Is climate change the culprit causing California’s wildfires?

by Larry Kummer

We’re told that climate change caused or intensified California’s wildfires — and that such fires are getting worse. As usual for such scary stories, these claims are only weakly supported by science — except for the ones that are outright fabrications.

“If we keep fighting a war with fire, three things are going to happen. We’re going to spend a lot of money, we’re going to take a lot of casualties, and we’re going to lose.”

— Stephen Pyne, professor at Arizona State University (source: National Geographic).

Wildfire Earth

(1) Those California Wildfires!

“Gov. Jerry Brown surveyed the devastation Saturday in Ventura …calling it ‘the new normal.’ …“This could be something that happens every year or every few years.’” {Source: LAT.}

Climate change is causing more wildfires! Or so we are told. That is a zombie climate myths — repeatedly said, repeatedly debunked by scientists, but too useful to die. When Brown made this claim in 2015 even the LAT said that “Gov. Brown’s link between climate change and wildfires is unsupported, fire experts say.

“{C}limate scientists’ computer models show only that global warming will bring consistently hotter weather in future decades. Their predictions that warming will bring more forest fires — mostly in the Rockies and at other higher elevations, while fires may actually decrease in Southern California — also are for future decades. Even in a warmer world, they say, land management policies will have the greatest effect on the prevalence and intensity of fire. …

“‘There is insufficient data,’ said U.S. Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly. His work shows that over the last 30 years, California has had an average of 18 additional days per year that are conducive to fire. …

“Today’s forest fires are indeed larger than those of the past, said National Park Service climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez. At a symposium sponsored by Brown’s administration, Gonzalez presented research attributing that trend to policies of fighting the fires, which create thick underlayers of growth, rather than allowing them to burn. ‘We are living right now with a legacy of unnatural fire suppression of approximately a century,’ Gonzalez told attendees. …

“Fire behavior specialist Jeff Shelton, who provided daily forecasts for the Rocky fire and, later, the Jerusalem fire, said he could not attribute their behavior to climate change. He cited the summer’s dry weather, an abundance of fuel created by a lack of previous fires, and steep slopes that allowed the fires to spread quickly. Ecologists said their behavior was typical of natural chaparral fires, which burn infrequently but intensely. …

“‘They are more and more common because we have more and more fuels,’ said Joaquin Ramirez of Technosylva, an international fire modeling company based in San Diego. …

Bureau of Land Management fire manager Jeff Tunnell {said} ‘One hundred years of fire suppression is building fuel beds,’ Tunnell said. ‘Almost any year can produce a fire like this one.'”

See the current wildfire stats compared to recent years. For a detailed debunking see this by Cliff Mass: “Are California Coastal Wildfires Connected With Global Warming: The Evidence Says No.” He is a Professor of Atmospheric Science at U WA.
A world on fire

(2) But US wildfires are getting worse! Unprecedented!

(a) See the graph that must not be seen, so journalists never show it.

This myth has repeatedly been debunked, but is too useful to die. David B. South, Emeritus Professor, of Forestry at Auburn U, showed the actual data in his Senate testimony on 3 June 2014 (page 2). Bjorn Lomborg posted an updated version of his graph, using the same sources. Click to enlarge graph. Excerpt…

“Fires in California and elsewhere are devastating. But US fires are nowhere near the record. More likely about one-fifth of the records in 1930 and 1931. Reuters (along with many others), tell us the current US fires are historic …

“Yet, the official historical data of the United States tells a different story. Look at the Historical Statistics of the United StatesColonial Times to 1970 (p537). There we have statistics for area burnt since 1926 and up to 1970. Reassuringly, the data for 1960-1970 *completely overlap* (that from the National Interagency Fire Center}. This is the same data series.

“And when you look at the whole data series, *every year* from 1926-1952 – over a quarter of a century – saw higher, and mostly much higher forest areas burnt than the modern record set in 2015.

“This is not (as some have suggested) an artifact of the US gradually being deforested (and hence having less land to burn). The USDA Forest Service in their Historical Overview (p7) finds that the US “forest area has been relatively stable since 1910” – if anything slightly increasing since 1910 (which would help push up the burnt area slightly).”

US acres burned 1926-2017

(b) Incidence of wildfires in North America 1600-2000. Peaked in mid-19th C.

Multiscale perspectives of fire, climate and humans in western North America and the Jemez Mountains, USA” by Thomas W. Swetnam et al. in Phil Trans B, 5 June 2016. Fires peaked in the mid-19th century! Click to enlarge the graph.

“The combined record of fire occurrence from more than 800 sites in western North America shows relatively high fire frequency prior to ca 1900, and a high degree of synchrony in both large and small fire years. The 15 largest and smallest fire years are labelled. A pronounced decrease in fire frequency occurred at the time of Euro-American settlement, coinciding approximately with the arrival of railroads, intensive livestock grazing, removal of many Native American populations, and subsequently organized and mechanized fire fighting by government agencies.”

Wildfires in North America 1600-2000

(c) A smaller and more precise record: fires in Yosemite National Park. Peaked in mid-19th C.

Climatic and human influences on fire regimes in mixed conifer forests in Yosemite National Park, USA” by Alan H. Taylor and Andrew E. Scholl in Forest Ecology and Management, 1 March 2012 (gated). Different data, same pattern — a peak in the mid-19th century, followed by a long decline. Click to enlarge.

Wildfires in Yosemite National Park: 1600-2000.

Wildfires in Yosemite National Park 1600-2000

(3) What about the rest of the world?

The rest of the world never shared our Smokey the Bear obsession about preventing forest fires. This study shows that the total global area burned per year is less today than centuries ago — and the area has declined during the past few decades. See “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world” by Stefan H. Doerr and Cristina Santín in Phil Trans B, 5 June 2016. Red emphasis added.

“Wildfire has been an important process affecting the Earth’s surface and atmosphere for over 350 million years and human societies have coexisted with fire since their emergence. Yet many consider wildfire as an accelerating problem, with widely held perceptions both in the media and scientific papers of increasing fire occurrence, severity and resulting losses.

“However, important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends. Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago.

“Regarding fire severity, limited data are available. For the western USA, they indicate little change overall, and also that area burned at high severity has overall declined compared to pre-European settlement. Direct fatalities from fire and economic losses also show no clear trends over the past three decades. Trends in indirect impacts, such as health problems from smoke or disruption to social functioning, remain insufficiently quantified to be examined.

“Global predictions for increased fire under a warming climate highlight the already urgent need for a more sustainable coexistence with fire. The data evaluation presented here aims to contribute to this by reducing misconceptions and facilitating a more informed understanding of the realities of global fire.”

Wildfire occurrence (a) & area burnt (b) in the European Mediterranean region during 1980–2010.

Phil TransB - long-term trend in wildfires

Phil TransB - long-term trend in wildfires

(4) Essential reading to understand the origins of these fires

How Fire, Once a Friend of Forests, Became a Destroyer” by Michelle Nijhuis in National Geographic — “The roots of today’s massive wildfires, says historian and former firefighter Stephen Pyne, lie in the old misconception that all fire is bad.” Pyne is a professor at Arizona State University (see his website), studying the history of wildfire and wildland firefighting in the U.S. and the world. Here are two key points, looking at the results of a century of fire suppression in the US — and looking forward.

“There’s a huge cost to removing all fires from landscapes that have grown up accustomed to them. Fuels — dry wood, leaves, other materials — build up in the forest, and the whole ecological integrity of the system unravels. Simply trying to eliminate fire helps to promote conditions in most places that make for more severe fires with larger consequences and damages, making them more uncontrollable. It costs more and more money to try to keep a lid on the situation, so there’s an economic cost. There’s also a cost in lives — civilian lives, and firefighter lives. …

“Sustainability is an overused and sloppy term, but this is not a sustainable project. We cannot continue to do this. …

“We’re not helpless. We can keep these fires from burning prized assets if we wish. But I think managed wildfire is an acknowledgement that despite our bold talk, we’re not going to get ahead of the problem, and that we have to manage it. The climate, the fuels, the invasive species, the insect outbreaks, and whatever else is coming at us — there’s no way we’re going to get ahead of most of this stuff. We’re only going to do that very selectively.”

The LAT discusses how we got here and how to better cope in the future: “California’s deadliest wildfires were decades in the making. ‘We have forgotten what we need to do to prevent it’.

The same debate is taking place in Canada, with fires blamed on climate change, while most scientists disagree. Such as Blair King’s “We Can’t Blame Climate Change For The Fort McMurray Fires” at the HuffPost (he’s an environmental scientist) and “Science not there: global warming not fueling Alberta’s wildfire” by Thomas Richard at the Examiner.

(5) A look at some of the peer-reviewed literature about fires

Red emphasis added.

(a) Always start with the IPCC: from Working Group 1 report of AR5, section 6.8.1. This does not support claims of increased fires today, or that we will see large increases in the near future.

“Models predict spatially variable responses in fire activity, including strong increases and decreases, due to regional variations in the climate–fire relationship, and anthropogenic interference. Wetter conditions can reduce fire activity, but increased biomass availability can increase fire emissions. Using a land surface model and future climate projections from two GCMs, Kloster et al. (2012) projected fire carbon emissions in 2075–2099 that exceed present-day emissions by 17 to 62% depending on scenario. Future fire activity will also depend on anthropogenic factors especially related to land use change.”

(b) Using Fire Return Interval Departure (FRID) Analysis to Map Spatial and Temporal Changes in Fire Frequency on National Forest Lands in California” by Hugh D. Safford and Kip M. Van de Water, US Forest Service research paper, January 2014. A detailed look at the fire history of Northern and Southern California.

(c) Examining Historical and Current Mixed-Severity Fire Regimes in Ponderosa Pine and Mixed-Conifer Forests of Western North America” by Dennis C. Odion et al. at PLoS ONE, 14 February 2014 — Abstract.

