New Data Absolutely Destroys Media Claims of ‘Climate Change is Causing More Wildfire’

Originally posted at ClimateREALISM

The media, politicians, and climate activists like to claim that climate change is making wildfires more frequent and larger. The linkage is the supposed relationship with increasing global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration due to the burning of fossil fuels and the belief that we will suffer increased effects; hotter temperatures, more drought, and increased wildfires as a result of those two elements increasing.

Here are some examples of the media pushing this:

Climate change is causing more wildfires and governments are unprepared, says U.N. (PBS)

As climate changes, world grapples with a wildfire crisis (UNEP)

Climate Scientists Warn of a ‘Global Wildfire Crisis’ (NYT)

In the New York Times article, the subtitle reveals the supposed cause:

“Worsening heat and dryness could lead to a 50 percent rise in off-the-charts fires, according to a United Nations report.”

Of course, the United Nations doesn’t do science, they do policy and politics, so take their claims with a grain of salt.

Fortunately, a look at real-world data can easily destroy such politically based claims. The European Space Agency (ESA) maintains a database of wildfire area burned, which is created from Earth observing satellite data. Last year the ESA announced an update to the dataset to bring it back to 1982:

Multi-Decade Global Fire Dataset Set To Support Trend Analysis

“The CCI fire team have extended the burned area record back to 1982”

And here is the fun part, when you use ESA satellite data to actually do trend analysis as they suggest, there’s a surprise; there isn’t any.

Statistician Zoe Phin recently used that ESA satellite data to do a trend analysis, and had this to say:

In a previous post, Trend in Global Fires, I showed the global fire trend in the last 21 years. I found a source with more data, extending to 1982. It comes from a project funded by European Space Agency. Right here. Actual data is downloaded from UK servers, here.

Phin created this graph (Figure 1) from that ESA satellite data:

Figure 1: ESA Satellite data showing Global Wildfire Area Burned, in millions of square kilometers, from 1982 to 2018 Graph by Zoe Phin.

Phin added a statement of the obvious, at least to trained eyes:

“1994 is missing in their data, but that’s alright. It’s obvious that carbon dioxide has zero effect on fires. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar, an imbecile, or just plain ignorant. The latter can be cured.”

While many people who have follow the climate debate would be able to see the lack of correlation, it is important to visualize data from different sources on the same graph so there is no question on the interpretations. Below are two graphs, Figure 2 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Monitoring Laboratory/Earth System Research Laboratories website where they show Trends in CO2:

Figure 2: The graph shows monthly mean carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. The carbon dioxide data on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. The red line represents the monthly mean values, centered on the middle of each month. The black line represents the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle. Source:

And in Figure 3 below, this represents graphically combined Figure 1 and Figure 2 to create a new graph, Figure 3, which is set to match x and y scales, as well as the time scale of available ESA satellite data from 1982 to 2018. Unfortunately, ESA has not provided data beyond 2018.

Figure 3: Graphically combined Figure 1 and Figure 2, with numerical values of yearly CO2 concentrations for 1982 and 2018 add at those years. Combination and scale matching by Anthony Watts, source for CO2 data is here:

Clearly, there is no correlation whatsoever between increasing atmospheric CO2 and global wildfire acreage burned. From 1982 to 1983 while CO2 increased, wildfires were less. Then from 1993 to 2012, wildfires increased as CO2 increased. From 2012 to 2018, while CO2 increased relentlessly, there was a dramatic drop in global wildfire acreage burned, and the endpoint in 2018 is actually lower than when the data begins in 1982.

The lack of any sustained correlation destroys the U.N. and media claims. If CO2 was in fact the control knob for making wildfires worse, wildfires would have increased from 2012 to 2018 rather than dropping dramatically.

This data has no agenda, it simply tells the story. But media, politicians, and climate activists don’t like contrary data, because it ruins their narrative.

Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website

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June 14, 2022 6:03 pm

Arson makes wildfires worse.

Climate Change makes arson worse.

Pick one or both.

Tom Halla
Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 6:28 pm

Or wildfires are a product of bad wildlands management insisted on by green NGOs, who believe to a moral certainty that not doing anything except leaving wildlands unused is the only moral choice. Which rather ignores that Australian natives and Native Americans were doing things to alter the landscape in ways they favored since the end of the last Ice Age.
Being culture bound as well as ignorant of real forestry science, they ignorantly cause fires to be much worse.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 14, 2022 8:31 pm

It’s just goes around circles. our Rural Fire Service runs around every year putting out every fire they can find. They do a really good job so nothing really burns. After about 30 or 40 years you have such a build up of fuel, it all goes up at once as they cannot put it out. Then the media come along and ask the fire captain with 20 years experience how bad was it, and he says it the worst I have ever seen. Next day headline is Worst Fire in Living Memory.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 14, 2022 11:02 pm

Over possibly several thousand years of around seventy thousand years of Australian Aborigines in the land we now call Australia fire was often used for hunting purposes but over time developed into a landcare tool, seasonal burning, meaning following the weather patterns to burn in a patchwork pattern with each burnt every few years and lit so that the prevailing wind resulted in the fire running out of fuel when it reached a previously burnt area.

