”

I’ve not been exposed to science by you. Sadly for you there is no cure for lukewarmer groupthink.

Btw, why do you keep stalking me when you know I’ll just make you look a fool?

You’ve been on this blog for years and I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve been told you are talking rubbish by a myriad of posters. Why don’t you ever learn?

Doug Huffman
September 22, 2020 7:40 am

Burn small low and slow often, rather than big high fast ever.

John Tillman
Reply to  Doug Huffman
September 22, 2020 7:45 am

When the unburnt slash piles reach up into the lowest branches of crowns, mature trees will burn, not just duff on the forest floor.

Clyde X
September 22, 2020 7:42 am

Here in Kentucky we have quite a few forests. The Daniel Boone National for example is 709,000 acres. We also have the occasional drought with hot, dry weather. And, from time to time there are forest fires. We do not, however, have out of control forest fires that burn for weeks on end. Why are we immune to the calamity inflicting the left coast? Two simple words “forest management”. Just an observation.

Reply to  Clyde X
September 22, 2020 11:03 am

We “managed” to let a small (likely lightning) fire burn on Federal land since mid August. Let it burn, said the managers, it is natural. It is in a designated “wilderness” area … let it burn. It’s on Federal land, we don’t have jurisdiction … let it burn.

Numerous days notice that the high winds were coming were frittered away. There were notices that there would be EXTREME fire danger everywhere in the upcoming week, “so be very careful, do not have any open flames anywhere, campfires are not allowed, campgrounds are closed.” But there was no action to eliminate the 150 acre Beachie Creek fire … let it burn.

That 150 acre Beachie Creek fire (let it burn) turned into the 200,000 acre loss because of type of people in charge. The incompetent, no responsibility types that are typical of an overwhelming democrat leadership.

4 dead, 10 missing … let it burn.

470 homes gone … let it burn.

If this happened in Kentucky, what would be the response? Here, we will re-elect the same incompetents and in the future, let it burn.

Joel Snider
September 22, 2020 7:45 am

Yes, because the hands-off, zero-footprint class has been basing policy on the ‘necessity’ of fires, at the same time as chasing industry and recreation out of the forests – leaving thirty years worth of kindling – and calling it ‘management’.

So, the PC fiction of CAGW played a direct role.

September 22, 2020 7:51 am

Only if radicals setting fires and bad forest management is caused by global warming can they say it is caused by man.

Reply to  Olen
September 22, 2020 8:54 am

Yeahbut… A lot of fires are started by rats with matches.

Joel Snider
Reply to  pochas94
September 22, 2020 11:21 am

Two-legged, hominid rats.

Tom Gelsthorpe
September 22, 2020 8:06 am

When global warming theory became a major public controversy 30 years ago, scientists warned NOT to attribute individual weather events to climate trends, because weather is short-term; climate is long-term.

That warning was thrown overboard within a few years. Now individual weather events are blamed on “climate change” on a daily basis. The incentives for journalists to terrify naive readers by creating lurid mountains out of molehills is irresistible. Uh-oh, it rained on my picnic. Climate change! Fires have recurred in the wet/dry climates of the American west? Climate change! Never mind that the cycle has repeated for millions of years, and that entire species like prairie grasses, coast redwoods, lodgepole pine and giant sequoia have evolved under those conditions. If it can be blamed on sin, er, “anthropogenic climate change,” it will be.

September 22, 2020 8:42 am

Isn’t it annoying that actual scientific effort needs to be used to dispell an OBVIOUS self-serving lie?

Sweet Old Bob
September 22, 2020 8:48 am

“Thus, although global warming will undoubtedly produce substantial changes in our climate in the future ….”

Make and model of crystal ball , please .

Bill Rocks
September 22, 2020 8:50 am

This information should be published in every major western USA newspaper and should be presented by regional and national radio and TV news and commentary.

The governors of 3 states are discredited. Let them address this study directly with evidence not vague references and unnamed “experts”.

