Average Annual Wildfire Number and Size Increasing in the Great Plains

GR: Large fires occur during periods of high temperature and drought. The fire increase across the North American Great Plains is typical of many other regions undergoing fire regime changes as the Earth warms. Fueled by increasing temperature, drought, and invasive species, the fires will continue increasing. A study appearing in Geophysical Research Papers (GRP) documented dramatic changes since 1985. The study abstract follows the images.

Wildfire grasslands disaster, North American Great Plains, Lon Tonneson

Large wildfire trends in the western United States, 1984–2011
Authors: Philip E. Dennison, Simon C. Brewer, James D. Arnold, Max A. Moritz (Geophysical Research Letters, April 25, 2014)


“Rapid changes in wildfire patterns are documented globally, increasing pressure to identify regions that may experience increases in wildfire in future decades. Temperate grassland and savanna biomes were some of the most frequently burned regions on Earth, however large wildfires have been largely absent from the Great Plains of North America over the last century. In this paper, we conduct an in-depth analysis of changes in large wildfire (>400 ha) regime characteristics over a 30 year period across the Great Plains. For the entire biome, (i) the average number of large wildfires increased from 33.4 + 5.6 per year from 1985-1994 to 116.8 + 28.8 wildfires per year from 2005-2014, (ii) total area burned by large wildfires increased 400%, (iii) over half the ecoregions had greater than a 70% probability of a large wildfire occurring in the last decade, and (iv) seasonality of large wildfires remained relatively similar.” –Victoria M. Donovan, Carissa L. Wonkka, Dirac Twidwell. (Accepted  for publication by GRP)

Warmth will worsen wet and dry extremes – Climate News

GR: This warning is worth repeating. It needs to reach the ears of the climate-change deniers whose willful ignorance is endangering all of us and all the creatures sharing this ride with us. Storms, floods, and droughts will get worse.

Cloudburst, North Vancouver: Wet or dry, extremes will become more intense. Image: Terence Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

“Wet and dry extremes across the world will become more marked as the planet heats up, evidence from past climates shows.”

“Two US scientists have once again confirmed one of the oldest predictions of climate change: that those regions already wet will become wetter, while the arid zones will become drier.

“This time the reasoning comes not just from computer models of future climate, but also from the evidence of the past.

“Because the northern hemisphere will warm faster than the southern, the temperature difference will drive the planet’s rainbelts northwards, at least during the winter months. The tropics will become wetter, while the subtropics and the mid-latitudes will become drier, and this will be most noticeable in June, July and August.

“The predictions – made in the journal Science Advances – come from two researchers. Aaron Putnam is a glaciologist who studies ancient climates at the University of Maine. Wallace Broecker is an oceanographer at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and one of the pioneers of climate research.” –Tim Radford (Learn more: Warmth will worsen wet and dry extremes – Climate News NetworkClimate News Network.)

How a Warming Planet Drives Human Migration

GR:  Thoughts on Climate Change

The climate news today (and really every day now) is not good. The Times article below focuses on just one of the bad bits. Global warming and consequent shifts in weather patterns are stressing everyone, but especially those people living in equatorial regions. Droughts, fires, and floods are becoming intolerable. The emerging climate-change-driven diaspora will carry the stress north and south into temperate latitudes. Projections made by many scientists in the U. S., European Union, and Asia portray a dismal future for Earth and humanity.

A Glimpse of Future Earth

Climate-change emigrants and their descendents moving north will not escape the ravages of a warming planet for very long. Stresses in northern latitudes have already begun. As the human population squeezes north to find food and water, resources will dwindle and conflicts will intensify. Nature in even the diminished form that we see now will sink toward unsustainable levels where wild plants and animals, then watersheds, then soils, and then fresh water are lost.

As I look out across my fields of invasive weeds and my ponds and small stream choked with artificially fertilized algae and filled with invasive animals, I remember the sunflowered fields and sparkling creek of my childhood. As the pace of climate change accelerates, “the good old days” will become a meaningful phrase for younger and younger people facing a constant need to adapt to more difficult times.

Want to keep up with the changes? The Daily Climate carries the best selection of current stories I’ve found. The Daily Climate included a link to the story below along with dozens of others. (Header image:  A farmer tries to revive his unconscious cow. Photo by CNN.)

Illustration by La Tigre.

“Climate change is not equal across the globe, and neither are its longer term consequences. This map overlays human turmoil — represented here by United Nations data on nearly 64 million “persons of concern,” whose numbers have tripled since 2005 — with climate turmoil, represented by data from NASA’s Common Sense Climate Index. The correlation is striking. Climate change is a threat multiplier: It contributes to economic and political instability and also worsens the effects. It propels sudden-onset disasters like floods and storms and slow-onset disasters like drought and desertification; those disasters contribute to failed crops, famine and overcrowded urban centers; those crises inflame political unrest and worsen the impacts of war, which leads to even more displacement. There is no internationally recognized legal definition for “environmental migrants” or “climate refugees,” so there is no formal reckoning of how many have left their homes because climate change has made their lives or livelihoods untenable. In a 2010 Gallup World Poll, though, about 12 percent of respondents — representing a total of 500 million adults — said severe environmental problems would require them to move within the next five years.

  1. ‘Amazon Basin: As glacial melting reduces freshwater reserves for the Andean plain, tensions are growing between locals and the mining and agribusiness operations that consume much of what remains. Researchers predict that this resource conflict will drive more migrants to the Amazon Basin where many have already turned to informal mining and coca cultivation, fueling the rise of criminal syndicates.

  2. “Lake Chad, 3. Syria, 4. China, 5. Philippines” –Jessica Benko (New York Times: Continue reading.)

Disastrous 2016 shows British butterflies are ‘failing to cope’ with climate change

GR: Butterflies and other pollinators seem to be in steep decline around my home in Dewey-Humboldt, Yavapai County, Arizona. Monarch, Morning Cloak, and Swallowtail numbers shrank over the past few drought years. Part of the explanation for butterfly decline here, as in Britain is pesticide use and habitat loss. However, global warming with its rising temperature, droughts, and storms, is probably becoming as important. We just had wet winter, and I hope that this summer and next spring butterfly numbers will rebound.

Butterflies are like the canary in the coal mine. If they die, are we in danger too?

Tiger Swallowtail

Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) Arizona’s butterfly.

In Britain: “Butterflies are “failing to cope” with climate change and the pollution of the British countryside, experts have warned after a disastrous year saw population declines in 40 out of 57 species.

“The UK Butterfly Monitoring Survey found it had been the fourth-worst year overall with six species – the heath fritillary, grizzled skipper, wall, grayling, white-letter hairstreak and white admiral – all suffering their most dramatic declines in the 41 years since records began.

“Sixteen species saw increases with one remaining about the same, the annual survey found. But Professor Tom Brereton, head of monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said the results showed that the insects were in trouble.” –Ian Johnston (Continue reading: Disastrous 2016 shows butterflies are ‘failing to cope’ with climate change | The Independent.)