GR: Fire, storm, flood, and drought disasters are growing. Perhaps they will soon become so commonplace as to go unreported. Of course, when we see something coming at us like the fire in the photo below, we need the reports. Hurricane Ophelia is partly responsible for the spread of these fires.
“Hundreds of fires in both countries are being fanned by winds from Hurricane Ophelia in the north, currently barreling towards Ireland, and encouraged by extremely dry terrain from a scorching hot summer in the region.
“Sixty-four people died in a wildfire in Portugal in June, and the country has declared a state of emergency in the northern region. “We are facing new (weather) conditions” due to climate change, Portuguese Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa told the press, as she also referenced the fires blazing in California. “In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world.”
Source: Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39
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)
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)
GR: Relentlessly, the U. S. Forest Service sacrifices forest ecosystems so timber companies can make profits. Personally, I would like to see the Forest Service protect the forests, not sell them out. Isn’t that what we expect them to do?
Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek. Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed’s only remaining old-growth forest. Photo courtesy of Luke Ruediger http://www.siskiyoucrest.blogspot.com.
“Meet the Horse Creek Project, the Klamath’s new boondoggle that will log sensitive areas while losing taxpayer money. (There’s something in it for everyone to hate!)
“The Klamath National Forest cannot let a fire go to “waste.” Following the 2016 Gap Fire, the Klamath National Forest is trying to log areas that should be off-limits: Late Successional Reserves, forests set aside from commercial timber harvest so that they can develop into old-growth forests; Riparian Reserves, areas around streams that are supposed to be off-limits to logging to prevent water pollution; and northern spotted owl habitat. The Klamath National Forest argues that logging large diameter snags, (which will stand for decades until new forests grow up around them all the while providing critical wildlife habitat) is good for the forests and for wildlife—paradoxical logic that has been rejected by both science and the courts.
“If history is any guide, the Klamath National Forest will lose money in logging owl habitat—what’s known in Forest Service parlance as a “deficit sale.” Burned forests are worth more to owls and fishers than they are to timber mills. To make a profit, timber companies need to purchase trees from the Klamath National Forest for next to nothing. In several timber sales from earlier this year, the Klamath National Forest sold a logging truck’s worth of timber for about $2.50—less than the price of a cup of coffee. The Klamath will lose untold thousands or millions of dollars on this timber sale, money that could go to protecting local communities or improving wildlife habitat.” –Tom Wheeler (Continue reading: Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) » Horse Creek Project: Losing Taxpayer Money to Harm Spotted Owls).
I’ve been interested in natural vegetation response to wildfire for more than 40 years. Most of my work involves the desert shrublands and woodlands of western North America. From the beginning of my studies, I saw that Asian weeds brought by European sheep and cattle herders had heavily infested native vegetation. It soon became clear that added fuel provided by the weeds was allowing fires to increase in size and number. During the past century and a half, the weeds have replaced vast areas of native shrublands and woodlands that could not contend with the increasing wildfires.
This is one of the study sites that Jeff Steele and I established in 1974. Two fires (1974 and 1985), converted this formerly diverse Sonoran Desert landscape of small trees and tall Saguaro cactus into an impoverished shrubland.
Humans with their weeds and livestock led the first devastating wave of wildfire across the arid and semi-arid lands of the world. The next wave will come from human-caused global warming.
The following is from Global Warming Forecasts
[Click this link for my review of the Forecasts. Below, I’ve include 2050 as an example of the forecasts.]
“2050. Forest wildfire burn area in the U.S. is projected to increase by over 50% and as much as 175% in some areas by 2050. “The area of forest burnt by wildfires in the United States is set to increase by over 50% by 2050, according to research by climate scientists. The study [Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States], predicts that the worst affected areas will be the forests in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains, where the area of forest destroyed by wildfire is predicted to increase by 78% and 175% respectively.
“The research is based on a conservative temperature increase of 1.6 degrees Celsius over the next 40 years [2010-2050]. Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists also say that the increase in wildfires will lead to significant deterioration of the air quality in the western United States due to greater presence of smoke. . . . This work was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Dominick Spracklen carried out the research whilst at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in collaboration with Jennifer Logan and Loretta Mickley.” (NASA press release, “Wildfires Set to Increase 50 Percent by 2050,” NASA Earth Observatory, Twitter NASA EO, Greenbelt, Maryland, July 28, 2009 reporting findings in D.V. Spracklen, L.J. Mickley, J.A. Logan, R.C. Hudman, R. Yevich, M.C. Flannigan, and A.L. Westerlin, “Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States,” Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 114, D20301, doi:10.1029/2008JD010966, published October 20, 2009.” —Global Warming Forecasts.
View Jennifer Logan’s PowerPoint presentation on wildfires.
Last month’s storms in the North Coast resulted in hundreds of lightning strikes igniting forest fires across the region and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Now a combined total of approximately 102,755 acres are burning on the Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests. Thousands of fire fighters are on the ground, some in an effort to protect life and property and others are in the wilderness and backcountry. Fire suppression and the military style of firefighting can be more environmentally destructive than wildfire itself. Crews typically construct ridge top fire lines with bulldozers, dump fire retardant, ignite high severity back burns, fell trees and open up decommissioned roads to access and suppress the fires. These damaging efforts are often ineffective, for example yesterday a burning tree fell across a containment line on the Route complex, causing the fire to escape. Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.wildcalifornia.org
GR: The human damage fighting fires and logging burned areas may be more destructive than the fires.
(LOWER LAKE, Calif.)—Blazes raging in forests and woodlands across California have taken the life of a firefighter and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes as an army of firefighters continue to battle them from the air and the ground.
Twenty-three large fires, many sparked by lightning strikes, were burning across Northern California on Saturday, said state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant. Some 8,000 firefighters were attempting to subdue them, something made incredibly difficult by several years of drought that have dried out California.
“The conditions and fire behavior we’re seeing at 10 in the morning is typically what we’d see in late afternoon in late August and September,” said Nick Schuler, . . . ” Sourced through Scoop.it from: spiritandanimal.wordpress.com
“I would like to point out a typical bias that I see and hear all the time. The Forest Service often promotes the idea that lodgepole pine stands are “overstocked”. Actually lodgepole and many other species always grow that way after a disturbance. There is frequently a significant amount of natural regeneration that is gradually whittled down by natural thinning agents like beetles or fire.
“It baffles me that the FS tries to prevent beetles from “thinning” the forest when indeed, they believe they are “overstocked”. Beetles, disease and fire will thin them naturally, and these agents are much better at selecting which trees should live and die than any forester.” —George Wuerthner Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.thewildlifenews.com
GR: Many excuses for logging are offered as scientific justifications just as hunting is said to be good wildlife management. This article offers several solid counterpoints to the Forest Service’s effort to justify logging as forest management. Recommended.