The Planet Heats Up and The Fires Rage On

The catastrophic fires in California are not a new phenomenon in that state, but what sets this particular burn apart from those in the past is the intensity and the vast area of land that the fires have covered. While arson and downed power lines are blamed as the perpetrators, their willing accomplices are associated with climate change.

According to Ronald Neilson, a professor at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the USDA Forest Service, the fires are in line with what climate change models have been predicting for a long time - both in short term forecasts and long term patterns. Studies from five years ago that Neilson was involved with, predicted that the American west would become both warmer and wetter, creating a landscape ripe for catastrophe.

Global warming is said to have contributed to the heat of the region with Southwestern California fresh off of a record breaking heat wave, only slightly less devastating than the year before, where 140 people died, because of the new emergency measures that were put into effect after 2006. As well, according to the Globe and Mail, “Rainfall across the region this past six months was just one-fifth of average levels.”Additionally, the Globe reports that this year's Santa Ana winds have been gusting at nearly hurricane force and have been blowing considerably longer than the typical 24 hours, instead lasting days.


This one is tough. Fire suppression in chapparal habitats, like those in the fire-affected area of California, is longstanding and creates a fearsome pile of fuel. When dry weather eventually combines with a spark (either natural or arsonist in origin), that fuel can go off like a bomb. California may be going through this right now. Climate change may indeed be affecting burn intensity and extent, but past fire management regimes play a way bigger role in these things than is commonly credited. I don’t know if this is true for the current fires in California, but it certainly could be true, and has been true in similarly intense, uncontrollable fires that have intersected with human-dominated environments in the past 10 years.

Tough one to know about for sure. Gotta be a bit circumspect about pinning this one on climate change (solely, at least) without acknowledging that human land use patterns probably play a bigger role over the short term.


I agree and I named climate change as an accomplice only. The Globe and Mail article attached goes into more detail about urban sprawl and condensed populations. Good call to mention it though!

It’s true there are various factors involved; the Globe and Mail link in the text discusses some factors; and this CBS 60 Minutes link talks about the buildup of fuel for the past century, etc:

But on page 2 it talks about something that does seem to be a result of global warming:

…Swetnam found recent decades have been the hottest in 1,000 years. And recently, he and a team of top climate scientists discovered something else: a dramatic increase in fires high in the mountains, where fires were rare.

“As the spring is arriving earlier because of warming conditions, the snow on these high mountain areas is melting and running off. So the logs and the branches and the tree needles all can dry out more quickly and have a longer time period to be dry. And so there’s a longer time period and opportunity for fires to start,” Swetnam says

“The spring comes earlier, so the fire season is just longer,” Pelley remarks.

“That’s right. The fire season in the last 15 years or so has increased more than two months over the whole Western U.S. So actually 78 days of average longer fire season in the last 15 years compared to the previous 15 or 20 years,” Swetnam says…

(Edited to add that I got the link from Canadian Cynic)

it seems:

How incovenient.

Arsonist sets fire in a building, fire fighters bring it under control. End of story.

Arsonist sets fire in area ravaged by drought and whipped by gale-force winds, fire fighters unable to stop it, and it rips through $billions of prime real estate.

Smoker falls asleep & drop cigarette, sets fire in a building, fire fighters bring it under control. End of story.

Smoker flicks smoldering butt out the car window, sets fire in area ravaged by drought and whipped by gale-force winds, fire fighters unable to stop it, and it rips through $billions of prime real estate.

Not much difference, really.

Of course the California wild fires are in line with global warming model predictions. Heat, cold, drought and floods are all attributred to global warming these days so why not California wild fires?

The US south-west is a drought-prone area. Paleoclimate studies indicate this area has experienced extensive dry spells in the past, including one in the 15th and 16th centuries that lasted about 100 years. What is different now, as the contributer at the top of this thread pointed out, is the human factor. Land use practices combined with poor environmental stewardship have created conditions ripe for fire catastrophe. It has nothing to do with climate change (global warming) even though the alarmists dearly want it to be that way.

