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.)

Fires and drought cook Tennessee – a state represented by climate-change deniers

Local resident Ralph Cogdill checks the debris of his house which was ruined by a wildfire in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee on Nov. 30, 2016. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images

GR:  The “Establishment” supports fossil-fuel companies and denies climate change.  The incoming U. S. administration is populated by deniers.  The harm caused to wild plants, animals, natural systems, and human society is devastating.

“With my new hope that deniers of climate change will take ownership of the consequences, I am sad to report that this week, terrible wildfires have swept through Tennessee, a southeastern state in the USA. This state is beset by a tremendous drought, as seen by a recent US Drought Monitor map. There currently are severe, extreme, and exceptional drought conditions covering a wide swath of southern states. The causes of drought are combinations of lowered precipitation and higher temperatures.

U.S. Drought Monitor for 22 November 2016. Illustration: National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“The patterns of drought are the result of many weeks of weather (warm and dry) that have led to the current conditions. The recent high-temperature map from NOAA below provides just one example.

U.S. high temperatures map for 29 November 2016. Photograph: NOAA

“Why do we care about the crazy drought in the southern USA? Because it leads to bad consequences. As I write this post, we can read about the horrific fires in Tennessee that are destroying both natural habitat as well as towns and economies. A video about Gatlinburg Tennessee fires can be seen here. There, wildfires are threatening the resort town. It is too early to tell what economic damages will result.

“Was this fire caused by climate change? The answer is yes. We are now in a world where all of our weather is impacted by humans. We know human-caused warming is making drought and heat more severe – that leads to fires like the one we are seeing. We also know that 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded and the first time temperatures have reached the critical mark of 1C (1.8F) above normal.” –John Abraham (continue reading: Fires and drought cook Tennessee – a state represented by climate deniers)

The Fate of Trees: How Climate Change May Alter Forests Worldwide

By the end of the century, the woodlands of the Southwest will likely be reduced to weeds and shrubs. And scientists worry that the rest of the planet may see similar effects


GR:  Continued harvest (logging and livestock grazing)  will work with wildfires to remove long-lived species.  This is already visible in arid regions.

Drought, fire management and land use changes have led to denser forests in California

20130817-FS-UNK-0002“A team of researchers with members from several institutions in the U.S. has found that compared to the beginning of the last century, California’s forests are more dense, with fewer large trees, more small growth and are a much bigger risk for fires. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe how they compared forest surveys over the past century and the changes they noted and what it might mean for the future of forest management in the state.
“In the past, before people arrived, fires, generally due to lightening strikes would start, and burn thousands of acres before dying natural deaths. That would allow for new growth, which would eventually lead to tall tree growth. Now, whenever a fire starts, it is put out as quickly as possible to protect homes and businesses in the area. The result is highly with dry small —the perfect conditions for fires to start and spread very quickly. The researchers also found that oak trees have grown more numerous while pine populations have declined—another result of the drier climate.”
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GR:  The researchers need to test their assumption that fire prevention and suppression have been effective.  Even though fire-fighting budgets are growing, fire size is increasing.

It is interesting that large trees are fewer now.  Could that be because of logging?  And the spread of oak trees, is that influenced by logging or cattle grazing?  The research conclusions seem to suggest that things are going to get back to what the researchers consider normal now that fires are becoming larger and more frequent. All that small growth that is preventing large trees will get burned up.