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)

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 history. 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.)

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.)