When white settlers arrived in 1788 they discovered open grasslands dotted with trees and quite open for riding Horses through. The open country made walking easier for the Aborigines, attracted animals that fed on the grass and could be more easily hunted and generally made life easier.

The British Colony of New South Wales, Sydney Town, was established alongside Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). Cattle went missing and the settlers blamed the Aborigines for stealing them but after a while explorers travelling to the South West of Sydney Town found a herd of cattle happily grazing on grasslands near a permanent water supply.

Later in the Colony of Victoria settlers discovered large areas of grasslands on the slopes of the Snowy Mountains and grazed their cattle on it, copying the seasonal burning tradition of the Aborigines as they left at the end of every season before winter.

Traditional seasonal burning is now being adopted in some areas, North Western Australia and Northern Territory Kakadu National Park for example, Indigenous Australian Rangers using modern equipment including helicopters to drop fire bombs.

Reply to  Dennis
June 15, 2022 3:49 am

That’s a nice story, but I suspect it is more likely that fires that started naturally just kept burning until nature put them out. Aborigines were not running a sophisticated land management program.

Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 9:42 pm

This is all I have to say :
Wilde fires, forest fires were worse than before the 1950s

comment image

Jim Gorman
June 15, 2022 5:20 am

On the Great Plains here in the U.S., prairie fires were the bane of existence. In fact, they still are. Nobody learns from historical documents anymore do they?

Citizen Smith
June 16, 2022 9:03 am

Jon, I can see what you are saying by the image you attached. But your comment conflicts. Respectfully, I think you meant to say “fire were worse before the 1950s” not “worse than”.

BTW, I’m glad to see an online source for acres burned is still available. The National Interagency Fire Center, the main source of this data, no longer publishes data before 1983. They cut off the data back to 1926 because it conflicts with the narrative.

June 14, 2022 6:04 pm

Plausible, but not probable, is proof in a court of social justice.

Kevin kilty
June 14, 2022 6:12 pm

A large increase I see just about coincident with the super El Nino of 1998. I wonder if the trend broken out by regions would show the areas most impacted by El Nino augmented precipitation are the principle contributors to this?

Where I live unusually wet springs and early summers cause unusual accumulation of grass and brush which contribute greatly to wild fires if the following autumn or early winter is unusually hot and dry. Just a thought.

Donna K. Becker
Reply to  Kevin kilty
June 15, 2022 10:48 am

I’d like to see a graph showing the relationship of rainfall, CO2, and fires.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Donna K. Becker
June 16, 2022 9:17 am This shows Oregon acres, droughts, PDO and some other info. It is not easy to find, probably intentionally.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
June 17, 2022 10:51 pm

I believe the increase starting in sometime in the 1980s coincides with a major change in forest service (or whoever) policy regarding fire control.

Ron Long
June 14, 2022 6:15 pm

Good Reality Check, Anthony, but if you keep blurting out the truth like this you’ll end up in front of the January 6 commission.

Reply to  Ron Long
June 16, 2022 11:30 am

That’d be a good thing. Maybe those dimwits in DC might learn something from the expert.
What was I thinking? Once a dimwit always a dimwit. The DC folks won’t allow themselves to be educated!

Danley Wolfe
June 14, 2022 6:29 pm

Anthony, thanks for the post … and hope you are doing well. This wild fire misinformation is an issue and so are 10, 20, 30 etc. other climate change “issues” …. if it walks and talks and might fit in with the narrative by all means blow it up and falsely claim “causation.” If we spend time and go through one by one soon we have a thousand. Having an individual blog post on each one takes a lot of time and effort. But it is important to counter each one. If you want to see this in real time read the New York Times which has a full time staff of 10 or 20 people who do nothing but write articles with unjustificated unsubstantiated claims in stories which are written as gospel fact. Can we start by assigning “pinnocios” to these sorts of alarmist .. but unsupported or else wrongly supported claims. Cheers.

June 14, 2022 6:47 pm

Even the CSIRO believes climate change is making the fires here in Australia more intense and more frequent when in reality it’s just the weather and fuel build up.
But they are the ”experts” and they get the big bucks so they can find whatever they want (or need to) in the data.

June 14, 2022 7:08 pm

Cool! I love how you sliced and diced my chart.🤣

I added a “Download My Data” section to my article.