How dare you exploit a tragedy to push a global political agenda.

Gregory Woods
Reply to  Bill Rocks
September 22, 2020 10:09 am

Exactly: How dare you?

September 22, 2020 9:27 am

You said “The number of strong easterly events….the kind that start fires…DECLINES under global warming.”

Not quite right. A computer model says it should decline. The model does not establish a fact. It only finds one of a number of possibilities. Your very limited data suggests that the model is wrong.

Reply to  DHR
September 22, 2020 10:54 am

But, but,

It is only the models that provide the ‘fact’ that the earth will warm catastrophically. And we are willing to sacrifice human civilization, as we know it today, because of these ‘facts’ (settled science, whatever) provided by the models.

Good lord! What if the models are wrong?

September 22, 2020 9:52 am

Its always disappointing for researchers not to mention the increased growth from our added CO2.

That means more fuel to burn.

So yes, our added CO2 will cause larger, hotter fires, and we need to adjust.

Dr. Deanster
September 22, 2020 9:53 am

I went to Medford last summer and went up to Crater Lake. From that view what was astounding was the large swaths of dead trees. I’m like, and you people wonder why you forest fires are so bad! Cut the dang dead trees people.

John Tillman
Reply to  Dr. Deanster
September 22, 2020 10:26 am

Snags are Northern Spotted Owl habitat. The local subspecies is sacrosanct!

Reply to  John Tillman
September 22, 2020 11:17 am

How do they like their Northern Spotted Owl? Done to a crisp on a wood fire?

John Tillman
Reply to  Charlie
September 22, 2020 1:11 pm


John Shotsky
Reply to  Dr. Deanster
September 22, 2020 10:36 am

I drove through the same area in 2001…dead and dying trees everywhere. They said the pine beetles that were killing the trees were caused by…wait for it…global warming. It is the environmentalists that sue the government that prevents proper removal of dead trees. Spotted owl, and all that crap. The trees were dying because the trees were overcrowded and the disease spread easily. It would be costly to control it, so they do nothing. They, meaning the US forest service and department of interior.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 1:13 pm

USFS is in the Agriculture Dept.

National Forests were originally primarily for grazing.

Bureau of Land Management and National Parks are in Interior.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  John Shotsky
September 22, 2020 1:47 pm

When the Northern Spotted Owl was listed under the ESA in 1990, there were an estimated 18,000 birds. Logging on National Forests in Oregon fell to less than 5% of the prior average cut. Bill Clinton and Al Gore held a Timber Summit in 1993 that led to Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan in 1994, which further reduced logging on NF lands. btw, the Feds own 53% of Oregon, and roughly 65% of our forest land.

Following listing, the economy of Oregon sunk into the doldrums. Over 1,500 mills closed, and 150,000 people lost their jobs. For 30 years Oregon has led the nation in unemployment, business bankruptcy, home foreclosure, and food insecurity (hunger). Alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, and domestic violence have skyrocketed. Oregon has the lowest high school graduation rate in the country. It is estimated that the forest closures cost Oregon’s economy $10 billion per year, or $300 billion since the owl was listed.

Today there are less then 3,000 Northern Spotted Owls. The population has declined by over 80%. At least 6,000,000 acres of “owl forests” have been incinerated. NSO do not live in burned snags; they live in dense, green forests as do their prey.

The sacrifices imposed on Oregon by Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and the other 49 states have been for nought. The NSO has not been “saved”; instead it has been extirpated. The Plan failed catastrophically.

Yet it is still there. The radical enviros have not loosened their grip on Oregon’s throat. Now they blame “climate change” for the owl’s decline, as well as non-existent logging. The fires, they say, are just punishment for failing to enact carbon taxes on a tattered economy. Or else they blame “fire suppression”, as if Let It Burn would have saved the owls. Let It Burn has been applied to Oregon’s forests for 30 years. It hasn’t saved the owls.