“There is widespread concern that fire exclusion has led to an unprecedented threat of uncharacteristically severe fires in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex. Laws) and mixed-conifer forests of western North America. These extensive montane forests are considered to be adapted to a low/moderate-severity fire regime that maintained stands of relatively old trees.

“However, there is increasing recognition from landscape-scale assessments that, prior to any significant effects of fire exclusion, fires and forest structure were more variable in these forests. Biota in these forests are also dependent on the resources made available by higher-severity fire. A better understanding of historical fire regimes in the ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of western North America is therefore needed to define reference conditions and help maintain characteristic ecological diversity of these systems.

“We compiled landscape-scale evidence of historical fire severity patterns in the ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests from published literature sources and stand ages available from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program in the USA. The consensus from this evidence is that the traditional reference conditions of low-severity fire regimes are inaccurate for most forests of western North America. Instead, most forests appear to have been characterized by mixed-severity fire that included ecologically significant amounts of weather-driven, high-severity fire.

“Diverse forests in different stages of succession, with a high proportion in relatively young stages, occurred prior to fire exclusion. Over the past century, successional diversity created by fire decreased. Our findings suggest that ecological management goals that incorporate successional diversity created by fire may support characteristic biodiversity, whereas current attempts to “restore” forests to open, low-severity fire conditions may not align with historical reference conditions in most ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of western North America.”

(d) Extreme Fire Season in California: A Glimpse Into the Future?” by Jin-Ho Yoon et al. in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, December 2015 — Conclusion:

“Our result, based on the CESM1 outputs, indicates that man-made global warming is likely one of the causes that will exacerbate the areal extent and frequency of extreme fire risk, though the influence of internal climate variability on the 2014 and the future fire season is difficult to ascertain.”

(e) Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests” by John T. Abatzogloua and A. Park Williams in PNAS, 18 October 2016.

“Increased forest fire activity across the western United States in recent decades has contributed to widespread forest mortality, carbon emissions, periods of degraded air quality, and substantial fire suppression expenditures.

“Although numerous factors aided the recent rise in fire activity, observed warming and drying have significantly increased fire-season fuel aridity, fostering a more favorable fire environment across forested systems. We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.”

Although this is an outlier in the literature, it is endlessly cited. This study ignores the effect of “suppression and wildland fire use policies, ignitions, land cover (e.g., exurban development), and vegetation changes”, although they “have likely added to the area burned across the western US forests.”

(f) Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States” by Jennifer K. Balcha et al. in PNAS, 14 March 2017. See an interview with the lead author in “Who is starting all those wildfires? We are” by Warren Cornwall in Science, 12 September 2017. Abstract.

“The economic and ecological costs of wildfire in the United States have risen substantially in recent decades. Although climate change has likely enabled a portion of the increase in wildfire activity, the direct role of people in increasing wildfire activity has been largely overlooked. We evaluate over 1.5 million government records of wildfires that had to be extinguished or managed by state or federal agencies from 1992 to 2012, and examined geographic and seasonal extents of human-ignited wildfires relative to lightning-ignited wildfires.

“Humans have vastly expanded the spatial and seasonal “fire niche” in the coterminous United States, accounting for 84% of all wildfires and 44% of total area burned. During the 21-y time period, the human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States. Human-started wildfires disproportionally occurred where fuel moisture was higher than lightning-started fires, thereby helping expand the geographic and seasonal niche of wildfire. Human-started wildfires were dominant (>80% of ignitions) in over 5.1 million km2 , the vast majority of the United States, whereas lightning-started fires were dominant in only 0.7 million km2 , primarily in sparsely populated areas of the mountainous western United States.

Ignitions caused by human activities are a substantial driver of overall fire risk to ecosystems and economies. Actions to raise awareness and increase management in regions prone to human-started wildfires should be a focus of United States policy to reduce fire risk and associated hazards.”

This essay was originally published at Fabius Maximus.

Moderation note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant

107 responses to “Is climate change the culprit causing California’s wildfires?

  1. Pingback: The California Fires | Transterrestrial Musings

  2. The NYT reviews two new books about wildfires, pointing to the obvious causes.

    ————————

    “As detailed in Michael Kodas’s bracing Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame and Edward Struzik’s drier Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future, today’s forests are often clogged with desiccated vegetation because — unlike in countless millenniums past — they are seldom cleansed by naturally occurring blazes. With such an abundance of fuel to feast on, wildfires like those currently raging in California have become increasingly ruinous and intense.

    “The bureaucrats and scientists who have tried to warn against the folly of treating every wildfire like a mortal foe have discovered their message is a nonstarter. That’s partly because so many businesses are keen to preserve the status quo: About 40% of America’s wildfire-fighting resources, from helicopters that can cost as much as $7,000 an hour to catering services that charge $100,000 a day, are now provided by private companies. ‘Most don’t get paid if they’re not actively fighting a fire,’ Kodas points out, ‘so they lobby to fight as many fires as they can.’ …

    “But the most powerful constituency in favor of perpetuating the futile war on wildfires is the people who’ve chosen to inhabit risky terrain. According to a 2015 study, America’s 13 Western states contain 1.1 million homes deemed ‘highly vulnerable to wildfires’ because of their proximity to forests full of tinder. There is no easy way to convince the owners of those homes that a fire they can glimpse from their bedrooms should be allowed to burn for long-term strategic purposes. Nor have denizens of the so-called “wildland-urban interface” been receptive to the idea that controlled burns, set and supervised by government employees, are necessary to thin out cluttered woodlands. In fact, when the Forest Service attempted to burn off some high-risk brush near Prescott, Ariz., a few years ago, angry locals threatened to kill anyone involved in the operation.”

    • I think your second paragraph is a bit of a false dichotomy. In the WUI they can do mechanical fuel treatments and prescribed burning beyond the WUI so people don’t have to watch a prescribed burn right out their window.
      .
      Feds have difficulties getting enough bucks to get it all done, air quality rules that make it difficult to do prescribed burning, and some groups are against mechanical treatments and litigate.

  3. This is like religion, except for most people being unaware they enrolled in one. Everything bad gets blamed on climate change. Scientists are only listened to when they support the cult. And reducing CO₂ emissions is the cure for everything bad. Reducing CO₂ emissions probably has the same effect as praying. Anything good that happens is always linked to enough praying, and anything bad to insufficient praying.

    Clearly we are not good stewards of nature. We don’t know how to do it properly, and we should stop pretending we do. National Parks have been awfully managed. We should just give Nature as much room as possible and leave her alone. She’ll find her way. Fire management is just another example of our incompetence.

    • Re: “This is like religion, except for most people being unaware they enrolled in one. Everything bad gets blamed on climate change. Scientists are only listened to when they support the cult.”

      Seriously, stop insinuating that science is a religion. That’s AIDS-denialist-level nonsense, and you should be embarrassed for even resorting to it.

      “Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma
      Since the ideas proposed by deniers do not meet rigorous scientific standards, they cannot hope to compete against the mainstream theories. They cannot raise the level of their beliefs up to the standards of mainstream science; therefore they attempt to lower the status of the denied science down to the level of religious faith, characterizing scientific consensus as scientific dogma […].”
      http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040256

      • I am not insinuating that science is a religion. I’m a scientist and I know what science is and is not after a whole life dedicated to it.

        What is a religion is the belief that an apocalypse is going to take place because of our CO₂ emissions. The ridiculous idea that the Arctic should have melted by now, that the sea is going to rise several meters and devour coastal cities, that the world is going to be ravaged by heat waves, cold waves, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes and the seven plagues of Egypt. And that the only way to prevent it is to abandon fossil fuels and embrace electric vehicles.

        Science doesn’t say any of that, yet scores of people believe it. The have some ridiculous beliefs like 97% of scientists think climate change is the worst problem we face. It is a pseudo-religion. No matter how many times you tell them the truth and what the IPCC says, because they have been told and they believe.

        Well you guys are in for a very long wait, because the second coming of Jesus and the climate apocalypse aren’t going to happen. Sorry for the spoiler. Things aren’t that different from 40 years ago. A few centimeters of sea level rise, a little less ice in the Arctic that even the polar bears aren’t bothered with, some smaller glaciers. And things won’t be that different 40 years from now. We can’t even know which way they will change, as we couldn’t predict the pause.

        So as usual you talk about what you don’t know. First learn about science before going lecturing other people what it means.

      • Re: “I am not insinuating that science is a religion.”

        Wait, so you’re not insinuating that the science on “climate change causing, intensifying, promoting, etc., wildfires” is a religion? If you’re not insinuating that, then why did you write “This is like religion” in response to a blogpost distorting the science on this topic?

        And before you claim this isn’t science, I suggest you read sources such as:

        “Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California”
        “Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014”
        “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models”
        “Global warming and changes in drought”
        “Emergence of heat extremes attributable to anthropogenic influences”
        “Observed drought indices show increasing divergence across Europe”

        Also, see the following quotes from the last two papers cited in the above blogpost:

        “We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.”

        “Although climate change has likely enabled a portion of the increase in wildfire activity, the direct role of people in increasing wildfire activity has been largely overlooked.”

        Re: ” I’m a scientist”

        So am I, which is one reason why I don’t pretend that science is a religion, regardless of whether it’s the science on the risks on HIV/AIDS, anthropogenic climate change, smoking, etc. I have no patience for people who use their ideology to justify caricaturing science as religion.

        Re: “What is a religion is the belief that an apocalypse is going to take place because of our CO₂ emissions.”

