Dead trees stoke wildfire fears

Climate Change and Fires Replace Forests with Weeds

GR: Climate-change droughts are killing trees and shrubs in dry lands around the world. For many years, forest ecologists argued that some vegetation requires periodic fires to stay healthy. The fires clear out underbrush and open areas where trees are tightly packed.

As climate change advances, the ‘let it burn’ philosophy has taken on a new meaning. Across the western U. S. and other drying regions, trees are dying. Human-caused climate change with fire as its agent, is sweeping away the forests and shrublands. Fire-prone weeds are taking their place. Weedlands, sometimes called ‘annual grasslands’ have lower biodiversity, productivity, and ability to absorb heavy rains. The process is known as desertification. Today, firefighters have little choice but to ‘let it burn,’ Perhaps they are unconsciously aware that the magnificent conifer forests of the world will never return.

“Since 2010, more than one hundred million trees have died in California. Falling trees and limbs are not the only hazard. These dead trees could provide the fuel to turn a normal wildfire into an inferno.

“Fire is as much a part of California as mudslides and winter snowpack.

“Van Mantgem: “The Sierras are always going to burn. So we’re never going to be able to exclude fire – and I don’t think we’d want to exclude fire – it’s a fire-adapted system.”

“That’s Phil Van Mantgem, with the U.S.G.S. Western Ecological Research Center. He says that although fire is a natural part of the system, the long-term drought has made it more likely that wildfires will burn out of control. But there’s no easy solution.” –Bruce Lieberman (Dead trees stoke wildfire fears » Yale Climate Connections)

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)

Abstract

“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)

Climate change is happening now – here’s eight things we can do to adapt

GR: The first four of these suggestions are for you to take to prepare for the challenges of climate change. You should recommend the last four suggestions to your government. (More on meeting the climate emergency.)

Donald Trump has rejected global leadership on the issue, so now it’s down to us as individuals to plan, and push through new policies change where we can.

Somalians fleeing drought fetch water at a camp in Doolow as humanitarian agencies warn that famine could affect 6.2 million peopl. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

“If, like many of us, you have the sense that seasons are changing, winters are milder, summers a bit warmer, springs coming earlier, and autumns not quite what they used to be, you’d be right. According to a report released today by the United Nations, 2016 was the warmest year on record, breaking the record previously held by 2015, and before that by 2014. Having three years of record-breaking temperatures is a clear trend that the climate is changing.

Preparing for Climate Emergencies

1) “Make a plan; build a kit. Natural disasters are on the rise and are only projected to occur more frequently and be more intense thanks to climate change. Ensure you are prepared by having a plan for what you and your family will do in the case of a disaster. Then make a kit that has the supplies you’ll need to withstand and recover.

2) “Get to know your neighbours. In a disaster, government resources are likely to be strained. Building strong social networks, including within your own neighbourhood, can be an extremely effective way to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

3) “Reduce your carbon footprint. Anything we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help slow down climate change. The mantra I use is that we must manage the unavoidable through adaptation, but avoid the unmanageable through mitigation.

4) “Call your legislators today, and every day. Demand that they preserve and advance domestic and international climate programmes, policies, and funding streams. Don’t take these programmes for granted.” –Missy Stults (Continue reading: Climate change is happening now – here’s eight things we can do to adapt to it | Missy Stults | Opinion | The Guardian).

March Climate Madness — Wildfires, Scorching Summer Heat Strike Central and Southwestern U.S. By Winter’s End

GR:  Record heat and winter fires. More on the way.

“In Colorado today the news was one of fire. There, a wildfire just south of Boulder had forced emergency officials to evacuate 1,000 residents as more than 2,000 others were put on alert Sunday. Smoke poured into neighborhoods as dead trees killed by invasive beetles or a developing drought, exploded into flames. Depleted snowpacks along the front range of the Rockies combined with temperatures in the 80s and 90s on Sunday to increase the fire risk. Thankfully, so far, there have been no reports of injuries or property loss. A relieving contrast to the massive fires recently striking Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma — where farmers and communities are still recovering.

“Much of the southwest also experienced record or near-record temperatures. Las Vegas broke new records Sunday as the thermometer struck past 90 (F). Meanwhile, Yuma broke its previous daily record high on Sunday as temperatures rocketed to 98 F.” –Robert Scribbler (Continue reading:  March Climate Madness — Wildfires, Scorching Summer Heat Strike Central and Southwestern U.S. By Winter’s End | robertscribbler.)

(Extreme heat builds through the Central and Southwest U.S. on monday as a wildfire forces evacuations south of Boulder, Colorado. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)