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Global warming and the increase in wildfires

Colorado-Fire

In an article about the current wildfire in Colorado (above), Tom Kenworthy writes THIS:

The past decade has seen a sharp increase in the number of acres burned by wildfires. In 2012, 2007 and 2008 more than 9 million acres were burned, and the half dozen worst fire years since 1960 have taken place since 2000. A recent Department of Agriculture report predicts that the acreage burned by wildfires will double by 2050 to about 20 million acres annually.

The report’s findings are in line with previous studies on climate change’s relation to fire risk: a 2012 study found that wildfire burn season is two and a half months longer than it was 40 years ago, and that for every one degree Celsius temperature increase the earth experiences, the area burned in the western U.S. could quadruple.

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12 Comments

  1. expdoc

    http://www.phoenix.edu/forward/perspectives/2012/11/are-wildfires-good-for-the-environment.html

    Close to 8 million acres of forests and grasslands in the United States went up in flames this year, causing reason for concern about wildfires.

    Contrary to what many people believe, however, wildfires have a positive impact on the environment, according to Barbara Zorn-Arnold, a research biologist and instructor in the environmental studies program at University of Phoenix Chicago Campus.

    When a fire burns in nature, although it causes short-term problems such as smoke, the long-term results on the ecosystem are very good, she says.

    “What scientists have learned over the last few decades is that fires increase plant and animal diversity,” she explains, “because during a wildfire, nutrients are released into the soil, which is followed by a flush of new plant growth after the fire.”

    New plants help clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide — one of the root causes of global warming — and releasing oxygen, Zorn-Arnold notes, resulting in cleaner air.

    By trying to protect ecosystems from fire, we’ve actually ended up endangering them.
    In fact, many ecosystems require fires to restore their balance. In recent years, scientists discovered that Ponderosa pines in the Pacific Northwest, for example, need fire to germinate their seeds and stimulate growth.

  2. Brian Opsahl

    For those of you who hate the so called tree huggers…these tree huggers would go in and selectivly cut trees so the forest would grow properly….intead of the massive de-forestation that the large logging companys would do…

  3. expdoc

    http://forestry.about.com/cs/treeplanting/a/tree_plt_stats.htm

    Question: Who plants the most acreage in trees each year?

    Answer: Forest industry plants 45%, non-industrial private owners plant 42%, the National Forest System plants 6%, other government and industries plant 7%.

  4. Brian Opsahl

    One of my show’s is AX men on discovery sundays….logging is the most dangerious job in the country…highest amount in deaths every year…then comes Iron Workers..

  5. Craig Knauss

    doc,

    Yes, maybe forest fires can provide some benefit. But some of those wildfires are in populated areas like parts of Colorado, New Mexico, California. Remember the Oakland fire that burned all those million dollar homes? Who benefitted from that? And maybe you should ask your neighbors who benefitted from the Peshtigo fire. (That’s in Wisconsin.)

    We just had a wild fire out here, again, a couple days ago. 52 homes were evacuated, but fortunately none were burned – this time. Last year a bunch of homes were burned by a wildfire near Ellensburg. A couple years ago about 90,000 acres of scrub were burned in this area. I don’t believe any homes were lost, but some out buildings were. The fire came within 50′ of some homes. And about 8 years or so ago a fire in the Cascades killed 4 fire fighters. I wonder who Phoenix (online) U thinks benefitted from that.

    BTW doc, if we didn’t allow “clear cutting ” in our forests, there’d be less need to plant trees. The existing trees could do most of it themselves. And there’d be less mud slides, etc. Also some of your forest industry planting is really tree farms. We have some of those just over the Oregon border. Thousands of acres of “trash” trees (poplars, willows, etc.) planted densely for making paper. They’re planted and harvested just like corn is in your area.

  6. Craig Knauss

    Update:

    The Colorado fire has destroyed an estimated 360 homes so far. I wonder if Barbara Zorn-Arnold will list that as a benefit.

