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Earth Science

Studies: Wildfires Worse Due To Global Warming 379

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to scientists we can look forward to more devastating wildfires like the ones scorching Southern California because of global warming. "The fires in California and here in Arizona are a clear example of what happens as the Earth warms, particularly as the West warms, and the warming caused by humans is making fire season longer and longer with each decade," said University of Arizona geoscientist Jonathan Overpeck. "It's certainly an example of what we'll see more of in the future.""
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Studies: Wildfires Worse Due To Global Warming

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  • by drainbramage (588291) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @04:14PM (#47033783)

    We would like to give our heartiest thanks to the politicians that have made it illegal to clear under-brush or to provide any reasonable wildfire suppression activities.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2014 @04:19PM (#47033811)

    But try letting fires burn to clear underbrush when politically-connected people build million dollar homes in the same forests. It suddenly becomes much tougher.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @04:29PM (#47033883)

    Here is the list [numberwatch.co.uk].

  • by bunratty (545641) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @04:31PM (#47033905)

    I can see that for years climatologists have been saying that drought-stricken areas will become even drier [washingtonpost.com] with more warming. And according to the article there has been a three-decade pattern of fires getting worse in the West: "Since 1984, the area burned by the West's largest wildfires — those of more than 1,000 acres — have increased by about 87,700 acres a year, according to an April study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters."

    One winter is not a long-term pattern. Something that gets worse over the course of decades, in contrast, is a long-term pattern.

  • by weiserfireman (917228) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @04:42PM (#47033971) Homepage

    Every year there are devastating fires somewhere. But we have to look at the acreage and number of fires.

    Last year was a light fire year. About 20% lighter than the 10 year average.

    So far this year, we are about 15% behind the 10 year average in the number of wildland fires. And we are about 50% behind in the number of acres burned.

    http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/n... [nifc.gov]

    Honestly, I still expect overall the world's climate will be getting wetter with global warming. There might be some regions that will get drier, but warmer oceans mean more evaporation. Warmer temperatures mean the air can hold more moisture resulting in higher humidity. Eventually that higher humidity has to result in more rainfall somewhere. But even if higher humidity doesn't result in rain, higher humidity does result in less aggressive fire behavior.
          I am not a climate scientist. I have a lot of people scoff at me when I say this, but they never explain how I am wrong. I can read the projections but the projections never seem to include the increased levels of ocean evaporation that I expect.

  • Re:No, no it's not. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dorianny (1847922) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @05:07PM (#47034101) Journal

    First of all, it's "climate change" now and not "global warming"... some spots are having much cooler temperatures instead.

    Global warming refers to the rise of the average temperature of Earth's climate system. The effect of global warming is climate change, a change in global or regional climate patterns.

  • Perhaps in part (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2014 @05:22PM (#47034179)

    story [mnn.com]

    Other than being completely factually wrong 100%, you make a good point.
    Tip: When a leftist gives you a "fact" that can be looked up, please look it up. Its amazing what you can learn, such as there are significanly more trees in the US today than 100 years ago, despite what wjcofkc claims. There are also more polar bears today then a few decades ago, and they can actually swim!

  • Preventing the natural burn cycle sets us up for larger fires. We need to be more strategic about our fire fighting in rural and wilderness settings.

    Great idea, back in the 80's when I used to visit Socal, they'd burn out the hills every summer. Worked like a charm to keep the fires down, then the environmentalists, idiots with the mansions in the hills, and nimby's started throwing a hissy fits on every pro-active burn program out there. Everything from "it's making the air bad," to "it's not natures way."

  • Re: No, no it's not. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Namarrgon (105036) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @05:54PM (#47034393) Homepage

    Sure. Look at the IPCC AR5 WGII report, it discusses benefits as well as costs.

    It's just that the costs and risks appear to greatly outweigh the benefits, or the benefits are long-term enough that the short-term costs of adaption will outweigh them for a very long time.

  • by gtall (79522) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @06:06PM (#47034449)

    Yes, well, when it comes to the Sahara, it's been marching south for awhile, and faster more recently.