Oregon’s political system is also in collapse. Blame whomever. The root causes are much deeper than current events, however.

September 22, 2020 10:22 am

Climate Change doesn’t cause wildfires, BELIEVING in Climate Change causes forest fires.

September 22, 2020 10:36 am

A comment about using the models. There is so much talk and analysis on this forum concerning how useless the climate models are. So, how then, can you use a climate model to prove your point that the winds will not increase (or decrease or whatever)? And why would you choose the unrealistic and discredited RCP 8.5 version?
Just curious.

Reply to  MaxD
September 22, 2020 11:01 am

These are the same models that politicians claim to use to back their statements about disastrous climate change and pass legislation to effect meaningful, positive change. So, whats good for the goose is good for the gander. You can’t have it both ways.

Reply to  Doonman
September 22, 2020 12:01 pm

Ok, I can buy the argument. But in a sense, the author is giving credence to the models when saying “This makes a lot of physical sense and is consistent with results found by others in California. “

Shawn Head
September 22, 2020 11:31 am

This article doesnt mention the 6 people arrested for starting fires all around Oregon. One of them caught multiple times!

Reply to  Shawn Head
September 22, 2020 12:04 pm

[Catastrophic] [Anthropogenic] Global Cooling… Warming… Climate Change implies human forcings (e.g. arson). In fact, the true blue… green?… believers assert it is integral to their philosophical outlook. At least when it’s politically congruent to their primary interests to consolidate/redistribute capital and control.

John Tillman
Reply to  Shawn Head
September 22, 2020 12:27 pm

One of those arrested in WA was an Antifa “protester”.

Paul Drahn
September 22, 2020 12:07 pm

As one still experiencing the smoke, let me add a point to the story of forest management.

Not mentioned is the forest management by the Warm Spring Reservation elders. They will not allow and have not allowed any naturally caused fire to be extinguished. That is the lionshead fire.

I watched a three airplane rotation one Sunday fly from the Redmond airport to the fire North of Camp Sherman, also started by the same storm that started the lionshead fire.

They pretty much extinguished the Camp Sherman fire in one day. I expected the same operation to begin the next day on the lionshead fire. Didn’t happen. On Tuesday, didn’t happen. Still hasn’t happened.

So, please include the sovereign nation in the discussion of forest management.


Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Paul Drahn
September 22, 2020 2:36 pm

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have contractual agreements with the US Government for fire fighting. Fire response comes from the National Interagency Fire Center. The “interagencies” are the five Federal departments that own significant land: USFS, BLM, NPS, USFWS, and BIA. The last, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is nominally beholding to the Tribes but does not take direction from them regarding fire fighting.

The CTWS did not determine how the Lionshead Fire would be suppressed or not suppressed as it happened. The choice was made by the NIFC and their Incident Management teams. Their choice was to Let It Burn.

The Lionshead Fire was ignited by lightning on Aug 16. By Sept. 7 it was 17,000 acres. Today it is close to 200,000 acres. The perimeter extends from the Warm Springs Reservation 30 miles west to Detroit Lake where it merged with the Beachie Creek Fire, and 15 miles to the south. 265 homes were destroyed. Some fire trailing was done on the east side to protect Camp Sherman and the Metolius River area.

Paul Drahn
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
September 22, 2020 4:14 pm

The fire heading for Camp Sherman and the lionshead fire are two different fires. We watched the smoke from both from our family room.

Thank you for the correction. I wonder if the listed government agencies are also the ones that are not allowing the tribes to thin, clear brush and harvest the timber on the res? Is the contract you mention available for public view?

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Paul Drahn
September 22, 2020 9:30 pm

Paul, Warm Springs manages their own forests on the reservation. The problem is they shut down their sawmill about 5 years ago. They are in the casino biz now. There are only 3 or 4 real sawmills within 100 miles and a couple other small chip mills. It won’t pay to ship small logs from thinning operations so fire risk will increase.