Thank you Mr Watts 🙂 -Z

Rick C
Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 11:30 am

Zoe: Thanks. I downloaded your data and ran a quick correlation between annual burn area and Mona Loa CO2 for 1982 to 2018. A linear fit shows a slight positive slope (0.2%), but an R^2 of 0.32 – not much of a relationship. Interestingly, a polynomial fit shows a better R^2 at 0.48, but has an inflection point at about 385 ppm CO2 and a negative slope at higher CO2 levels. All probably meaningless as there must certainly be autocorrelation issues (e.g. fuel consumed in a high burn year would not be available in subsequent years) and there are obviously many other variables that influence wildfire numbers.

Reply to  Rick C
June 17, 2022 10:56 pm

Was there not a big policy change in the 1980s to allow fires to burn more freely once they started, increasing burned acreage?

Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 3:03 pm

Zoe’s latest update to the original post’s text, with ESA’s graph on the same data, also worth a view. It’s a very educational post from ESA’s on how to “hide the decline” with creative graph layout.

June 14, 2022 7:09 pm

When has the left cares about evidence?

Simon comes on here and proves it every time. He is the Jethro of the Beverly hillbillies.

Reply to  Derg
June 14, 2022 7:38 pm

Jethro made it through 6th grade and could “read, write, and cipher.”
(Where is the hillbilly accent font?)

We’d need to see Simon’s academic credentials for an apples-to-apples comparison. 😉

Reply to  H.R.
June 14, 2022 7:43 pm

Where is the cement pond?

Reply to  Ossqss
June 14, 2022 7:59 pm

That’s “ceeeement” pond.

(Sorry. Didn’t mean to be a spelling Nazi. 😉)

Reply to  Ossqss
June 14, 2022 9:11 pm
Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 1:09 pm

You would be shocked to know how successful Max Bear Jr. was after leaving the Beverly Hillbillies.
I saw a biography about him on YouTube and was amazed. Can’t remember the link.
The Wikipedia entry is amazing too.
Max Bear, Jr. and Jim Nabors played big dummies
on TV comedies but were just acting.

Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 1:45 pm


Reply to  Simon
June 15, 2022 2:16 pm

The colluuuusion clown is in the house.

Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 3:22 pm

Are you Laurel or Hardy?

Reply to  Simon
June 15, 2022 4:16 pm

Are you a moron? Oh wait, we all know the answer.

Russia colluuuusion indeed.

Reply to  Simon
June 16, 2022 6:22 am

Laurel and Hardy were brilliant comedians. You, on the other hand, are unintentionally funny.

June 14, 2022 7:25 pm

It’s even worse than the article says. According to the graph about 450 mln hectares of forest burn each year. There are a total of 4.1 bln hectares on earth. Roughly 10% of forests burn each year. Okay. But the change in the graph from low to high is about 10.5% burning to 13%. A change of 2.5% from low to high is a global catastrophe? Really?

June 14, 2022 7:31 pm

The actual cause of California’s recent large wildfires is the insane forest mismanagement by Leftist eco-fascists who: stopped clearing forest deadfall, prohibited most logging, stopped harvesting diseased trees, prohibited most new logging roads, prohibited making most firebreaks, stopped most clearing of trees near power lines, stopped most controlled burns to reduce deadfall buildup, stopped controlling tree densities making forests diseased, stunted tree growth, and vastly increased forest-floor fuel, etc…

Under the Law of Leftist Irony, their criminal forest mismanagement vastly reduced forests’ health and greatly increased the size, frequency and intensity of California wildfires…..

Nice going. Lefties..

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  SAMURAI
June 15, 2022 4:23 am

The UK has gradually been eliminating the practice of Spring heather burning because of the environmental impact. It’s usually portrayed as the peat that’s burnt, which is the last thing anyone wants as peat can burn for weeks or months. The aim is to have strips of heather of various lengths, Red Grouse eat young heather shoots and nest in longer heather where they are safe from raptors and foxes.
I’ve no idea how long burning strips of heather has been going on, but from at least the 19th century. Strips are burnt by rotation every 10-20 years depending on how quickly the heather regrows.
Heather if left to its own devices will grow into a decent sized shrub. As with all shrubs/bushes there is a lot of dead material on the ground. Scotland (and the North of England) where most heather moors are can have dry springs and summers. In this situation fires can get out of control very quickly. Once out of control the drier than usual peat will burn/smolder.
I expect that in 20 years or so moorland wildfires in Northern Britain will be more frequent, more intense and burn larger areas with the added bonus of peat fires. Humans will be involved in starting the majority of these fires either accidentally or deliberately.

Net result more pollution, reduction of peat cover, more wildlife killed by fire and long recovery time for the moor if it actually ever does.

But the cause will be climate change.