  • Re:No, no it's not. (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanadianRealist (1258974) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @06:31PM (#47034583)

    Fourthly, there's good reason to believe that at least some of the ones this week were started by (d-bag) arsonists.

    The claim is that climate change is making the fires worse. That's very different than the question of how any one fire started.

    Your argument is like pointing to a smoker killed in a car crash and saying "see, cigarettes don't cause cancer."

    Maybe someone did start some of the fires. That's happened in the past as well. The real question is, are the fires worse now? From the article: in the 80's an average of 2.9 million acres burned each year, from 2010 to 2013 it was 6.4 million acres per year. That sounds quite a bit worse. Maybe the last few years were just unlucky years, or maybe the fires really are getting worse.

    Maybe it's statements like yours from "non-scientists" arguing issues other than the ones raised that are confusing things.

  • by dryeo (100693) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @07:57PM (#47035001)

    When you throw out bullshit like that DDT was banned for treating malaria mosquitoes why should we listen to you and the fact that by spreading the bullshit that DDT was banned for malaria really makes you wonder about the education of the moderators.
    Look it up, DDT was not banned for malaria, it just became less useful as the mosquitoes were evolving to like DDT.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Sunday May 18, 2014 @09:09PM (#47035319)
    There's no cherry picking of one particular week or month. From TFA: "Since 1984, the area burned by the West's largest wildfires — those of more than 1,000 acres — have increased by about 87,700 acres a year, according to an April study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters."
  • Re:Facts are there (Score:5, Informative)

    by Namarrgon (105036) on Monday May 19, 2014 @12:13AM (#47035961) Homepage

    Heh, now you accuse me of not providing links to support the claims I didn't make :-)

    But if you like. A couple of studies (of many) predicting increases in wildfires due to climate change:

    * Gonzalez et al 2010 [wiley.com]: Global patterns in the vulnerability of ecosystems to vegetation shifts due to climate change

    * Moritz et al 2012 [esajournals.org]: Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity

    And a study (one of many [globalchange.gov]) showing that climate is the dominant factor in the size of the wildfires we've been seeing:

    * Littell et al 2009 [washington.edu] Climate and wildfire area burned in western US ecoprovinces:

    We demonstrate that wildfire area burned (WFAB) in the American West was controlled by climate during the 20th century (1916-2003)....For 1977-2003, a few climate variables explain 33-87% (mean = 64%) of WFAB, indicating strong linkages between climate and area burned.

    By contrast, Mr Watts' "facts" are also nothing more than unsubstantiated declarations and assumptions, just like yours. A few random examples from your link:

    * "This [CO2] percentage increase means nothing. Human CO2 emissions didn’t begin to rise significantly until after 1945": Keyword is 'significantly' - he claims the rise is not significant, but provides no justifications for this assumption, other than that the atmospheric percentage is "about as close to nothing as you can get" (it's a really small-looking number). No citations given.

    * "...there is no way that this miniscule amount [of atmospheric CO2] can have any significant effect on climate." Another unsubstantiated declaration in his "facts" list. No citations given for this claim.

    * "CO2 also lags short-term warming [historical graph] showing that warming causes rise in CO2, not the other way around if CO2 was the cause." - Incorrectly assumes that CO2 must either be a cause or an effect, but could never be both. No citations given for this "fact", either.

    * "...global climate marches in lock step with sun spots, length of the sun spot cycle, and intensity of the solar magnetic field... total solar insolation (TSI) correlates very well with climate". Once more, he just claims this as a fact, with (wait for it) no citations given.

    * "HadCRUT4 temperature curve showing that 56% of the warming since 1895 occurred prior to 1945"... according to his arbitrarily-drawn red lines. The HadCRUT4 temperature graph may well be accurate, but (of course) he provides no citation for any peer-reviewed source for his claimed "56% of warming" cut-off point (looks to me like the red line that claims to show this is just drawn to the peak of the biggest short-term fluctuation he can find, without regard to averages or trends or anything).

    I could easily go on, but I have work to do. If Watts' unbacked assertions are what you consider "facts", then it's no wonder you usually don't bother to link to them.

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.

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