        Oh look, you’re offering a variation on the “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” straw man, but now with “apocalypse” substituted for “catastrophe”. Let me know when you’ve moved on from such a straw man:

        “[catastrophic anthropogenic global warming] is simply a straw man used by climate contrarians to criticize the mainstream position (50).”
        https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-20161-0_3

        Re: “Science doesn’t say any of that, yet scores of people believe it. The have some ridiculous beliefs like 97% of scientists think climate change is the worst problem we face.”

        Let me know when you have some evidence of people believing that. Until you do, it’s a straw man as far as I’m concerned.

        If you want a primer on how to cite evidence on what people actually think (instead of just resorting to a straw man), then see the following, which elaborates on your discussion of climate change as a “problem”:

        Among AAAS (American Academy for the Advancement of Science) scientists with relevant expertise (PhD earth scientists current working), there’s a 95% consensus that climate change was a serious problem and a 93% consensus that recent warming is mostly caused by humans:

        “Earth Scientists Views on Climate Change”
        http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/07/23/elaborating-on-the-views-of-aaas-scientists-issue-by-issue/

        And in another survey, ~87% of climate researchers thought that humans caused (or will cause) most of the recent (or near future) climate change, while ~86% of climate researchers thought that climate change poses a very serious problem and/or a threat to humanity:

        Figures 88 (v043) and 2 (v007) of: “The Bray and von Storch 5th International Survey of Climate Scientists 2015/2016”
        https://www.hzg.de/imperia/md/content/hzg/zentrale_einrichtungen/bibliothek/berichte/hzg_reports_2016/hzg_report_2016_2.pdf

        Re: “Things aren’t that different from 40 years ago”

        That’s nice. Let me know when you have some evidence for your baseless assertions. I suggest the following paper to get you started:

        “Assessing the observed impact of anthropogenic climate change”

        Re: “We can’t even know which way they will change, as we couldn’t predict the pause.”

        Only an uninformed neophyte thinks that failure to predict short-term fluctuations means that one cannot predict long-term trends.

        Or do you also think that since I can’t tell you (without a weather forecast) whether next week will be warmer than this week in a Canadian city, I also can’t predict (without a weather forecast) that there will be a multi-month warming trend from mid-winter to mid-summer in that same Canadian city?

        Re: “So as usual you talk about what you don’t know. First learn about science before going lecturing other people what it means.”

        …says the person making bare assertions without citing pertinent evidence. Feel free to continue making non-peer-reviewed blogposts on Curry’s cite regarding non-anthropogenic climate change. It doesn’t nothing to rebut the peer-reviewed evidence on anthropogenic climate change.

      • Science is not a religion but Atomski is an acolyte of something that is far from science.

      • in response to a blogpost distorting the science on this topic?

        That’s your opinion. The blogpost presents a view well supported in scientific works and evidence. As you cannot show this evidence is wrong, you attack the author. Typical.

        On every scientific topic actively researched you can find dissent, and opposing views. Your attempts to present it as one-sided are anti-scientific. The authors that defend that anthropogenic warming is making fires worse fail to show convincing evidence. The truth is other. The world is seeing far less surface burned while global warming continues.

        “Humans have, and always have had, a major impact on wildfire activity, which is expected to increase in our warming world. Andela et al. use satellite data to show that, unexpectedly, global burned area declined by ∼25% over the past 18 years, despite the influence of climate.”
        http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1356

        Oops it turns out you don’t have a clue of what you talk about. Typical.

        And it doesn’t matter that I show you that the data doesn’t support your beliefs, because since it is your religion, you won’t accept the data. You are a perfect example of religious belief in the evils of global warming.

        Other of your typical tactics is to assume you know what is in my mind and raise that as straw man arguments.

        “I have no patience for people who use their ideology to justify caricaturing science as religion.”

        Who are you talking about? I don’t think science is a religion (it is in fact, anti-religion), and you have no idea about my ideology.
        Fallacious argumentation is a sign of lack of arguments. Typical.

        Let me know when you have some evidence of people believing that.

        “Climate change, Mr. Obama often says, is the greatest long-term threat facing the world”

        Not bad for a belief based on little evidence. There is no acceleration in the loss of Arctic sea ice, no acceleration in sea level rise, no acceleration in temperature rise. It seems the future might be a repetition of the past, and humanity has been doing great these past four decades of global warming. The danger is so far unclear and non-present.

        So let’s see about those scientists polls.

        This graph is from figure 2 of the Verheggen et al. 2014 article Scientists’ Views about Attribution of Global Warming, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2014, 48 (16), pp 8963–8971
        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es501998e

        The graph shows that out of 1868 scientists of which 98% has published in climatology in peer reviewed science journals, only 66% believe that GHGs have contributed more than 50% to global warming, and only 17% believe that they have contributed >100%, which is the IPCC official standing as can be seen in IPCC AR5 WG1 Chapter 10. Figure 10.5
        https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/drafts/fgd/WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_Chapter10.pdf

        These results are consistent with the polls regularly conducted by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch since 1996, that you mention, for example see figure 2a in D. Bray The Scientific Consensus of Climate Change Revisited. Environmental Science & Policy 13 (2010) 340-350.

        So the consensus is less solid than pretended, and it is not as if consensus views have not been wrong in science many times. Every great advance in science has been made against the prevailing consensus of the time. It doesn’t matter how many scientists believe in something, as Einstein said “If I were wrong, one would have been enough.”

        Only an uninformed neophyte thinks that failure to predict short-term fluctuations means that one cannot predict long-term trends.

        If you don’t understand the cause of the fluctuations, you can still predict the long-term trend, but don’t be surprised that your prediction turns wrong.

        Feel free to continue making non-peer-reviewed blogposts on Curry’s cite regarding non-anthropogenic climate change.

        Thank you. I am relieved that I have your permission.

        It doesn’t nothing to rebut the peer-reviewed evidence on anthropogenic climate change.

        You live under the illusion that debating about climate change in the comments section of a blog accomplishes something. Good Lord. The problem that the science of AGW has to face is the lack of acceleration in the loss of Arctic sea ice, the lack of acceleration in sea level rise, and the lack of acceleration in temperature rise. Without that, the threat from climate change is a figment of the mind, and the contribution from GHGs to global warming a matter of opinion.

      • Re: “The blogpost presents a view well supported in scientific works and evidence”

        Not really. It just distorts the science by citing the usual suspects (Lomborg, etc.)

        Re: “As you cannot show this evidence is wrong, you attack the author. Typical.”

        Try again, and read for comprehension this time:

        “Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California”
        “Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014”
        “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models”
        “Global warming and changes in drought”
        “Emergence of heat extremes attributable to anthropogenic influences”
        “Observed drought indices show increasing divergence across Europe”

        Also, see the following quotes from the last two papers cited in the above blogpost:

        “We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.”

        “Although climate change has likely enabled a portion of the increase in wildfire activity, the direct role of people in increasing wildfire activity has been largely overlooked.”

        Re: “On every scientific topic actively researched you can find dissent, and opposing views. Your attempts to present it as one-sided are anti-scientific. The authors that defend that anthropogenic warming is making fires worse fail to show convincing evidence.”

        The usual denialist tactic: manufacture of false doubt, and a false equivalence. Just because there are two sides in a discussion, doesn’t mean both sides are equally valid. Just because there are two sides, doesn’t mean there is not clearly a right sid with the dissenters having nothing much of value to say. And last I checked, my citing scientific evidence is not “anti-scientific”. Yet you claim to a be a scientist.

        Re: ““Humans have, and always have had, a major impact on wildfire activity, which is expected to increase in our warming world. Andela et al. use satellite data to show that, unexpectedly, global burned area declined by ∼25% over the past 18 years, despite the influence of climate.”
        […]
        Oops it turns out you don’t have a clue of what you talk about. Typical.”

        No, it doesn’t. You’re running the same ridiculous reasoning as AIDS denialists.

        AIDS denialist logic:
        HIV-induced AIDS can’t be killing that many people, since Earth’s population is growing.

        Flaw in denialist’s logic:
        AIDS can kill a lot of people, even if population increases due to other factors, such as improved medical practices

        Asinine logic:
        Anthropogenic climate change can’t be affecting forest fires, since burned acreage is decreasing.

        Flaw in your logic:
        Anthropogenic climate change can affect forest fires, even if burned acreage decreases due to other factors, such as improved firefighting responses.

        Denialists really engage in the same sort of fallacious logic, regardless of the topic. Sad.

        Re: “Not bad for a belief based on little evidence. There is no acceleration in the loss of Arctic sea ice, no acceleration in sea level rise, no acceleration in temperature rise.”

