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CLIMATE: Wetter, cooler summers reduce wildfire threat in Northwest forests

Letter by Ken A. Schlichte, Tumwater on Sep. 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm with 28 Comments »
September 30, 2010 4:48 pm

Re: “Green energy groups protest Centralia TransAlta coal plant” (www.thenewstribune.com, 9-29).

The article about the campaign to shut down the Centralia coal-fired power plant stated that climate change models predict a drier Pacific Northwest that could lead to more wildfires.

These climate change models that are predicting a drier Northwest with more wildfires, however, contrast with the National Climatic Data Center data indicating that the Northwest summer wildfire season precipitation has actually trended upward by 1.15 inches, a 44 percent summer precipitation increase, over the last 10 years.

The National Climatic Data Center data also indicates that Northwest summer wildfire season temperatures have trended downward by 1.52 degrees F. over the last 10 years.

These wetter and cooler summer conditions have reduced the wildfire potential in our Northwest forests.

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Leave a comment Comments → 28
  1. A 10 year period by itself does not make a trend. This guy is constantly trying to make climate change resulting from global warming into something that is not threatening. The global impact will be catastrophic. The local impact for isolated areas strictly from a weather standpoint might not be too bad. There is a huge difference if one looks beyond one’s fingertips.
    Global warming denial is a worldwide delusion spread by the scientifically illiterate on the scientifically underinformed, fueled by a million web pages that predict mostly nonsense.

  2. Mr. Schlichte,

    Are you a wildland firefighter? I’m assuming not. In fact, I am assuming you have ZERO experience in forest fire ecology nor any experience fighting wildland fires. So, let me educate you.

    First, I fought forest fires for three years while in college. During which, I was assigned to 15k+ acres fires in California, Nevada, Arizona and British Columbia. I took fire ecology, behavior and weather courses during my stint with the USFS; I supplemented those classes with others in my course work in college. I think I can make a legitimate claim as at least a semi-expert in the field.

    When we get wet springs/summers, fuel builds up, especially in the high desert of E. Washington, E. Oregon, Nevada, and Utah. Excess fuel increases the likelihood of wildland fire.

    In addition, strings of periodic wet weather lead to an increase in fuel loading. When we get a dry year, as we did in 2004, that fuel becomes highly combustible and subsequent fires are MUCH more intense and damaging for the environment. In fact, while 2006 was a relatively wet year (my last year in the USFS), the largest fire in the lower 48 was in Washington – the Tripod Complex. That fire was over 130,000 acres. That was in a wet year.

    Get your facts straight, sir. Clearly, you know nothing about the issue and should not be misinforming the public with your delusions.

  3. iamjimbo says:

    The whole
    globalwarmingclimatechangeglobalclimatedisruption
    is BS!
    Good grief lemmings!!!

  4. Lemming? Tell you what Jimbo, you drink the Kool-Aid so that the rest of us lemmings can start making progress.

  5. rash, my advice; don’t give jimbo the time of day.
    Global warming denial is a worldwide delusion spread by the scientifically illiterate on the scientifically underinformed, fueled by a million web pages that predict mostly nonsense.

  6. Novelist3 says:

    rash_jordan-
    You may be a firefighter, but your assertion regarding forest fires leads me to believe you don’t have your facts straight. That is, you’ve made the claim that forest fires are “damaging to the environment”. This is patently false. The reality is that forest fires, like all natural events, are occurrences that are a part of our environment, and as such have been occurring naturally since time immemorial. That being the case, the act of a forest fire, while it may affect humans negatively by destroying houses, has the entirely opposite effect on an environment. Examples would be the fact that a great many species of tree will only seed after a forest fire; not to mention the fact that the fire itself creates a quickly regenerating, fertile area for animals and plants to flourish.
    I would strongly recommend before you post again that you research the facts regarding forest fires, and study up on the age-old cycle of growth, burndown and regrowth that is a part of our natural world.

  7. @Novelist – Did I say ALL fires are damaging to the environment? No. You made that extention. I said “strings of periodic wet weather lead to an increase in fuel loading. When we get a dry year, as we did in 2004, that fuel becomes highly combustible and subsequent fires are MUCH more intense and damaging for the environment.”

    Hence, your assumption of my beliefs is false. In fact, I agree with you that fires are an essential part of the ecosystem. When fire sweeps through a forest at its natural interval, it is HIGHLY beneficial. Thank you for playing devil’s advocate and trying to poke holes in my argument so that I can make another informed post. Kudos.

  8. beerBoy says:

    Once again – climate is not equivalent to weather; local or even regional doesn’t equate to global; and a 10 year deviation is not necessarily a trend.

  9. FreeAmerica says:

    You’ll all be buried in the ground and our kids strapped with so much debt that climate will be last on the menu of life….

  10. iamjimbo says:

    rash, wildland fire fighting is somewhat of an oxymoron don’t you think??? (rhetorical question)
    … after-all, fighting typically involves an offensive strategy.