Reply to  SAMURAI
June 15, 2022 1:13 pm

PRC 4293, administered by CAL FIRE, requires a 4-foot minimum clearance be maintained for power lines between 2,400 and 72,000 volts, and a 10-foot clearance for conductors 110,000 volts and above. PRC 4293 also requires the removal of dead, diseased, defective and dying trees that could fall into the lines.

Here in SE Michigan, where there is no dry fire season, the trees in my back yard get trimmed !0 FEET from the power lines. I wish it was only 4 FEET, which is ridiculous for CA, with their dry season and winds.

June 14, 2022 7:34 pm

Wouldn’t an increase in co² slow fires down? After all fires need oxygen not co².

joe x
Reply to  Alan
June 15, 2022 5:02 am

this is my thinking also. would a doubling of co2 in the atmosphere reduce wild fire intensity? even a tiny bit? the greens would go nuts if we pushed this theory.

Rick C
Reply to  Alan
June 15, 2022 11:12 am

The relatively tiny change in CO2 concentration does not significantly alter the oxygen concentration and thus has no discernable effect on fire intensity. A CO2 fire extinguisher works by locally displacing and greatly diluting O2 to starve the fire while also cooling the burning material.

June 14, 2022 7:39 pm

What is the % of literally any fire that is not man made, one way or another?

Climate believer
Reply to  Ossqss
June 15, 2022 1:48 am

A study of fires in the US over a 20 year period came to the conclusion that 84% of wildfires were caused by humans.

June 14, 2022 7:39 pm

I hope those ex-Fire Chiefs who are trotted out on Australian TV to bang on about the linkage between ‘climate change’ and bush fires see this evidence. But I guess these clowns don’t need no steenking evidence.

Reply to  Katio1505
June 14, 2022 10:43 pm

The beginning of bushfire season in Australia late in 2019 resulted in several areas of bushfires but the worst were on the East Coast, from memory New South Wales was first to experience the fires that followed after several years of drought dry conditions, and next in the first quarter of 2020 there were floods. The land of droughts and flooding rains.

The former Fire Commissioners are members of the Climate Council, a non-government organisation. They used the bushfires to criticise the Federal Government, targeting the Prime Minister, claiming he refused to meet with them early in 2019 when they wanted to warn him about a bushfire crisis potential later that year.

To begin with bushfires and other natural disasters are the primary responsibility of State Governments, in NSW the State Emergency Service and State Rural Fire Service and others deal with them. And as it turned out early in 2018 the NSW Government was warned that conditions prevailing could result in a bushfire crisis at the end of 2018, but that did not take place. So the Climate Council members were not only requesting a meeting with the wrong government and leader but they were warning about fire potential at least a year after official sources had issued alerts. In other words they were seeking publicity and a political stunt.

The preparations for the bushfire potential included additional equipment for the NSW Rural Fire Service including a Boeing 737 tanker-water bomber to add to the aviation wing and extra chartered aircraft contracted. The Federal Government provided some funding as applied for by the NSW State Government. And when the fire crisis developed the Federal Government responded to State requests for Australian Defence Force personnel and assets to assist State authorities and volunteers.

June 14, 2022 7:45 pm

Isn’t CO2 what they use in some fire extinguishers? It seems to me that the higher the CO2 levels, the harder it would be for things to burn.

I’ll bet there aren’t many wildfires on Venus. There’s your existence proof that rising CO2 does not increase the incidence and intensity of wildfires.

June 14, 2022 7:55 pm

The culprit is Smokey the Bear. If he had not stopped forest fires, there would not be so much dead wood in the forests now to burn, and fires would be not as hot and not as large.

He did claim that only you can prevent forest fires, but that was just a way to avoid the blame.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  mcswell
June 16, 2022 9:36 am

Smokey learned that lesson the hard way in Yellow Stone. I think the year was 1988. Fires burned all through the summer and by fall the place was devastated.

June 14, 2022 8:11 pm

Given that C02 has done nothing but increase since the Australian wildfires of 2020, Australia should be completely obliterated by fire by now, given that wildfires are caused and worsened by global warming.

Reply to  wadesworld
June 14, 2022 10:48 pm

Global warming Australia with a ski season start early in June and ski resorts reporting over one metre of snow already fallen.

We were told that snow by now would not fall because of the warming emergency.

During the 1990s I took four teenagers skiing during the July school holidays for several years and most often snow began to fall after we arrived or just before. The resorts relied on machine manufactured overnight snow and machine grooming of ski runs.

June 14, 2022 9:03 pm

Like when the world was told Australia was on fire in the summer of 2019/20, when in fact there were only three major fires. The arsonist lit one in the Noosa region in Queensland, the one on Kangaroo Island in South Aus and the main one on the NSW/Vic border. And as Bjorn Lomborg pointed out after doing the maths, only 4% of Australia burnt that season, compared to the rest of the 21st century average of 6%! Not to mention that the average for the 20th century was 10%!