        If you’re a scientist, then please learn how to do a competent literature review. Here’s a lesson, using your false claim on sea level rise as an example:

        Sea level rise results from melting land ice and thermal expansion of water. Warming causes thermal expansion and land ice melt. Thus, one would expect warming to increase the rate of sea level rise. And that’s the case. For example:

        “Global sea level linked to global temperature”
        “Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era”

        In the 20th century to the 21st century, global warming occurred from the ~1900s to ~1940s, then slight cooling (or temperature stagnation) from ~1940s to the ~1970s, and then global warming from the ~1970s onwards. For example, see:

        “Estimating changes in global temperature since the pre-industrial period”
        “A reassessment of temperature variations and trends from global reanalyses and monthly surface climatological datasets”
        “Deducing Multidecadal Anthropogenic Global Warming Trends Using Multiple Regression Analysis”
        “Early onset of industrial-era warming across the oceans and continents”

        Given the aforementioned points, one would expect the rate of sea level rise to change in response to global warming patterns of the 20th century, with greater sea level rise in the late 20th century as compared to the mid-20th century. That’s clearly shown in:

        Table 2 of “Twentieth-Century Global-Mean Sea Level Rise: Is the Whole Greater than the Sum of the Parts?”
        Figure 3: “Considerations for Estimating the 20th Century Trend in Global Mean Sea Level”
        Figure 1B: “Reassessment of 20th century global mean sea level rise”
        “Recent global sea level acceleration started over 200 years ago?”
        “Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807”
        “A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise”
        “Sea-Level Rise from the Late 19th to the Early 21st Century”
        “An Anomalous Recent Acceleration of Global Sea Level Rise”
        “Probabilistic reanalysis of twentieth-century sea-level rise”

        Other papers confirm the increased post-1990 rate of sea level rise shown in some of the above papers; this increased post-1990 rate is greater than the rate during the mid-20th century. The other papers also show that sea level rise acceleration post-1990, predominately due to increased land ice melt:

        “Evaluation of the Global Mean Sea Level Budget between 1993 and 2014”
        “Considerations for Estimating the 20th Century Trend in Global Mean Sea Level”
        “New estimate of the current rate of sea level rise from a sea level budget approach”
        “Reassessment of 20th century global mean sea level rise”
        “The increasing rate of global mean sea-level rise during 1993–2014”
        “Unabated global mean sea-level rise over the satellite altimeter era”
        “An increase in the rate of global mean sea level rise since 2010”

      • Re: “it is not as if consensus views have not been wrong in science many times. Every great advance in science has been made against the prevailing consensus of the time. It doesn’t matter how many scientists believe in something”

        Like most contrarians, you don’t grasp (or you pretend not to grasp) the point of an evidence-based scientific consensus. The point is not that consensus is always right. The point is that experts are more likely than non-experts to know what they’re talking about, so non-experts should rely on experts. If you don’t believe this, then go perform do-it-yourself medicine, instead of relying on medical experts.

        If you claim to be a scientist (lulz), then you should know that this is one reason why scientists write consensus reports, and review the evidenced-based consensus within a scientific field:

        “Consensus Study Report: Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.”
        https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23395/genetically-engineered-crops-experiences-and-prospects

        Here are some other examples:

        “European evidence based consensus on the diagnosis and management of Crohn’s disease: definitions and diagnosis”
        “Twenty-First Century Behavioral Medicine: A Context for Empowering Clinicians and Patients With Diabetes: A Consensus Report”

        “An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research
        […]
        We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE [genetically engineered] crops, trying to catch the scientific consensus that has matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide.”

        If you still don’t grasp this, then this will dumb it down for you further:

        “The account of expert/citizen communication starts by acknowledging the general (if ambiguous) norm: it is imprudent for the nonexpert to go against the expert view (Goodwin 1998). When a local tells a tourist that a road is dangerous, or a doctor advises a patient that smoking is harmful to her health, or a climate scientist tells the rest of us that the world is warming because of our activities, then the tourist or patient or we would be dumb keep going along regardless. ‘‘Only the fool would not want some expert advice in technical matters’’ (Fischer 2009, p. 139); ‘‘other things being equal, we ought to prefer the judgments of those who ‘know what they are talking about’’’ (Collins and Evans 2007, p. 2).”
        https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jean_Goodwin/publication/225813438_Accounting_for_the_Appeal_to_the_Authority_of_Experts/links/55f3846508ae1d980394a125.pdf

        Re: “The graph shows that out of 1868 scientists of which 98% has published in climatology in peer reviewed science journals, only 66% believe that GHGs have contributed more than 50% to global warming”

        You messed up badly, by not focusing on those with the most expertise in this subject. I suggest you go read the following from Verheggen on this study:

        “90% of respondents with more than 10 climate-related peer-reviewed publications (about half of all respondents), explicitly agreed with anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) being the dominant driver of recent global warming.”
        https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hans_Visser3/publication/264165040_Scientists'_Views_about_Attribution_of_Global_Warming/links/53e8b9720cf2fb74872451d5.pdf

        “85% of all respondents (which included a likely overrepresentation of contrarian non-scientists) who stated a position agreed that anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the dominant driver of recent global warming. Among respondents who reported having authored more than 10 peer-reviewed climate-related publications, approximately 90% agreed that greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause of global warming.”
        http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002/meta

        “~85% think that the influence of human greenhouse gases is dominant, i.e. responsible for more than half of the observed warming. ~15% think greenhouse gases are responsible for less than half of the observed warming. If you zoom in to those respondents with arguably more expertise, the percentage agreeing with human dominated warming becomes 90% or larger.”
        https://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/rick-santorum-misrepresents-our-climate-survey-results-on-bill-maher-show/

      • Hahahahha! He said, “Portraying Science as Faith and Consensus as Dogma,” and then went on to call people who don’t agree “deniers.” It really doesn’t get any better than that…..

    • It’s the “climate change ate my homework” syndrome. I believe a lot of it is caused by an urgency they feel when they see the population at large doesn’t want to pay for the “cure”

  4. Two points to add.
    Researchers have found a link between the Haines Index and ocean oscillations:
    “The Haines index (HI) is a fire-weather index that is widely used as an indicator of the potential for dry, lowstatic-stability air in the lower atmosphere to contribute to erratic fire behavior or large fire growth. This study examines the interannual variability of HI over North America and its relationship to indicators of large-scale circulation anomalies. The results show that the first three HI empirical orthogonal function modes are related respectively to El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Arctic Oscillation (AO), and the interdecadal sea ~ surface temperature variation over the tropical Pacific Ocean. During the negative ENSO phase, an anomalous ridge (trough) is evident over the western (eastern) United States, with warm/dry weather and more days with high HI values in the western and southeastern United States.”
    And the ignored positive point: Forests benefit from more CO2 and milder temperatures:
    “There is strong evidence from the United States and globally that forest growth has been increasing over recent decades to the past 100+ years. Future prospects for forests are not clear because different models produce divergent forecasts. However, forest growth models that incorporate more realistic physiological responses to rising CO2 are more likely to show future enhanced growth. Overall, our review suggests that United States forest health has improved over recent decades and is not likely to be impaired in at least the next few decades.”

    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/fearmongers-fan-forest-fire-flames/

  5. A minor addition to this excellent and timely post…The destruction of homes we’ve seen in CA and elsewhere are almost completely preventable. If you look at some of the news coverage you’ll see the remains of trees within a meter of the burned-down walls of people’s homes. Since some of those are conifers, that means “pine straw” on the roof – an invitation to a blaze. As with so many other things, the “fault is not in our stars (or our climate!) but in ourselves” and the dumb things we do. The USFS has excellent guidelines on how to keep one’s home safe from wildfires; unfortunately, too many ignore them.

  6. There is an interesting analogue of recent weather patterns through 1876-1879. Winter 1876-77 likely had strong NE Pacific ‘warm blob’ blocking, with a cold Dec-Jan in the northeast U.S., and a very stormy and very wet Dec-Jan in England, wetter than in Jan-Feb 2014. In 1877 California had strong drought conditions, followed by the super El Nino of 1877-78, and major floods in California in 1878, followed by huge wildfires in the southwest in 1879.
    https://craigm350.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/the-great-global-weirding-of-18767/

  7. Voters in California keep electing leftist wackos who scheme to make money off of the Global Warming of Doom scam, rather than invest in actual forest management and underbrush clearing techniques that would actually address the problem. As long as voters remain ignorant and gullible, people will suffer from leftist government malfeasance.

  8. The nicely ironic that December events of Devil Winds which occur because of high pressure circulation of cold polar air is somehow attributed to global warming.

    I understand we all have confirmation bias, but this one needs to be called out.

    • Oddly enough (and a very rare admission), the Los Angeles Times this past week allowed one of their reporters to actually report some straight scientific understandings. In, Wind is the culprit in 2017’s horrific wildfire season:

      As for why this Santa Ana season is ramping up after several years of calm, Rolinski [Forest Service meteorologist Tom Rolinski] says the answer lies in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In the last six months, that part of the sea has cooled, influencing weather patterns conducive to Santa Anas.

      The cooler sea temperatures can cause high-pressure systems that push storms to the north and then down into the Great Basin east of California.

      >b>The air in the higher-elevation interior is colder than at the coast, creating a pressure gradient that pulls air masses west. As they blow downslope to the coastal areas, they pick up speed, dry out and sometimes heat up.

      This week’s winds have been relatively cool — about the only good thing you can say about them.

      The current prolonged Santa Ana event is a function of the high-pressure ridge that is sitting over California, said atmospheric scientist Scott Capps, the principal of Atmospheric Data Solutions.

      The fact that the winds started in Ventura County and are working their way south is typical, he added.

      • I don’t think they get much credit for observing that a Santa Ana event had to do with wind. Even a casual Californian should understand such things.

        The Thomas Fire started on December 4.

        Note the 850mb temperatures ( shading of the upper left quadrant charts ) over SoCal on December 2 and also note the cold trough off the coast of Washington State:

        On December 3, note that the cold trough ( marked by the blue tongue ) extends over Washington, Oregon, and Northern California:

        Then, by December 4, note that the cold trough at 850mb has pushed into Nevada and Southern California. Also note the off shore winds as indicated by the wind vectors. And also note the very low humidities indicated by the lower right quadrant charts:

        This was a cold event.

        And a short term event, determined by wave patterns of which there is an infinite variety, without need to invoke cause.

        These things happen.

  9. This is analogous to the hurricane argument. The temperature is up 0.xx therefore there is more energy therefore we must have more frequent and intense hurricanes. And they continue to insist it is true despite actual data that shows it isn’t true in any way shape or form, and in fact the opposite is true.

  10. Nice post. This issue is just like so many others in climate science. If one reads only MSM accounts and listens to only the politicians, it is easy to be swept up by the CAGW hysteria. But, if one takes the time to dig down deep and looks at the data and looks at it from multiple perspectives, relying on numerous sources, the future of our climate becomes a lot murkier. When I see someone buying wholesale into the shtick, without critical analysis, I can only conclude they want to.