  11. iamjimbo says:

    Oh, I thought you were…. kooky. I’m only a “semi-expert”

    So, during the time you were assigned, did you ever actually fight fire???

  12. Here go the hypocritcal libs again. I guarantee you, if the ten year trend was upward- they would be screaming “global warming! global warming!” but since it is not they say and I quote “a 10 year deviation is not necessarily a trend”. So predictable. Is an 11 year deviation a trend? How about a 12 year? A 50 year? A 100? A thousand? Only a lib can answer this and it is always based on his political aims of destroying freedom and bankrupting the country, and just hating the USA in general.

  13. By the way libs Laguna Beach is beautiful this time of year, and I am there to tell you.

  14. Rash- rain in the winter and spring brings additional fuel but summer rain brings down the fire danger. This I know because like you I was on a fire crew working for the Forest Service. Cooler wetter Summers reduce the danger. Read your books.

  15. Global warming is a fact the scientist have told us so. We all know they are never wrong. Remember Global cooling, it was also a fact the scientist told us. The world has seen warming and cooling for 1000’s of years and now this this time it’s all mans fault and driving a smaller car will solve everything. Please pass me the cool-aid so I can join the fun.

  16. @Oldman4 – How did you make it out of the 1910 Blowup with Old Man Pulaski?

    Does a rain shower lower immediate fire risk? Uh, yeah. Thanks for that AMAZING insight.

    Again, did I say that a cooler, wetter summer would result in a harsh fire season? No. I said additional rain causes small fuels (grass, shrubs, etc.) to grow faster, increasing fuel loading, and increasing the likelihood of catastrohpic fire in the summer, IF IT’S DRY. Geez, go take some Geritol you ‘ol duffer!

  17. To prove Oldman’s point, 2005 was a VERY wet year in the forest in which I worked. We had a wet spring and a wet summer, resulting in very few fires in our area.

    Same forest in 2006 was very wet in the early spring. In fact, the lakes that normally dry up every year by August lasted through the entire year. However, the spring rain/snow ended in April and it got VERY warm that summer. Once those fuels dried out, we had a busy fire season.

    I believe that 2006 qualifies as a relatively “normal” year in that the amount of rain/snow was in the normal range. What was abnormal was the amount of rain that fell so early in the year but ended abruptly after April. The overabundance of water in the spring resulted in grass growing to 5-6 feet in the desert areas and 2-3 feet below the tree canopies. When lightning started popping in July, we had dozens of fires breakout in one bust, stretching resources to the limit. If it weren’t for contract crews/engines and US Air Force C-130s (MAFFs), many of those fires would’ve burned into November when the snow put them out.

  18. One final firefighting observation: in 2006, I had the opportunity to work in British Columbia on the Carp Complex near Prince George. What the local foresters (loggers, firefighters, etc.) told us was the increase in fire activity in their area over the past 25+ years was the result of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestations. They said that those infestations did not occur in the past because it was cold enough to kill the pine beetles annually, slowing their spread. However, because it has not been getting cold enough for some time, the beetles are traveling farther and multiplying at an exceptional rate.

  19. iamjimbo says:

    … BUT… did you actually SEE the dragon???

    Cyclical dude….

  20. Novelist3 says:

    Rash Jordan seems like an overly angry fellow without much grasp of the facts.

  21. @Novelist – You tell me what facts I missed. Clearly you have something to share, yet you lack substance. I agreed with you on your previous point, so let’s see what else you have.

  22. iamjimbo says:

    … nn K.. no dragon.

  23. Novelist3 says:

    Pff. I provided multiple instances of “substance”- you merely chose to respond to those by tossing out idiotic defensive posturing. I can just imagine you sitting at your computer, thick fingers pecking at the keys, froth on the mouth. It’s not a pretty sight.

  24. beerBoy says:

    Novelist – I saw one post upthread by you followed by a response that dealt with it. Now you have launched into ad hominem attacks of r_j.

  25. @Novelist – Already agreed with you that my first comment may have been too simplistic. Thank you for bringing additional details to-light in-support of my argument.

    You are right about the froth, however. I’ve been getting over a cold during the past week.

  26. Ever notice the non-existent “time/date/geo-position stamp” on the “drowning polar bear-melting ice cube” photo shop-op footage provided by the former vice-jet-setter who builds yet another giant mansion (sorry Tipper, bye bye) right in the very path he warns everyone ELSE about……ahem, Edge of the Florida coast with a splendid view of the polar bears floating by ?
    Yeah, a real “scientist”, that spotted Owl Gore…
    Credible…NOT…

  27. OldLefty says:

    I normally avoid “global warming” threads because the Conservatives are really upside down on the subject.

    You see, the CONSERVATIVE approach to global warming would be to not rule out any possiblity

    On the other hand, I was hoping to see Christine O’Donnell make a comment that global warming is like God leaving bread in the oven just a little too long. It’s still edible, even though it’s a little crunchy

  28. OldLefty says:

    By the way, I’m from Olympia and get to enjoy Ken’s ponderings much more frequently.

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