Reply to  Kentlfc
June 14, 2022 9:57 pm

The Kangaroo Island fire was ignited by lightning inside the Flinders Chase National Park. A nearby grader driver offered to isolate it or put it out when it was a small burn but the Park officials prevented him from doing that. They also denied a aircraft from dropping fire suppressant. Both because it was a National Park and you can’t do commonsense things like that. The inevitable conflagration caused huge damage to agriculture and tourism, human and livestock fatalities etc. All due to inaction by bureaucrats. Nothing to do with gerbil warming.

Reply to  Kentlfc
June 14, 2022 10:50 pm

Where I live on the NSW Mid Coast there were several fire grounds and at least two were lit by arsonists, police chased one small group of young men on trail bikes after spotting them lighting fires.

Jason Pratt
June 14, 2022 9:29 pm

Agree with the assessment, however: we do need to see 2019-2021(2?) data. I could envision a snap back to a trend line that would refute your thesis (say, 5.5 on your land area axis).

Reply to  Jason Pratt
June 14, 2022 10:42 pm

2019 and 2020 is in my first article about global fires. Nope.

Yeah and 2030 could be a freak year with 10 Mkm^2; Turning the trend slightly positive. It’s still awful science.


AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 4:18 am

Even .ore awful when you include all the data prior to your start date…

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
June 15, 2022 6:48 am

That’s as far back as GLOBAL data goes, that I’m aware of.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
June 15, 2022 1:18 pm

I believe the global Active Fires Index starts in 2000.

June 14, 2022 11:13 pm

This is the same Zoe Phinn whose website used to claim that geothermal heat was the cause of the surface temp being 288 Kelvin. And averages seasonal USCRN temperature sine waves into temperature declines. Be careful your toes don’t get pinched by loose cannons Anthony…

Reply to  DMacKenzie
June 15, 2022 12:17 am

USCRN decreased for 8 years (air), and 12 years (surface). FACT.

No, I claimed geothermal made it ~273K to ~278K.

Learn to read. Or even better, learn to read code.

But yes, Mr Watts, do check my work first. Because errors are not impossible.

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  DMacKenzie
June 15, 2022 1:09 am

I have zero scientific credentials aside from passing high school physics, chemistry and biology, but I wouldn’t be so quick to completely rule out geothermal when apart from a relatively thin crust we are sitting on what is essentially a 8000 mile diameter ball of molten rock.

Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
June 15, 2022 1:51 pm

Would you be happy if we guessed that 1% to 2% of global warming could be caused by geothermal heat and CO2 from volcanoes, less the dust from them that blocks some sun light? I think we should concentrate on the other 98% to 99%.

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  Richard Greene
June 15, 2022 3:43 pm

Yes, let’s. As long as you are not going to claim that it’s all CO2.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
June 15, 2022 5:22 am

BS, completely different subjects without any connection.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
June 15, 2022 1:46 pm

Zoe Phin is not a “loose cannon”.
But you are.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
June 16, 2022 6:29 am

In a free society people are allowed to hold any opinions they like.

Coeur de Lion
June 15, 2022 2:11 am

And try American wildfires in the 1930s. Five to ten times more than today. That’s not ‘new data’ it’s “ignored by ignorant greenies” data.

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
June 15, 2022 2:26 am

Around that time in Australia a bushfire burnt a huge area of land over a couple of months and travelled a thousand or more kilometres across farmland and forested areas in New South Wales and Victoria.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
June 15, 2022 7:23 am

I seem to recall a post here about past wildfire data (or maybe just the trend?) on a US gov site that changed the start date. The excuse was that previous records were unreliable.
(I searched for the post but couldn’t find it.)

Reply to  Gunga Din
June 15, 2022 1:32 pm

I believe it was the EPA.
They truncated 1926 to 1981 acres burned data.
Inconvenient, not unreliable.
Just like the global cooling from 1940 to 1975.
That was inconvenient too.
Bureaucrats own the data.
Ad they’ll tell you what they want you to “know”.

Reply to  Gunga Din
June 16, 2022 6:30 am

Tony Heller has some good YT videos on the “adjustments” made to the US wildfire data to hype up the CAGW narrative.

Reply to  Gunga Din
June 17, 2022 11:25 pm

On day 1 of the Biden presidency if I remember correctly.

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
June 15, 2022 1:28 pm

US wildfire acres burned are exaggerated in the 1930s
due to prescribed fires in Southeastern states that were included in the totals.
That fire zone is not known for many acres burned,
so this was very usunusual in the 1930s.
Gave the Civilian Conservation Corp something to do that was of value.
Prescribed fires in CA would have been too dangerous.
If you eliminate those prescribed fires in Southeastern states,
the remaining US acres burned in the 1930s were still high,
but not as large as they appear on a chart.
It took me a long time to dig up this information
a few years ago, and I regret to not having a link
available today.