  11. From 1919 through 1933, prohibition drove distillers into the woods. “Accidental” fires can destroy evidence before approaching revenuers. The spike in 1936 is suggestive of a resumption, possibly due to high excise taxes.

  12. As detailed in the Wine Country Fires article

    http://landscapesandcycles.net/wine-country-fires-and-climate-demogoguery.html

    In addition to the effects of changes in fire suppression and fuel load build ups 2 other facts show increasing fires have nothing to do with climate change. Bach 2017 shows human ignitions extended the fire season 3 times longer than fires as natural, lightning, ignitions. Furthermore those human ignitions can start in colder and more moist conditions.

    In addition the dryness of fuels is determined largely by weather. Grasses and chaparral twigs are small diameter fuels that can be dried out by the Santa Anna winds within 1 to 10 hours! Putting these fires in a long term climate change context is simply ignorant or dishonest.

    Read Gaining an Understanding of the National Fire Danger Rating System published by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group

    https://www.nwcg.gov/sites/default/files/products/pms932.pdf

  13. No. But I think it is likely to make problem of mudslides and erosion worse eventually. Simply because precipitation over land will likely increase (and it will increase more than evaporation over land). More intense pineapple express rain are likely.

  14. Zombie Climate myths list
    ====================
    “repeatedly said, repeatedly debunked by scientists, but too useful to die.”

    1. Wildfires, as discussed here.

    2. The Arctic ice is all going to disappear next year.

    3. The Methane Time Bomb will kill us all.

    4. This starving polar bear shows what climate change is like.

    Others?

    • Paul,

      A zombie climate myth much more important than any of those —

      Myth: RCP 8.5 — the worst-case scenario of AR5 — describes a “business as usual” future.

      In fact iit assumes large tend changes in tech (stagnation) and population growth (rapid) — the opposite of an “as usual” scenario. Also, so far there is no evidence of either happening. In practice its major use is to scare the uninformed.

      For details about RCP8.5 see http://fabiusmaximus.com/2015/07/13/coal-climate-apocalypse-87192/

      For a long list of papers misrepresenting and correctly describing the RCPs: https://fabiusmaximus.com/2015/11/05/visions-of-dark-climate-future-90153/

    • Re: “Myth: RCP 8.5 — the worst-case scenario of AR5 — describes a “business as usual” future.
      In fact iit assumes large tend changes in tech (stagnation) and population growth (rapid) — the opposite of an “as usual” scenario. Also, so far there is no evidence of either happening. “

      And this a good example of why I don’t rely on the knowledge on non-experts (with expertise in finance) posting on contrarian blogs. You’re simply regurgitating debunked nonsense common in denialist/contrarian circles.

      RCP8.5 depicts a:
      “relatively conservative business as usual case with low income, high population and high energy demand due to only modest improvements in energy intensity [page 43]”
      (from: “RCP 8.5—A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions”)

      The following sources also give a pretty good run-down of RCP8.5:

      “Climate change 2013: Working Group I: The physical science basis; Chapter 12; Long-term climate change: Projections, commitments and irreversibility”, page 1054
      “Climate change 2013: Working Group I: The physical science basis; Annex I: Atlas of global and regional climate projections, Supplementary material RCP8.5”, pages AISM-8 and AISM-9
      “Carbon emission limits required to satisfy future representative concentration pathways of greenhouse gases”
      “Climate model: Temperature change (RCP 8.5) – 2006 – 2100”

      For your point on population, RCP8.5 has a population projection of around 12 billion people by 2100:
      “RCP 8.5—A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” figure 4 on page 44

      That’s within the range of values projected by the UN:
      “World population stabilization unlikely this century”, figure 1A on page 235

      Of course, though that doesn’t stop contrarians like Soon and Monckton from distorting the facts:

      “Fifthly, application of the simple model raises the question why AR5 adopted the extreme RCP 8.5 scenario at all. On that scenario, atmospheric CO2 concentration is projected to reach 936 ppmv by 2100 on the basis of two implausible assumptions: first, that global population will be 12 billion by 2100, though the UN predicts that population will peak at little more than 10 billion by not later than 2070 and will fall steeply thereafter […] [pages 133 and 134].”
      (from “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model”)

      So please stop repeating debunking, contrarian talking points. They’re getting stale.

    • Re: “Zombie Climate myths list
      […]
      “repeatedly said, repeatedly debunked by scientists, but too useful to die.”
      […]
      4. This starving polar bear shows what climate change is like.”

      Wait, you think that’s a myth? How?

      Anthropogenic global warming results in more Arctic sea ice loss and land ice loss. More sea ice loss, in the long-term, is strongly linked to worse health for female polar bears and their cubs; however, other factors can influence polar bear survival in the short-term. This ice loss is also linked to polar bears (and their prey) being exposed to more pollutants, and to polar bears coming on land earlier to catch prey; both of these factors adversely affect prey populations. Polar bears can attempt to acclimate to this ice loss and warmer temperatures, but these acclimation strategies aren’t working very well in many regions.

      Despite these negative effects on polar bear populations, humans can help maintain polar bear populations by, for example, limiting hunting of polar bears. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that climate change is having a negative effect on polar bears, anymore than treating people’s lung cancer changes the fact that smoking has a negative effect on people’s lung health. Reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions can also aid the polar bear populations by limiting sea ice loss in the long-term.

      Anyway, as far as I know, the points I went over in paragraphs 2 and 3 are supported by what scientists have published in the peer-reviewed literature. For instance:

      “Effects of climate warming on polar bears: a review of the evidence”
      “Greenhouse gas mitigation can reduce sea-ice loss and increase polar bear persistence”
      “Anthropogenic flank attack on polar bears: interacting consequences of climate warming and pollutant exposure”
      “A review of ecological impacts of global climate change on persistent organic pollutant and mercury pathways and exposures in arctic marine ecosystems”

      So do you have an evidence that scientists “repeatedly debunked” these points? Please don’t respond with “polar bears numbers went up”. Such a response would be as asinine and fallacious as saying that since the human population went up, scientists “debunked” the detrimental effects of AIDS on humans. AIDS can be detrimental to humans even if other factors increase human population, just like anthropogenic climate change can be detrimental to polar bears even if other factors (such as regulations against polar bear hunting) increase polar bear numbers.

      • “For one thing, he says, during summertime, part of the Arctic is often ice-free. That’s due to seasonal changes, not climatic shifts. And while it can be hard to stomach never mind witness, animals starve to death all the time, for a million different reasons. “We may start to see more [climate-caused starvation] over time, but at this point, there’s no evidence I’m aware of that we’re seeing that,” Higdon adds.”

        http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/12/the_viral_photo_of_a_starving_polar_bear_might_be_dying_of_cancer_not_climate.html

        About ‘This’ polar bear. Sensationalist nonsense that is often trotted out. It’s emotion, not science.

      • Re: “About ‘This’ polar bear. Sensationalist nonsense that is often trotted out. It’s emotion, not science.”

        Stop getting your information on science from the press, Ragnaar. You’ve been corrected on this before, and your nonsense on it is getting tedious. Read some credible sources for once in your life.

      • Yes you are correct. I see now how I should have waited for a peer reviewed paper on the recent polar bear starving picture gone viral before obtaining any information and commenting on it.

      • Please, please, you insert so many quotes and assertions. If you have the quote, you must have the link or at least the citation. How can one assess your claims on quotations without being able to review the source. No matter who makes these kind of claims, if their are not links, than one has to assume a certain amount of cherry picking. Yes, I know that you did insert some links, but I would guess something like 9 out of 10 of your claims have to be taken on face value without knowing whether the source is creditable. This is not acceptable.

    • Polar bear numbers have increased. They are doing OK so far. Impacts from anthropogenic global warming have been minor. Some 0.4 degrees C over 1944 to 1998 – two global temperature regimes (that happen to be cold and warm) that coincide with the increase in carbon dioxide emission rates – at a net warming rate of 0.09 degrees C/decade.

      The question is – where will temperatures go as we pass the 20th century natural millennial peak? And what will happen to Arctic ice? Models are of no help here. Peer reviewed speculation naively based on models far less so.

      Perhaps the past may inform the future.

      “The observed large temporal variability of the AMO as captured by the ice core records points to the difficult task of capturing and forecasting these pronounced multidecadal quasi-oscillations in global and regional Arctic climate models for assessing future Arctic climate.”
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012GL051241/full

      But then Petr Chylek is yet another denier.

      Apparently interviewing people with relevant expertise doesn’t count in Atomski’s strange world. But then – he has no relevant expertise at all by which to judge. I think he is a podiatrist.

      • “It is often assumed that most of the post 1970 Arctic warming is due to increasing concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), without taking natural Arctic climate variability into consideration. However, the possibility that a non-negligible fraction of the recent Arctic warming has been caused by a multidecadal cycle of the Arctic climate [Parker et al., 2007; Semenov et al., 2010; Chylek et al., 2010; Polyakov et al., 2010, 2011; Mahajan et al., 2011, 2012] linked to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and to changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is becoming increasingly likely.”

        Yes they are all definitely contrarian deniers.

      • How many twits does it take to make a non-negligible fraction?

      • I’m not sure that all of you put together make a non-negligible number.

  15. Pingback: Is climate change the culprit causing California’s wildfires? — Climate Etc. – NZ Conservative Coalition

  16. Curious George

    Larry Kummer looks for global or continental links between a changing climate and fires. California Governor Jerry Brown sees a strong link between Napa and Ventura county fires and a local climate change in these two counties. It takes a genius to see those links.

    • Curious George,

      “Larry Kummer looks for global or continental links between a changing climate and fires. ”

      There are many papers in the p-r literature looking for a relationship between those two factors. What’s your point?

      “It takes a genius to see those links.”

      What are you attempting to say? If a changing climate has had a substantial effect on fires, why would that be difficult to see? If it has not, then how could a “genius” see the effect?