Wrong, John. One of the predicted consequences of AGW is the drying of the southwestern US. Not that the region is wet, mind you, but the region will lose even more water. Water resources throughout the region will be strained even more than they are today, and the overloaded population of the region is far from sustainable.

How am I wrong, Stephen? I agreed with you. I said every extreme of weather from heat to cold, from drought to flood is blamed on global warming. That’s the beauty of the AGW cult. It can never be wrong.

The computer models that prop up this pseudo-science can tie everything to it so quite naturally they predict that, astoundingly, a desert such as the US south-west will be dry. And if that area was to get abnormal rain that bring floods, well the AGW models will have predicted that too. Why the Greenies will tell you that the build-up of ice in the south polar region and the observed cooling of the Antarctic for the past 50 years or so even fits the global warming scenario.

AGW modellers can have it all ways all the time. What is truly amazing is that so many otherwise intelligent people fall for this shell game.

Whereas denialists like yourself merely have to keep repeating the mantra “Nothing’s caused by AGW! Nothing’s caused by AGW!” although you do not have any knowledge or evidence to back up your wild claims.

Here’s a clue, boys: warmer temperatures mean that more water evaporates faster; so dry places get drier and wet places get heavier rain, when that evaporated water falls down again. You fellas, John Dowell, Rob, Zog, whose only experience with climate change is turning the thermostat up a few degrees, have no idea how an ecosystem works. Funny, I thought they taught this sort of thing in elementary schools; how did you miss out on that?

Thanks goodness for these fires – because it’s been a disappointing hurricane year for Global Warming enthusiasts:

Then again, lack of hurricanes will be equally convincing “proof” as an abundance of same. The models predict everything, you see.

Rob: Don’t forget that most of central Africa has just had the heaviest rains and most devastating floods in human memory. I have it on excellent authority (network TV) that the cause was, you guessed it, global warming.

Pity about the second straight year of minimal hurricane activity, in defiance of some very excellent computer models. Damn! I have a recurring vision of Suzuki and Gore, with a coven of their lobotomized acolytes (Hi VJ !), dancing around an energy-efficient fire, chanting incantations and praying for a really big one, with lots and lots of death and destruction.

Oh well, the iron law of probability ensures that they’ll get their wish - if not next year, sooner or later, and then the money will really roll in.

Whatever you may think about people’s motives (and believe me, I question those of you & your ilk all the time), it is in extremely poor taste to suggest that environmentalists are “praying for a really big one, with lots and lots of death and destruction.” You aren’t strengthening your own position & credibility by making remarks like this. In fact it’s more revealing about you than the people you are attacking.

So, Femack, you weren’t even a teensie bit disappointed that the 2007 hurricane season was so quiet? Look deep into your heart and be honest with yourself. Isn’t it a bit frustrating to be unable to say, “We told you so”? Never mind, you may get a chance next year or, if not, sometime in the future, and then you’ll feel better.

As for Suzuki and digusting Al Gore, doom, gloom and disaster are mother’s milk to them. Mediocre men who have found that the key to fame and fortune (especially fortune)is to scare hell out of people.

Rob & Zog, you deserve each other. I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you were trying to be funny. If you are seriously suggesting that I (or anyone else) would be pleased by “lots and lots of death and destruction” so that I could utter a puerile “I told you so,” you aren’t just sick, you are sickening. There is no answer to such an outrageous and offensive statement.

Rob and Zog judge you by their own callous attitude. They don’t care how many people die as a result of global warming, as long as they can make money by denying that it is happening. They are callous, selfish and dishonest.

I clearly remember when the technophobic flavour of the month was “No Nukes”, being sickened by the overt gloating of the PWIAPEs after the Chernobyl disaster.
The same mentality prevails among the same “humanity sucks” crowd today and yes, I heard an echo of their attitude after Katrina.

Hell, many of the most notorious modernity-haters and no-growthers (eg. Ehrlich, Lovins, Suzuki, Watson) have eagerly joined the warmist mob.