Of course the EPA didn’t like the acres burned chart so they decided
to truncate data before the 1970s, which were the decade with
the lowest number of acres burned.
So their chart starts at a low point to show a rising trend.
Not that acres burned, or even an active fire count, is logically
related to a few tenths of a degree of global warming.

But then wild fires are bad and we all know everything bad
is caused by climate change.

June 15, 2022 3:46 am

A lot of forests in Australia are eucalyptus, which drops litter at a rate of around 8 tonnes per hectare. But the litter only decomposes at 29% annually. So the litter quickly builds up to very high levels in only a few years, then it’s impossible to stop a bushfire/wildfire once it starts. Eucalypt forests need to be cool burnt at a rate greater than 15% of the total forest area every year. But only Western Australia comes close, attempting to cool burn 10% annually. NSW and Victoria cool burn less than 2% annually, so these states will always have massive bushfires – just a question of when.

Andy H
June 15, 2022 4:17 am

The fires in Australia might have been caused by the millions of tons of “carbon farming”. The government gave tax breaks if people didn’t clear land so there was vast amounts of carbon (undergrowth) that would normally have been removed. More fuel means bigger and harder to control fires. Wildfires are inevitable due to the Australian green policies.

June 15, 2022 5:30 am

The notion that any phenomenon is a result of a single actor, a single influence, is almost always false.

“Everything looks simple when you don’t know what you’re talking about” – words to live by.

Wildfires are complex phenomena, the result of a large number of contributing factors and actors – with respect to two of the three requisite ingredients of any fire: fuel, a source of ignition, and oxygen. Oxygen concentration changes not at all.

So when it comes to fuel, there are considerations like the age and biological maturity of a forested area (older more mature forests have more fuel than young or emergent forests, and the maturity of a forest affects the vulnerability of trees to insect infestations that cause the accumulation of dried deadwood); the density of the forest (which is usually a function of moisture – more precipitation over a long over a long timeframe produces more fuel; long term droughts cause LESS fuel accumulation). Dry savannas tend to promote growth of grasses vs. trees, and grasses are more easily ignited than trees, but when they burn they burn out more quickly, and revegetate more quickly.

Temporary environmental conditions due to “weather”, not “climate” also have a large effect, from precipitation (most forests in the world experience a regular “rainy season” and a regular “dry season), winds (which also regularly change on a seasonal basis) that can spread fires or contain fires, and can accelerate fires or decelerate fires by virtue of their speed and direction and persistance. High precipitation produces more fuel, less precip seasonally produces fuel that is easier to ignite.

And so on and so on – it’s all very complex.

When it comes to sources of ignition, there are intentional fires, be they controlled prescribed burns to reduce fuel loads, or criminal acts of arson intended destroy forests and other assets. There are also unintended sources, such as electrical power lines and transformers that can “spark” a fire, or overheated vehicle exhausts when parked over dried grasses, or campers and other forest users who don’t properly control or extinguish campfires or barbecue grill burns, or casually toss a lighted cigarette into a pile of fuel. The more that civilization intrudes on wild forests, be it new development or recreational use, the more sources of ignition.

And so on and so on – it’s all very complex.

When you know what you’re talking about, it’s quickly apparent that most things really aren’t that simple after all.

June 15, 2022 6:01 am

I wouldn’t expect to see a direct correlation between CO2 and wildfires. That’s going to depend on a huge variety of factors.

But checking this data there is a significantly significant correlation between CO2 and the data for wildfire in this article. p-value is 0.004. It’s only really the last 4 years that show a major departure from this trend.

Reply to  Bellman
June 15, 2022 6:42 am

So … less significant than the price of tea in nowheresville, oklahoma.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 6:49 am

bellcurveman’s lot in life is to defend the Holy Temperature Trends at all costs.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2022 7:42 am

No kidding, he/she is a tool.

Hockey stick is a friend.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 7:52 am

He can generate random number sets with his computer to prove that statistical variance is … random.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2022 8:57 am

In other words, I challenged your claim that the variance of the sum of of random variables is the same as the mean of the same random variables, and suggested ways you could test your belief. Your response was that dice weren’t random.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2022 8:50 am

That and to actually check out claims of no correlation.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 8:53 am

As I said, I doubt there would be clear causation between CO2 and annual wildfire. I just like to check the data when someone claims “Clearly, there is no correlation whatsoever between increasing atmospheric CO2 and global wildfire acreage burned. ”

For some reason skeptics here don’t like it when I do that

Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 2:08 pm

NoWheresville is in Texas

Reply to  Bellman
June 15, 2022 7:41 am

There is also a correlation between sales of fire hoses, masks and ice cream 😉

Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 8:58 am

Did someone claim there was no correlation whatsoever between hoses and ice cream?