      • Curious George

        I don’t see a link. You don’t. Governor Moonbeam does. Therefore He is a genius.

      • George,

        Got it!

        I have a different perspective: he is an activist participating in a campaign to change US public policy (common for successful politicians). His side is playing the long ground game, taking slow steps forward. Each influences public, moving it a little in the desired direction.

        That’s what winning looks like. Time will tell us the result.

  17. The above references on centennial scale fires are good.

    Here’s one on millenial scale from tree scars.

    Note slide 40.

  18. To what extent are the California fires canyon fires, occurring in a natural wind funnel? As those canyons get more populated and built-up, more fires are inevitable.

    • oldfossil,

      Most of the large fires in Napa Country (in N. CA) were over flattish terrain, with rolling hills.

      My aunt lives on the top of a large hill, which was mostly burned off. She kept a large cleared area around the house. That and good luck preserved it.

  19. I posted some synoptic data from the morning of December 5.

    As I watched this event, I was struck by the very low dewpoints: -5F at Point Mugu on the coast!

    • Re: “This is journalism — citing of experts, with links for those who want more info. It’s not my analysis.”

      Nope; it’s your analysis. Or can you tell me the expert who said things like:
      “See the graph that must not be seen, so journalists never show it.”

      You added a number of such editorial comments and persona interpretations throughout your piece.

      Re: “That’s quite a claim. But you didn’t tell us which of the many experts I cited that you consider “fake.””

      You, Lomborg, etc.

      Re: “Almost everybody puts that kind of technical info (abstracts) at the end. For reasons that are obvious to most people.”

      Not really. As a scientist, I cite that stuff up-front. Press pieces, garbage from folks like Lomborg, etc. are only worthwhile insofar as they cited peer-reviewed research.

      You didn’t address what those quoted abstracts said, by the way. I wonder why…

      Re: “The current fires did not result from the drought, as the many experts cited by the major papers explained in some detail.”

      Anthropogenic climate change increased wildfire risk in the western US. Numerous sources have shown this, including some of the sources you cited. You didn’t address this for obvious reasons. Once again:

      “Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California”
      “Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014”

      Also, see the following quotes from the last two papers cited in the above blogpost:

      “We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.”

      “Although climate change has likely enabled a portion of the increase in wildfire activity, the direct role of people in increasing wildfire activity has been largely overlooked.”

      Your line of reasoning also makes no sense. It’d be as if numerous scientists showed that smoking increases cancer risk (smoking is a contributory cause to cancer), and your response was “well, smoking didn’t cause this particular case of cancer.” That response utterly misses the point, just as your response misses the point. Furthermore, showing reduced acreages burned does not rebut anthropogenic change effects on wildfires, anymore than increased global population rebuts smoking effects on human population numbers.

  20. Wildfires need ignition of fuel. While climate change may lead to changes in available fuel, it’s doubtful that it has much impact on sources of ignition. In So. California, dry, gusty “Santa Ana” winds are responsible for the rapid spread and intensification of wildfires. The frequency of ignition is not the critical factor.

  21. “Is climate change the culprit causing California’s wildfires? […] We’re told that climate change caused or intensified California’s wildfires”

    Should people with scientific meta-literacy get their information on science from a blogpost written by a man with little-to-no relevant expertise in this field (his expertise is in finance)?

    The answer should be obvious. If it isn’t, then see:

    “Unlike mainstream climate scientists, who publish primarily in peer reviewed journals, these critics typically employ a range of non-peer-reviewed outlets, ranging from blogs to the books we are examining. […]
    The general lack of peer review allows authors or editors of denial books to make inaccurate assertions that misrepresent the current state of climate science. Like the vast range of other non-peer-reviewed material produced by the denial community, book authors can make whatever claims they wish, no matter how scientifically unfounded.
    http://abs.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/05/01/0002764213477096.full.pdf

    “Characteristics of denialism
    […]
    Use of fake experts: It is rarely difficult to find individuals who purport to be experts on some topic but whose views are entirely inconsistent with established knowledge.”
    http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6950.full

    Anyway, for those who genuinely interested in the topic of climate change and wildfires, I strongly suggest not wasting your time on blogposts written by non-experts posting on contrarian websites. I instead recommend reading reputable, peer-reviewed papers co-authored by people with relevant expertise in this topic. Here are some such sources to get curious people started:

    “Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California”
    “Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014”
    “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models”
    “Global warming and changes in drought”
    “Emergence of heat extremes attributable to anthropogenic influences”
    “Observed drought indices show increasing divergence across Europe”

    For more context on climate change and extreme weather events, see:

    “Influence of anthropogenic climate change on planetary wave resonance and extreme weather events”
    “Attribution of extreme weather events in the context of climate change”

    Also, consider looking at the last three papers cited in the above blogpost (papers d, e, and f in section 5). Notice how those papers were stuck at the end of the blogpost, with no real comment on the papers, and with no red text on the relevant portions discussing the relationship between climate change and fires. I wonder why that is? Could it be that Kummer, the blogpost author, has no comment on the following quotations he offered?:

    “We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. This analysis suggests that anthropogenic climate change will continue to chronically enhance the potential for western US forest fire activity while fuels are not limiting.”

    “Although climate change has likely enabled a portion of the increase in wildfire activity, the direct role of people in increasing wildfire activity has been largely overlooked.”

    • Pier review, the stuck in the mud tribal culture of those who dress in medieval garb and don mortarboard hats from time to time, as if somehow they, and only they, have access to the truth, is a thing of the past.

      The books are no longer exclusive tools of would be shamans. Information flows wherever electrons can go. There are many, many peers outside the ranks; and many superiors.

    • Balch says, “The hopeful news here is that we could, in theory, reduce human-started wildfires in the medium term. But at the same time, we also need to focus on living more sustainably with fire by shifting the human contribution to ignitions to more controlled, well-managed burns.”

      I wonder if he even reads the sources.

    • Atomsk,

      (1) “Should people with scientific meta-literacy get their information on science from a blogpost written by a man with little-to-no relevant expertise ”

      This is journalism — citing of experts, with links for those who want more info. It’s not my analysis. People writing about news seldom have subject-matter expertise.

      (2) “Use of fake experts:”

      That’s quite a claim. But you didn’t tell us which of the many experts I cited that you consider “fake.” Most of them are considered experts by their peers; many are quite famous.

      (3) “Notice how those papers were stuck at the end of the blogpost,”

      Almost everybody puts that kind of technical info (abstracts) at the end. For reasons that are obvious to most people.

      (4) California’s drought

      The current fires did not result from the drought, as the many experts cited by the major papers explained in some detail. We had a wet year.

      Another article in the LAT about this: “Wind is the culprit in 2017’s horrific wildfire season” by Bettina Boxall.
      http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-fire-santa-ana-wind-20171206-story.html

    • Dry, cool air over the US is quite capable of dessicating vegetation – but the cause of that is the opposite of global warming. e.g.

      “Miller et al. (2006) examined 14 AOGCM datasets cited by the IPCC and found that the AO index exhibits positive trend due to anthropogenic forcing in the 21st century.

      • More recent work is of course revealing far more subtle effects than global warming twits are capable of processing.

        “A number of studies have indicated that the decreases in global mean temperature associated with a future decline in solar activity are likely to be relatively small3,4,5,6,7. However, variability in ultraviolet solar irradiance has been linked to changes in surface pressure that resemble the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations (AO/NAO)8,9,10 and studies of both the 11-year solar cycle11,12 and centennial timescales13 suggest the potential for larger regional effects. The mechanism for these changes is via a stratospheric pathway, a so-called ‘top-down’ mechanism, and involves altered heating of the stratosphere by solar ultraviolet irradiance.” https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms8535

    • Peer reviewed papers aren’t necessarily right (Cook et al takes the cake, but I’ve read some that were really stupid, and some are clearly intended as hatchet jobs). Plus they cost money. Plus we don’t get to write comments pointing out mistakes (although I’ve found sometimes I get erased at sites like “The Conversation” when I point out they made a mistake, and Lubos Motl won’t let me write comments in “The Reference Frame”).

  22. One thing that has to be considered after the fire in California, is the enhanced flood risk in the South West this winter.

    “Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 19, EGU2017.
    QBO/Solar Modulation of the Boreal Winter Madden-Julian Oscillation: A Prediction for the Coming Solar Minimum
    Lon Hood University of Arizona, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona.

    The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), also known as the 30-60 day oscillation, is the strongest of the intraseasonal climate oscillations and consists of an eastward propagating pattern of alternately intense and weak tropical convection and precipitation. It has significant derivative effects on extratropical circulation and intraseasonal climate, including effects on the North Atlantic Oscillation during northern winter. It has recently been found that the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation influences the amplitude of the MJO during northern winter such that amplitudes are larger during the easterly phase (QBOE) at 50 hPa than during the westerly phase (QBOW) [Yoo and Son, GRL, 2016]. The initiating mechanism is a decrease in static stability near the tropopause under QBOE conditions resulting from relative upwelling associated with the QBO induced meridional circulation. Positive feedbacks from below further enhance the response during the northern winter season. Here, evidence is presented that the QBO modulation of the boreal winter MJO is itself modulated by the 11-year solar activity cycle. Using real-time multivariate (RMM) MJO amplitude and phase data covering the 1980-2015 period (36 years), it is found that the increase in MJO mean amplitude during December, January, and February (DJF) under QBOE conditions is especially large under solar minimum (SMIN) conditions while the decrease in MJO amplitude under QBOW conditions is largest under solar maximum (SMAX) conditions. Consistently, the DJF mean static stability calculated from ERA-Interim reanalysis data in the lowermost stratosphere over the warm pool region is especially low under QBOE/SMIN conditions and is largest under QBOW/SMAX conditions. Specifically, while the mean MJO amplitude in DJF is ∼ 33% larger in QBOE than in QBOW, it is ∼ 56% larger in QBOE/SMIN than in QBOW/SMAX. Conversely, the mean MJO amplitude in DJF is only ∼ 14% larger in QBOE/SMAX than it is in QBOW/SMIN. This dependence on the solar cycle is consistent with a solar-induced increase in relative tropical upwelling under SMIN conditions and a decrease (relative downwelling) under SMAX conditions. However, these results are based on a limited time record. For example, only 5 winters qualify for the QBOE/SMIN category while 7 winters qualify for the QBOW/SMAX category. During the coming solar minimum, at least one additional winter in the QBOE/SMIN category should occur (possibly as early as 2017/2018) during which especially large MJO amplitudes are expected and an initial test of the proposed relationship will be possible.”

    http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2017/EGU2017-10676.pdf

    Large Madden-Julian Oscillation amplitudes produce intense episodes of precipitation followed by periods without precipitations alternating every 15-30 days. Many of the floods associated to La Niña are due to the MJO. When its effects are intense it is known in the Pacific US as the Pineapple Express.