Clearing brush and thinning trees with no market value just costs money. Public money is only spent on areas that can be seen from road sides like along HWY 20 outside of Sisters. This is limited and ineffective window dressing.

Western Hiker
Reply to  Paul Drahn
September 25, 2020 11:55 pm

Be wary of bloggers who make little or no effort to back up their claims. For example, Mike Dubrasich writes,

“The CTWS did not determine how the Lionshead Fire would be suppressed or not suppressed as it happened. The choice was made by the NIFC and their Incident Management teams. Their choice was to Let It Burn.”


“Update-Sunday August 30, 2020
Incident Commander: Eric Knerr, Northwest Team 7
 Fire Information: 971-277-5075
 Warm Springs, Oregon – This update is for the P-515 Fire and Lionshead Fire burning on the Warm Springs Reservation.  Both fires are being managed for full suppression.
 Current Situation: The P-515 Fire is 4,609 acres and 80% contained. Yesterday, mop up operations on the P-515 Fire continued with no spot fires observed outside of the perimeter.
 The Lionshead Fire is now 6,611 acres and 20% contained.  Throughout the afternoon and evening yesterday fire behavior was very active, testing fire lines, as anticipated, with wind gusts reaching 50 mph on Lionshead Peak. The fire crossed the established fire line near Camp Creek Butte, then made a run and spotted to the southeast. Crews along the southern flank were temporarily withdrawn as a safety precaution. The northern and eastern flanks remained secure during the wind event.
 P-515 Fire:  Mop up operations today will advance deeper into the burnt area, extinguishing smoldering fuels using water and hand tools.
Lionshead Fire: Firefighters along the southern flank are determining how to incorporate the fire’s spread from yesterday’s wind event. Operations to improve and secure existing lines on the other flanks of the fire will continue.

Warm Springs fires update:
Sunday, August 30
Quick Facts
Incident Summaries
P-515 / Lionshead
Size in Acres: 4,609 ac. / 6,611ac.
Containment: 80% / 20%
Commander Eric Knerr
Resources on
the fire:
Crews: 26
Helicopters: 8
Engines: 29
Water Tenders: 11
Dozers: 5
Personnel: 932
Confederated Tribes
of Warm Springs
Oregon Smoke Blog


September 22, 2020 1:02 pm

Maybe its Global Waring Stndrome !
2nd man charged with arson at PPB’s North Precinct

Man Faces Arson Charges After Setting Fire In Southern Ore.

Illegal Pleads Guilty To Starting fire In California

Oregon man arrested after starting brush fires

Convicted BLM Rioter Arrested for Arson in Washington As Massive Wildfires Blaze


John Culhane
Reply to  Tom
September 23, 2020 1:38 pm
September 22, 2020 2:02 pm

Just checked out Texas – no stranger to cycles of massive forest fires. TX has approx 2 X’s more forest acreage than does CA. TX currently has more area in extreme drought than does CA. Most all of the recent fires in TX are in the 1-2K acre range – largest one is around 11K acres. All but one is 100% contained, and it’s at 95% contained.

If the wildfires in the West are because of main-made Climate Change, why isn’t TX burning up?

Why is the global wildfire trend in a notable downward trend for decades now (per NASA – IPCC)


Walt D.
September 22, 2020 3:27 pm

Climate Change might have had a roll had there been any.
Assuming that climate change has taken place when there has been none is just an excuse to do

September 22, 2020 3:54 pm


Jim Mundy
September 22, 2020 4:18 pm

One might also ask why, if fire is so related to anthropogenic climate change, many Pacific Northwest ecosystems (which existed long before human activities were an issue) are so adapted to it. The California State Tree, the Giant Sequoia, has fire-resistant bark and is self-pruning (i.e. it drops its lower limbs so that fire has to somehow reach the crown to kill the tree), and needs the heat from fire to open its cones; this serves the purpose of dropping the seeds onto ground where the undergrowth is destroyed by the fire, giving the seeds a better chance of germinating. The Douglas Fir is similarly adapted to fire; here is a quote from the paper below: “Douglas-fir is more fire resistant than many of its associates because of it grows rapidly and is covered with a thick corklike bark along its stem and roots. In addition, the tall trees have their foliage concentrated on the upper bole, which makes it difficult for fire to reach the crown.