    I did notice a positive benefit to our wildfires a few years back. When the fires destroyed tens of thousands of acres of scrub, they also significantly reduced the rodent population. As a result, the birds of prey moved to the cities and began grabbing those annoying tiny dogs some people have.

  7. expdoc

    Uh Craig?

    The Peshtigo fire was in the 1800′s. I think those that remember it are long gone. It was always a point of pride growing up in Wisconsin though that we had the Peshtigo fire disaster and it is barely remembered in comparison with the Chicago fire and Mrs O’Leary’s cow that happened at the same time.

    By the way, it happened in 1871, way before any man made global warming, and was simply a function of Mother Nature doing her thing.

    If you live in a forest, it will eventually burn. If you live by the water, you will eventually be flooded. If you live on the Pacific Rim in the “ring of fire” you will experience earthquakes and the occassional tsunami.

    This will happen whether man is present, warming the environment or cooling the environment.

  8. Craig Knauss

    doc,

    I know the Peshtigo fire was long ago. That’s not the point. Look up what happened in the fire. That IS the point. Then see if any of your neighbors thought it was a good thing. And I noticed that you skipped right past my statement that about 360 homes have been lost in Colorado this week. And you skipped past the comment about the four dead firefighters in the Cascades a few years ago.

    Doc, fires WILL be more prevalent as the environment warms. There will more drying out of our forests. And as one Forestry Service official noted a couple years ago, they are fighting fires at much higher altitudes that they used to. Snow caps are melting more and high timber is drying out. Early this week we had a wildfire here, again. This one only burned 1000 acres and, as I said above, didn’t burn any houses, this time. But, hey, it’s only June 13th. The real fires usually hit after July 4th.

    Check out this link of this week’s fire: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2013/06/11/2430441/clodfelter-road-fire.html

  9. Craig Knauss

    473 homes lost in Colorado so far. And we’re early in the season. The worst normally comes in July. That’s when I’ll be able to look over the Columbia River and see as many as a half dozen fires burning simultaneously.

    So doc, did you do any research on the Peshtigo fire? One of the causes was clear-cutting the forests for lumber to rebuild Chicago. The loggers cut down the trees and stripped them to logs. But they didn’t clean up the debris. They just left it to dry out and become really good fuel. The fire was probably started by nature, but the damage was caused by man’s negligence.

  10. expdoc

    It was caused by

    A) Extreme drought conditions

    B) Stacking of cut materials to dry.

    NOT the fact that the trees were cut down.

    Maybe you should study how firefighters fight a fire in the woods. I’ll give you a hint. Look up the word fireline.

  11. expdoc

    Oh yeah. And NOT by global warming.

  12. Craig Knauss

    doc,

    I never said global warming was responsible for the Peshtigo fire. What orifice did you pull that out of? I brought it up because of your posting statements by Zorn-Arnold.

    Re your comment “Maybe you should study how firefighters fight a fire in the woods.” Getting a little arrogant, aren’t you?

    I may be in a desert location, but we have forests in almost all directions from us. The Blue Mountains (with forests) are about 1 hour east of here (e.g. Nez Perce National Forest). The Cascade Mountains (with forests) are about 2 hours west of here (e.g. Wenatchee N.F., Gifford Pinchott N.F.). The forests around Satus Pass are about 1-1/2 hrs from here. (They had a nasty fire there last year.) There are forests around Spokane about 2 hours north of here. And like I said, we had a brush fire about 2 miles from my house last week. (And we will have a lot more.) So, doc, I know what fire lines are. They’re used most often in brush fires because you can build one with a road grader or small dozer. They don’t work real well with forest fires unless you have a dozer big enough to topple all the trees. Regardless, if there is any wind the fire just jumps from tree top to tree top. And if the forest is in the mountains, they don’t work at all because the slopes are too steep for grading. That’s why we have aerial tankers to drop chemicals in those areas.

    I wanted to attach a couple pics of some of our local fires, but the program apparently won’t let me.

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