    For the last 6 months the QBO has turned East, and we are having very low solar activity, as low as if we were already in the minimum. The conditions are adequate for an unusual Northern Hemisphere winter. Flooding after fire is no fun, but it should not be blamed on climate change. It is the Sun, stupid.

  23. Do the skeptics here think increased greening and a lengthening warm season are factors or have they dismissed these already?

    • I take it you postulate plants grow better in the summer so there’s more dry material in winter? I guess we would have to take data from several test sites to check that idea. Maybe somebody can spend ten years trying to see if there’s such a trend.

    • More carbohydrates => more fuel. Yeah, I was thinking that too. But decreased water stress likely more important. Part why there is greening is plants are more heat tolerant, retain moisture better.

    • So production speeds up. And small fires could also speed up fueled by the production speed up.

  24. These winds of yours derive from high surface pressure at the poles pushing circumpolar winds into lower latitudes.

    This is near real time winds overlaid with surface pressure.

    https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=mean_sea_level_pressure/equirectangular

    Here’s the schematic.

    Here’s the AO index.

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/daily_ao_index/ao_index.html

    It is busily spinning up the Pacific Ocean gyres and delivering upwelling and cooler sea surface temperatures that are intensifying with every passing Austral summer day.

    But Mediterranean type landscapes are adapted to fire. It is these sort of people doing most to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere – and more importantly to conserve biodiversity.

    https://www.clc.org.au/index.php?/articles/info/fire-management1

    And not the humanist church of global warming.

  25. This graph of historical acres burnt gets trotted out frequently, but I find it hard to believe. It shows two years with over 50 million acres burnt. That is 2.5% of the entire ConUS. The area of Nebraska. In one year. And it happens year after year, for at least a decade. It takes a lot of time for a burnt area to grow new fuel, so that must be at least 20% of all land burnt. Does the US even have that much forest?

    • “Does the US even have that much forest?” From https://www.fia.fs.fed.us/library/brochures/docs/2000/ForestFactsMetric.pdf : “Forest area has been relatively stable since 1907. In 1997, 302 million hectares—or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States—was in forest land.”
      302 million hectares = 746 million acres.

    • Nick,

      (1) “This graph of historical acres burnt gets trotted out frequently,”

      You make it sound like a chalk drawing on the sidewalk. It is data from the Historical Statistics of the United States – Colonial Times to 1970 (p537). See the link I provided.

      (2) “That is 2.5% of the entire ConUS”

      The books says it is data from all 50 States.

      (1) “Does the US even have that much forest?”

      As Harold showed, the US Forest Service say “yes.”

      There is nothing surprising in this graph. The steep drop in the early 1930s shows the effect of the New Deal’s massive funding of fire suppression programs. The Forest and Parks Services also received ample manpower from the Civilian Conservation Corps.

      • Editor
        “It is data from the Historical Statistics of the United States”
        Yes. And if you look at it, almost all that burning was outside protected areas. For example, 1931
        Protected area 551+5856 mil acres
        Unprotected 45200 mil acres

        And of the unprotected areas, they say:
        “No field organizations are available to report fires on unprotected areas and the statistics for these areas are generally the best estimates available”

        As you say, NIFC seems to display on their current website the same data, but from 1960 onward. That to me says that the NIFC doesn’t think the earlier period is reliable.

        “There is nothing surprising in this graph.”
        It says, on HaroldW’s figures, that 6.6% of the forest burns every year. Nebraska. It means a tree can expect to be burnt every 15 years. I find that surprising.

      • Nick,

        (1) “That to me says …”

        It is more important to the rest of us that experts in this field rely on the data.

        It would be useful if you would quote an evaluation from somebody with actual expertise. Amateur night is fun, but climate change and wildfires are serious issues.

        (2) It would be nice if you would acknowledge it when people correct your your errors. As in this…

        You: “That is 2.5% of the entire ConUS”

        Correction: The books says it is data from all 50 States.

      • “Native American tribes used fire to modify their landscapes in many significant ways prior to the arrival of European settlers.[1] Purposefully set fires by natives helped promote the valued resources and habitats that sustained indigenous cultures, economies, traditions, and livelihoods.[2] The cumulative ecological impacts of Native American fire use over time has resulted in a mosaic of grasslands and forests across North America that was once widely perceived as untouched, pristine wilderness.[3][4][5] It is now recognized that the original American landscape was already humanized at the time that the first European explorers, trappers, and settlers arrived; but the extent to which Native Americans manipulated entire ecosystems using fire remains a contentious topic.[6][7]” Wikipedia

        We could of course go all academic.

        “Heavy livestock grazing, logging, and fire exclusion
        associated with Euro-American settlement has brought about substantial changes. in forest conditions in western forests. Thus, old growth definitions based on current forest conditions may not be compatible with
        the natural conditions prevalent throughout the evolutionary history of western forest types. Detailed analysis of data from two study areas in the southwestern ponderosa pine type suggests that average tree densities have increased from as few as 23 trees per acre in presettlement times to as many as 851 trees per acre today. Associated with these increases in tree density are increases in canopy closure, vertical fuel continuity, and surface fuel loadings resulting in fire hazards over large areas never reached before settlement In addition, fire exclusion and increased tree density has likely decreased tree vigor (increasing mortalityfrom disease, insect, drought, etc.), herbaceous and shrub production, aesthetic values, water availability and runoff, and nutrient availability, and also changed soil
        characteristics and altered wildlife habitat. To remedy these problems and restore these forest ecosystems to more nearly natural conditions, and maintain a viable cohort of old age-class trees, it win
        be necessary to thin out most of the postsettlement trees, manually remove heavy fuels from the base of large, old trees, and reintroduce periodic burning.” https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=http://scholar.google.com.au/&httpsredir=1&article=1310&context=barkbeetles

        Without being knowledgeable on US forests – it is possible that the situation remains the same 25 years on. Where indigenous peoples have fire it is to encourage green pickings for prey species – or perhaps even to drive herd animals off cliffs.

        Fire regimes are specific to ecosystem types – but 15 years is not unrealistic.

      • Editor,
        “when people correct your your errors”
        It’s not an error. It is 2.5% of ConUS.

        “The books says it is data from all 50 States.”
        No, it doesn’t. It says:
        “The statistics obtained are for forest land and nonforested watershed lands in Federal ownership, and for State and privately-owned lands which are included in the Cooperative Forest Fire Control Program as authorized by section 2 of the Clarke-McNary Act of 1924.”
        and then later:
        “Beginning 1966, when Arizona entered the Cooperative Forest Fire
        Control Program, statistics became available for all States.”

        So before 1966, it didn’t include at least Arizona. Now the CFFC was a cooperative between the feds and the states (hence cooperative) It did not include Alaska and Hawaii prior to 1959. Here are the footnotes to the table L48-55:

      • Nick,

        (1) “It’s not an error. It is 2.5% of ConUS.”

        That’s pretty obviously not what I meant. Including Alaska was the relevant point.

        (2) Footnote 3 in columns one and two.

        That’s a good catch! I was going by the first paragraph: “All series from the Forest Service include Alaska and for all years.”

        I had to crank up the magnification to read those footnotes. And footnote three looked unreadable, from a quick glance. But you are right — the data does not include Alaska until 1960. My describing this as an error on your part was incorrect.

        (3) Looking at this little bit of data as an example of a larger problem.

        This is a frequent trope in the climate policy debate. We have data and analysis from scientists working in their area of expertise. We have what looks like an anomaly in the data. Skeptics often declare gotcha, the scientists are wrong. I’m uninterested in that game. While I enjoy amateur night theater, climate policy is one of the great challenges of our time. It needs more serious standards.

        As in this case, The burn data is frequently cited by experts, and confirmed by multiple studies over different geographic areas. i’ll rely upon it until I see at least one expert explain why it is unreliable.

        Take the cite by Prof David South as an example. He is a respected scientist in his field, not to be lightly disregarded on matters of simple fact. His papers are highly cited (if I got this right, roughly 42+ cites puts paper in the top 1%, in the Plant and Animal Science field, per the Essential Science Indicators — and he has 12 of them).

        https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=oEKIVWsAAAAJ&hl=en

      • Editor,
        “i’ll rely upon it until I see at least one expert explain why it is unreliable.”
        If you scroll down to the bottom of the NIFC table that you cited, it has this proviso (and this is on the data post 1960):

        The National Interagency Coordination Center at NIFC compiles annual wildland fire statistics for federal and state agencies. This information is provided through Situation Reports, which have been in use for several decades. Prior to 1983, sources of these figures are not known, or cannot be confirmed, and were not derived from the current situation reporting process. As a result the figures above prior to 1983 shouldn’t be compared to later data.