Reply to  Bellman
June 15, 2022 9:30 am


Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 1:35 pm

Almost all men in prison eat potatoes.
Potatoes cause crime.

Reply to  Richard Greene
June 15, 2022 2:14 pm

That sums up Bellman

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Derg
June 15, 2022 9:34 pm

He also likes to whine.

Reply to  Bellman
June 16, 2022 6:34 am

To my eyes a bell-shaped curve fits the data far better than a straight line. At high CO2 levels burn area actually decreases.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Bellman
June 16, 2022 9:48 am

The rooster crowed and then the sun came up.

Reply to  Citizen Smith
June 16, 2022 2:33 pm

The sun came up and then it got warmer.

June 15, 2022 7:15 am

Phin added a statement of the obvious, at least to trained eyes:
“1994 is missing in their data, but that’s alright. It’s obvious that carbon dioxide has zero effect on fires. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar, an imbecile, or just plain ignorant. The latter can be cured.”
“Clearly, there is no correlation whatsoever between increasing atmospheric CO2 and global wildfire acreage burned.”

The facts do not lie. If you would do a little more data processing, what you would find is the burnt area upward spikes lag CO2 anomaly spikes by 0-2 years approximately, and with a closer look you’ll find CO2 anomaly spikes follow upward SST spikes such as El Nino events.

This brings things into sharp view: ocean warming leads to more rain and CO2 for fire fuel.

comment image

Following SST upticks naturally are SST declines with correspondingly clearer skies, allowing higher levels of desiccating ground insolation, ie, higher UV Index, increasing fire risk to the aforementioned fuel load increase, then fanning any fires with the warm winds generated. Here is an example of burnt area rapidly increasing with high UVI in Turkey:

comment image

The same type of conditions have happened since 2020 in the US, this year too, due to La Nina, leading to heat, drought, vegetative drying, all increasing the risk for more fires and burnt area.

comment image

Like some other commenters indicated, it’s not just one thing when it comes to fires.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Bob Weber
June 15, 2022 7:57 am

Your green arrows are hardly what I would call significant.

Reply to  Carlo, Monte
June 15, 2022 8:45 am

Let’s see Monte Carlo, 8 of 8 spikes were accounted for by green arrows, and the first and last spike which don’t have green arrows also followed CO2 spikes, making it 10/10, 100% of the spikes, which is statistically very very significant:


Livezey, R.E. and W.Y. Chen, 1983: Statistical field significance and it’s determination by Monte Carlo Techniques. Mon. Wea. Review., 111, 46-59.
Diaconis, P. and B. Efron, 1983: Computer Intensive methods in statistics, Sci. Am., 248, 116-130.

Significance table:

                Significance Level
Degrees of   .950   .975   .990   .995
    2        1.000  1.000  1.000  1.000
    3        0.920  0.954  0.977  0.986
    4        0.833  0.891  0.936  0.956
    5        0.758  0.829  0.889  0.919
    6        0.697  0.774  0.844  0.880
    7        0.646  0.727  0.802  0.843
    8        0.605  0.685  0.764  0.808
    9        0.570  0.650  0.729  0.775
   10        0.540  0.619  0.699  0.746

In my example above, the perfect r= 1.000 exceeds the .746 level necessary for 10 degrees of freedom to exceed the 99.5% two-tailed significance, exceeds it by 33%!

You must be a different Monte Carlo…

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  Bob Weber
June 15, 2022 9:35 pm


Reply to  Bob Weber
June 15, 2022 9:01 am

I like this.

Please see “Download My Data” in my article. The graphical chart manipulation is too amusing. You can refine your analysis, as I show monthly data.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 9:57 am

“The graphical chart manipulation is too amusing. You can refine your analysis, as I show monthly data.”

What do you mean by chart manipulation? Your chart was good, clear, nice, but I had to crop the x-axis cause it was in the way, after I aligned it. My bad.

Right now I don’t have time for refining my analysis, but thank you, maybe later.

The greening of the earth by all CO2 increases, man-made and natural, is the basis for an increasing fuel load of fast-growing species like grasses and schrubs, on top of slower tree growth, for significant increases in overall leaf area.

comment image

Burnt areas regrow over time; how long does it take to reload?, I ask rhetorically.