AGW is actually happening, and Ehrlich, Lovins, Suzuki, Watson, etc., are talking about it because they are in touch with reality, unlike you, Zog. Zog, why exactly do you hate environmentalists to the point of denying what is clearly happening to the world? You just can’t stand the idea that they are right and you are wrong?

It’s either fear or arrogance. The arrogance part is easy: Man is at the top of the heap because we are MEANT to be there, and we can do whatever we like without worrying about the consequences. This attitude prevails among a certain type of male – I’m sure you’ve encountered it, VJ. It’s just plain obnoxiousness and an attitude of entitlement. Environmentalists annoyingly point out that other species have a right to exist, too.

The fear is more difficult to nail down. It runs like an electric current through the comments of many, many people in denial who seem to be afraid that if AGW is real it will undermine everything that they think they know is true. All of the assumptions that they make as they move through their daily lives will be up for debate. The “safety” will be off, and life will become more tenuous. Nothing is more frightening than having your fundamental beliefs challenged. It’s not just about AGW, it’s about re-evaluating our role in the natural order of things.

I think you’ve explained the basic feelings very well. I would add that there are some philosophical and religious beliefs that tend to cater to those feelings. Your arrogant, entitled, often male, person is often a self-described libertarian.

The fear of uncertainty is reflected in the Christian fundamentalism that developed in the twentieth century. One of their beliefs is that there is only one possible interpretation of everything in the Bible; I guess once you start arguing interpretations, you get uncertainty. So you get creationists who read Genesis literally and who resent scientists for insisting that we evolved over billions of years; naturally they are not going to believe scientists who talk about global warming. Also, they are apt to argue that God won’t let us destroy the earth.

Then there is the idea that unregulated capitalism will solve all our problems. This belief system is no more rational than fundamentalism, and flies in the face of the evidence.

I think our denialists may espouse one of these belief systems, or possibly all three at once.

VJ: It’s interesting that you bring up the question of religious fundamentalism when the primative mass hysteria of the warmist mob is so closely related i.e. AGM has become a veritable religion based on a dubious scientific premise.

Here is a recycled excerpt from one of my recent postings on another blog (a blog which operates on a somewhat higher intellectual plane than DesmogBlog) a few days ago.

“The basic problem with all model projections is the same. No matter how carefully they are constructed or how much detail is fed into them, they are all based on unproven basic assumptions, which AGM proponents verify by waving their arms and shouting, ‘They are true! The science is settled!’

Debating with warmists is like debating with creationists. They are happy to discuss mechanical details and can sometimes present reasonable arguments but, questioning of their underlying assumptions (God is ultimately in control; increased concentration of atmospheric CO2 is de facto causing significant increases of IR reflection to earth) simply isn’t permitted.”

For an in depth examination of mass psychology, written about 150 years before AGM was invented, I urge you to read “Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness of Crowds” by Dr. Charles Mackay. Even if the book doesn’t make you feel a tad uncomfortable with your “certainty”, you will still find it a cracking good read.

So Zog, you are so ignorant of science that you don’t understand the difference between accepting scientific evidence and religious belief?

I have religious beliefs myself, but I do not let them blind me to scientific evidence. One of my beliefs is that we are supposed to seek the truth; and this means we must not deny evidence, even though we don’t like the conclusions it may lead to. That’s called objectivity, and it is something you need to practice good science. Most denialists seem incapable of being objective; they don’t like the implications of global warming, that we need governments to take action to mitigate it, so they deny it exists. They cannot be honest.

So Zog, do you honestly believe that increased concentration of atmospheric CO2 does not cause significant increases of IR reflection to earth? What scientific evidence leads to this conclusion? What is your expertise in this matter? Or is it just a belief based on your reluctance to face reality?

Since I’m a scientist and you are not, you have a lot of brass making shrill comments about my ignorance of science. Being able to parrot Hansen’s scripture doesn’t make you knowledgeable or thoughtful!

In our exchange, you have tipped your hand and exposed yourself as what I had previously suspected you to be - a hopeless disciple of sociopaths like end-of-the-earther Ehrlich and Paul (“humanity is a virus”) Watson.