        David South is indeed a Professor of Forestry. But he doesn’t publish on fire matters, and the citation is not to any scientific paper. Instead it is to testimony to a congressional sub-committee to which he had been invited by the Republican members. His vigorously expressed views ion the irrelevance of CO2 etc indicates why they may have wanted to give him a platform.

    • “Does the US even have that much forest?”

      It is important to distinguish forest from shrub and grassland, all of which are subject to fire.

      The tree scar data are strictly subject to forest fires, and they do have some unknowable bias. Never the less, the millenial scale decrease of fire frequency is telling.

      Grassland fires are borne out by lake ash sediment in the areas where such lakes exist.

  26. Reblogged this on ClimateTheTruth.com and commented:
    Once again…climate change is not causing wildfires. Wildfires are down dramatically from the 1930s, and the small recent increase is due to forest management policies NOT climate change.

  27. For a longer-term perspective on the history of global wildfires.

    See “Spatial and temporal patterns of global burned area in response to anthropogenic and environmental factors: Reconstructing global fire history for the 20th and early 21st centuries” by Jia Yang et al. in JGR – Biogeosciences, March 2014.

    Decadal variation of global burned area. Error bar refers to the standard deviation of annual burned area within that decade.

    • Larry,
      “Is climate change the culprit causing California’s wildfires?”

      “See “Spatial and temporal patterns…”
      From that paper, the answer:

      “In the extratropics, climate influence was also important for fire activities. In the western United States, wildfire frequency has increased since the mid-1980s in response to the climate warming and extended fire season [Westerling et al., 2006]. As demonstrated by Figure 7c, our simulation captured the upward trend of burned area in northern extratropics from the 1980s to the 2000s. Within this period, climate dominated the fire trend, and its contribution increased from −7.1 × 104 km2 yr−1 to 7.8 × 104 km2 yr−1. “

  28. “Climate change complicates the picture. It is making wildfires more likely, essentially punching through the human effort to suppress fires. That may, in the short term, help achieve the scientific goal of having more fire on the landscape. But longer term, it could lead to profound changes in forests, potentially driving some creatures to extinction.”

    First part, suggested that climate change helps forests by burning them. Second part, of course it could all fall apart into chaos. But humans are wrong to prevent so many forest fires including the hippies who live in the woods and want to stop global warming and destroy their environment by not letting it burn.

    “Scientists are still trying to figure out how regularly forests burned in what is now the United States in the centuries before European settlement, but reams of evidence suggest the acreage that burned was more than is allowed to burn today — possibly 20 million or 30 million acres in a typical year. Today, closer to four million or five million acres burn every year.”

    The new normal is less fires and more dire predictions of nature reverting to the mean.

    • Ragnaar,

      From the NYT: “Climate change complicates the picture. It is making wildfires more likely,”

      The Gillis says that boldly — in his own voice (not quoting an expert), but gives not a shred of evidence for it.

      There is a consensus of scientists that this will happen, but there is strong debate on the extent to what that statement is happening today. At most, it appears to be a small factor — compared to changes in land use and fire suppression policies.

      In fact, that’s what the rest of Gillis’ article says.

  29. Maybe contrarians/denialists will admit the link between climate change and drought/wildfires, as long as the climate change in question is non-anthropogenic. That might work better than discussing anthropogenic climate change, since contrarians’ political ideology causes them to engage in motivated reasoning when it comes to man-made climate change.

    If so, then the contrarians/denialists should read the following papers:

    “Medieval warming initiated exceptionally large wildfire outbreaks in the Rocky Mountains”
    “A 1,200-year perspective of 21st century drought in southwestern North America”
    “The ‘Mediaeval Warm Period’ drought recorded in Lake Huguangyan, tropical South China”

    It’s also interesting how various climate models under-estimate the increase in dryland expansion and dryland aridity that comes with climate change:

    “Comparison of dryland climate change in observations and CMIP5 simulations”
    “Accelerated dryland expansion under climate change”

    • Yes we know that and more. Global warming twits are quite a lot behind the curve.

      • The models are nonlinear – the CMIP opportunistic ensemble uses just one of 1000’s of feasible solutions and cannot begin to realistically downscale to regional rainfall. But both the math and hydrology – and even simple physics – is way beyond his capabilities.

        Not sure what science he professes to practice – but it isn’t climate related. Podiatry perhaps?

  30. It’s Smokey Bear!

    If you can’t get that right, how can you expect me to believe you have anything else right.

    • Bob,

      I learn something new every day! I grew up with Smokey adverts, but didn’t get his name right. Thanks for the correction.

      I’m not the only one. ABC ran a story about his 70th anniversary. They got the name wrong too!

      • Very interesting, one of your sources says this

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

        and yet you go ahead and declare that 2017 is one fifth of the record, yet 2017 is not even over yet. If that’s your graph caption, might not be your work.

        Yeah, we get it, forest fires are not caused by global warming. period.

        And as far as acerbating, global warming ranks below forest management practices and natural climate variations.

        But that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.

        Seems to be getting worse as some have predicted.

      • Bob,

        (1) “and yet you go ahead and declare that 2017”

        Read more carefully. That’s not my graph.

        (2) “2017 is not even over yet.”

        Yes, I think everybody knows that.

        (3) “If that’s your graph caption, might not be your work.”

        Read more carefully. I cite the source.

        (4) “Yeah, we get it, forest fires are not caused by global warming. period.

        Congrats on your reading skills!

        (5) “But that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.”

        Congrats again for your reading of the peer-reviewed literature I cite!

        (6) “Seems to be getting worse as some have predicted.”

        Congrats on your reading of the very first section of the post, which quotes major media articles citing experts discussing why that is.

      • Larry

        It’s just killing Nick and Bob that their apocalyptic CO2 scenario might not be as they have constructed in their brains. Any kind of contradictory evidence has to be tamped down and eradicated like the plague with the force and speed of a Navy Seal team. I don’t envy them since actual observational data just keeps building up exponentially, undercutting all their nightmares. It must feel like a game of whack-o-mole for the poor guys. What a tiring and stressful existence, with the fate of the world on their shoulders.

        Of course, I’ll just keep looking at studies and data that raise big time doubt that the oceans are going to boil and Lady Liberty is going to go glub, glub, glub.

      • Larry,
        “Read more carefully. That’s not my graph.”
        It’s the graph which you introduce with the red sub-head:

        “(a) See the graph that must not be seen, so journalists never show it.”

        And it has no better provenance than a Congress witness and a Lomborg facebook post. And it is clear, when you track back to the sources, that the data is clearly recognised (and flagged by NIFC) as unreliable. I think this demonstrates laudable concern for veracity by journalists.

      • What do you guys say about how Mann splices two different data sources on the same graph?

        I say what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

        So are wildfires getting worse or not?

        you say

        “This myth has repeatedly been debunked”

        Maybe you should do a more careful reading of the literature.

        Because it seems to me that the literature says that the figure of >50 million acres burned in 1930 and 1931 is unreliable and should not be compared to the recent values.

  31. Pingback: Bits and Pieces – 20171215 | thePOOG

  32. Forest fires were not much fought before 1932, they were simply allowed to burn out. That changes with the Civilian Conservation Core which provided manpower to fight the fires, and increasing amounts of technology.

    This is the equivalent of pointing to mortality from the Galvestan Hurricane which came ashore without warning and Hurricane Harvey, etc today.

    • Eli

      I bought a very interesting book second hand called ‘the elements rage’ by Frank Lane from 1966

      It goes into the Galveston hurricane in some detail and has a splendid photo of the sea wall built after 1900 when 6000 people were drowned.

      At the time of the book the wall was 11 miles long and 19 feet high. The disasters covered tend to range from 1850 onwards. It is a good companion book to Hubert Lambs ‘Historic Storms’ which commences in 1570.

      Disasters have never been far away and the better prepared man is the more likely he is to overcome them

      tonyb

    • “Fought fires” of the past mean increased fuel load for the future, so, yeah,
      this is a problem.

      But the decrease in fire frequency, on both centennial and millennial time scales indicates the confirmation bias of advocates.

  33. Pingback: A Few Wildfire and Climate Syntheses – A New Century of Forest Planning

  34. The right question seems not how many fires there were – but what season, size, intensity and frequency should fires be.

    • You better stock up on beer to finish that discussion…

      Unless you want me to just give you that answer?

      Depends on what ecological function you want to make better or worse.

      • Too glib by far – inputs include ecology but also social and economic factors. Fire transforms landscapes – there can be too little, wrong season, too much, high intensity, low intensity. Too little results in out of control wild fires and declining biodiversity.

      • It’s glib because your question was asked a long time ago.
        Ecological functions include social and economic factors. Ecological function is what it comes down to. You can do all the science in the world and still not answer the questions whether or not pre-european cultural burning is part of the natural regime, what the correct FRI, size, intensity, and severity is for an area, or how fire in a particular ecosystem should be now as opposed to a climate regime from 1,000 years ago.
        Then the discussion gets in to what species are appropriate for seeding since it appears that climate change over the past couple thousand years has made it extremely difficult to re-establish native species.

        The question should be how do we stop the media and politicians from butchering science to create their illusions?

  35. One thing that has not been mentioned, except in passing, is the impacts of invasive species.
    Areas in the Mojave Desert (not the only ecoregion) that use to be infrequent fire type, or fires of small size, are now frequent fire type and large scale. In fact, areas that had no measurable fire regime in the past going back at least 1,000 years, are now burning 2-7 years, sometimes 200k+ acres in one ignition.

    This is due primarily to Bromus rubens. And in the case of blackbrush communities, you could say that it is due to climate change, the same climate change that drove the Anasazi elsewhere. ;)

  36. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #298 | Watts Up With That?

  37. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #298 |