Regeneration of Douglas-fir is favored by fire. Since it is shade intolerant, new Douglas-fir trees are not established under current forests without fires to kill more shade tolerant competition. Forest fires therefore allow Douglas-fir to continue to be a dominant presence in the forest.”


Gordon Newlyn
September 22, 2020 5:31 pm

The common denominator between the horrendous Australian bushfire season and the American wildfires is a blocking high pressure caused by a meandering jet stream. A global cooling signal for sure.

stephen mueller
September 22, 2020 8:25 pm

Ten minutes on the back of a fire truck in a fire and you are left with no doubt that its the fuel loads that make them bad fires.

Ronald Bruce
September 23, 2020 3:06 am

The reason and cause of the fires in the US and Australia are solely the responsibility of the greens labor democrats and other wierd socialists. They alone prohibited the one measure that would make the fires insignificant by preventing FUEL REDUCTION, the only factor we can control is the availability of fuel, we have no control of the oxygen in the air or the sources of ignition accidental , natural or arson.

Just Jenn
September 23, 2020 5:42 am

Global Warming, Man Made Climate Change…etc…they are all scapegoats for everything that isn’t conforming to someone’s idea of the “perfect world”.

The rhetoric is littered with these terms to now include climate arson (how ridiculous is that). All in an attempt to blame something bigger than the people that ARE to blame.

CA forest management sucks, it has for decades. You don’t allow 40 years of detritus to dry out and become fuel due to mismanagement and ongoing pissing contests with the logging industry (unions and all) and then turn around and blame climate change for your state burning to the ground. The only truth is the term man made…because these fires ARE man made through negligence, avarice, and greed.

Tom Abbott
September 23, 2020 6:35 am

From the article: “Thus, although global warming will undoubtedly produce substantial changes in our climate in the future”

There is no evidence for that. The globe may start cooling, for all anyone knows.

Assuming warming will continue is an assumption too far. We are in fact cooling since 2016.

And if one goes by unmodified surface temperature charts, we have been in a temperature downtrend in the United States, including Oregon, since the 1930’s. If one is going to assume something about the temperatures, they would probably be more accurate to assume it will continue to cool, since that is the trend we are in.

Coach Springer
September 23, 2020 7:42 am

1} All is within range of natural variation in fire, weather and climate.
2) Given the serious consequences of forest fires that are natural disasters, I need to know more about the arsons that accompany them. Who are these arsonists, what are their motives and what do they know about others like them? Call it a small, but necessary part of forest management.

September 23, 2020 12:14 pm

“Unprecedented” must be most overworked term in the lexicon of climate catastrophists. The National Interagency Fire Center (https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_histSigFires.html) documents 10 historically significant fires that occurred between 1825 and 1900 that totaled nearly 20 million acres, 3 of which occurred in western Oregon: the 1845 Great Fire (1,500,000 acres), the 1853 Yaquina Fire (450,000 acres) and the 1868 Coos Fire (300,000 acres). Since these fires all occurred near the end of the Little Ice Age, it would seem obvious that weather and not climate dominates the causes of conflagrations.

Carpenter Joe
September 24, 2020 9:03 pm

The Riverside Fire would have consumed my home of two decades is the east winds blew just a few more hours. When they blow into a fire you can’t fight them from the ground, it’s a blast furnace from the mouth of hell. These conditions are common enough like hurricanes are. This year they were Cat 5.

September 25, 2020 11:16 am

‘ Thus, although global warming will undoubtedly produce substantial changes in our climate in the future, ’”

Lost me at this point.

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