If you weren’t so eaten up by hatred of modern western civilization, you might give a little thought to the solution of genuine environmental problems (of which there are many) instead of wallowing in the apocalyptic reveries of the new religion.

I’m not sure to whom you are responding with this, Zog. It may or may not be me, but in any case I feel that I should point out to you that you sound a bit hysterical.

I don’t think it is sociopathic to state that population is out of control, and that we should be thinking very seriously about encouraging cultures that traditionally have large families to look at the big picture and cut back. If we continue “to breed mindlessly like brewer’s yeast in a vat of molasses” (Farley Mowat), we are going to eat our way to oblivion. I don’t know whether cancer or virus is more apt, but the metaphor is sound. Either will ultimately destroy the body that sustains it.

I don’t hate western civilization. I think we are capable of brilliance: art, culture, science, philosophy – we have a lot to be proud of. But it has come at a price, and we have got a bit ahead of ourselves. We don’t have the wisdom to wield the power that we have or to make the distinction between what we CAN do and what we SHOULD do.

You are quite right (if you are responding to me) that I am not a scientist. I am an historian. That does not exclude me from being able to make a distinction between a rational argument based on data and empirical findings, and the flailing about of a group that is intelligent enough to see the writing on the wall, but for some reason I cannot fathom, WILL NOT.

Femack: If you had read the previous 4 postings you would have realized thar my post was part of an ongoing conversation with the estimable VJ. No matter.

Interesting that a historian would, in an effort to score a point, quote a one-liner from one of Canada’s most notable fabricators and prevaricators. Any port in a storm eh?

But, as you say, no matter. And it doesn’t matter where the quote came from, Mowat is right: We can’t just keep filling up every available space on the planet with human beings. We need BALANCE. It may seem to you to be a “one liner”. For me it is a wake-up call. We need space to grow our food and space to live our lives. If we keep reproducing without any thought to the consequences, we will find ourselves fighting for any toe-hold we can get, and starving because we haven’t left enough land to cultivate.

Zog, I don’t believe you are a scientist. I actually do have a BSc degree in Biology, but do not call myself a scientist.

“…a hopeless disciple of sociopaths like end-of-the-earther Ehrlich and Paul (“humanity is a virus”) Watson…” I don’t recall if I have read anything by those men and I doubt that you have either, except for out-of-context quotes you found on whichever hysterical rightwing website you get your talking points from.

“…If you weren’t so eaten up by hatred of modern western civilization…” I value some things about modern western civilization including democracy as a system of government. Zog, haven’t you noticed that our modern western civilization is degenerating from democracies into corporatist, fascist states? A real democracy would make polluters pay for the evil they do.

ZOG said: “Since I’m a scientist”. Well ZOG, you sure fooled me. You certainly don’t act in the responsible manner that I associate with scientists. Since you neither identify yourself or your scientific discipline I will treat your statement like all your other statements i.e. it is a bunch of untruths and falsifications. If you seriously wanted peoples’ respect you would not behave in the rude and callous manner you show towards people who disagree with you. You have nothing to offer except filth and lies. Most people would prefer if you stayed away until you learned how to behave in public.

Ian Forrester

Another country heard from. I wondered when Ian would get up off of his knuckles and make one of his scintillating interventions. No, I won’t identify myself - not because of anything that I’ve said or might say but because playing around on the net isn’t something that I’d want to advertise. (A secret vice.) Anyway, I won’t disturb your happy little group again, as exchanges with such self-righteous and all-knowing folks aren’t productive, and the invective, including my own, has been escalating.

VJ. “our modern western civilization is degenerating from democracies into corporatist, fascist states? A real democracy would make polluters pay for the evil they do.”

That is so 1960’s but, at least it clears the air. You have about as much interest in the environment as my pet cat. Just another “down with the man” dilettante putting her latte aside and looking for a political horse to ride. If it wasn’t AGM it would be something else but probably not something important like water pollution, deforestation or half a dozen other genuine problems.

Yawn. Go fight water pollution then, if that turns your crank. At least you would be doing something useful.

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