CO2 is a good SST proxy, lagging significantly by 5 months (12-month change), reinforcing my earlier point about how CO2 and rainfall spikes go together, rising and falling with SST, providing food for greening the planet in between droughts:

comment image

Reply to  Bob Weber
June 15, 2022 10:17 am

I am amused by graphical scaling, choping, shifting, etc as opposed to generating new charts via data. It’s very old school, like splicing film.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
June 15, 2022 10:27 am

Lastly, to drive the points home, your Burnt Area plot and the plot of 12-month changes in CO2 and SST clearly show what I was talking about earlier, the warming ocean sets the stage for later higher burnt area, from CO2 and rain enhanced leaf area increases.

comment image

Matt G
Reply to  Bob Weber
June 16, 2022 1:19 pm

Only main thing shown here is the relation to ENSO with drought. The CO2 anomaly mainly results in the peak or minmum caused by ENSO being either El Nino or La Nina.

High UVA is down to the decrease in global cloud cover since the early 1980’s.

The green arrows are mainly from El Nino events causing the worst droughts globally.

The decline in burnt area since 2014 shows thare are other factors in play like arson.

Elmer Ulmer
June 15, 2022 7:24 am

I share the view that CO2 levels are not related to wild fires, except possibly from higher nutrient values creating more fuel. But as an atmospheric component causing warming-no way. One thing I would be cautious about in drawing conclusions about wild fire trends are changes over time of land-use and fire fighting practices. The woods and grasslands are not the same today as gthey were 100 years ago, or even 20-40 years ago (See Colorado fire last fall). And in 1982, the beginning of Anthony’s time period, it was not unusual to see old converted B-17’s, Mars water bombers and surplus Huey’s as the main air resources on wild fires. Today’s aircraft are much more reliable, much faster, have shorter turn-around times and have far more capacity.

So drawing conclusions about CO2 impact on wildfire burn area and frequency is fraught with complexity,. I don’t think it is possible with any useful degree of accuracy. And if we can’t do that then how on earth can we do predictions about CO2 impact on climate?

Reply to  Elmer Ulmer
June 15, 2022 7:44 am

They don’t need accuracy. If it feels right that is all they care about.

June 15, 2022 8:11 am

Limit the graph to 1985-2001 and smooth the fire graph 🙂

Reply to  TonyG
June 15, 2022 8:34 am

And squeeze the x-axis to emphasize the y-axis. Perfect.

Mike Maguire
June 15, 2022 10:23 am

They spend incredible amounts of time and effort to exaggerate metrics in climate change realms that have high levels of uncertainty….or to cherry pick the most extreme scenarios.
But completely ignore the metrics in other realms of extremely high certainty based on indisputable physical laws………because some of those are massively beneficial.

The LAW of Photosynthesis for instance. The planet is greatly greening up by all measures BECAUSE OF the increase in CO2 (with an assist from slight, mostly beneficial warming).

Somehow, this and the huge increase in global food production doesn’t matter in the discussion.
How loony is that? The human food supply is at the core of our basic existence and defines quality of life in many places, as well as determining affordability.

However, benefits from CO2 have been completely censored from all the discussions by people that clearly don’t want authentic, scientific data.

All they want is to get rid of fossil fuels. All assumptions must support getting rid of fossil fuels. Those that don’t must be discarded.

Reply to  Mike Maguire
June 15, 2022 1:41 pm

Now that you have said something good about CO2,
I recommend a a disguise:
A wig, fake eyeglasses and a fake nose.
You have complemented the satanic gas CO2.
the cause of every problem in the world.

June 15, 2022 11:52 am

Can the current year’s “burnt area” value be impacted by the previous year’s values by lowering or increasing the fuel available?

June 15, 2022 12:57 pm

No one ever tries to make a logical connection between a few tenths of a degree warmer climate and the number of acres burned. Since about 90% of fires are man made, why would a few tenths of a degree warming cause people to be more careless or want to commit more arson?

If the warming brought less precipitation that could be a connection but the precipitation trend with global warming is up, not down.

In California, for one example, the forest fuel gets dry and prone to fires every year in “fire season” Once dry, a few tenths of a degree warmer can make the brush any drier.

While CO2 causes almost every problem in the world, from cancer to warts, it’s unrelated to forest fire acres burned.

June 15, 2022 1:22 pm

Advocacy powered by political alliances makes everything worse.

June 15, 2022 1:50 pm

the jewish space lasers did it

June 16, 2022 12:39 am

First thing is that this all requires acceptance of the hypothesis that CO2 increases temperatures. why not plot global temperature vs burned area?

A good burn off in one year might reduce the risk in future years – but only in that location comparison of global burned areas to CO2 are probably meaningless unless reviewed over a very long time covering multiple grow back and burn cycles. And again why not use local temperature? I think the effect of CO2 on the cycle of large and small fires in each area time might be interesting to look at since plants do grow more quickly with increased CO2.

June 16, 2022 3:36 pm

Mauna Loa is an active volcano, is this the best place to be taking CO2 measurements ?

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