This is about another misleading headline at WUWT (archived here). Anthony Watts wrote about a paper in a special edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B about wildfire. His headline was "New study shows no wildfire increases due to global warming, slight decline in recent decades noted". Anthony took it on himself to add the part about global warming. That wasn't in either the press release or the abstract, and I doubt it was in the paper itself, which is paywalled.
You can read about the work in the press release at ScienceDaily.com. Here's an excerpt:
In contrast to what is widely portrayed in the literature and media reports, they found that:
The researchers conclude:
- global area burned has seen an overall slight decline over past decades, despite some notable regional increases. Currently, around 4% of the global land surface is affected by vegetation fires each year.
- there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago.
- direct fatalities from fire and economic losses also show no clear trends over the past three decades.
"The data available to date do not support a general increase in area burned or in fire severity for many regions of the world. Indeed there is increasing evidence that there is overall less fire in the landscape today than there has been centuries ago, although the magnitude of this reduction still needs to be examined in more detail."
So, less fire in recent decades than there was centuries ago. If you go to the abstract, it shows that the authors were talking about area burned and comparing it to centuries ago:
Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago.There was no discussion of causes that I could see, whether from the modern practices of putting out wildfires or because of changes in landscapes or other reason. They did say that there were regional differences and that they had little data on fire severity. The authors also mentioned that "global predictions for increased fire under a warming climate highlight the already urgent need for a more sustainable coexistence with fire".
Western US forest wildfire activity increased abruptly in the mid-1980s
The same edition of the journal had a lot of other articles, including one about wildfires in western USA. In that paper the authors noted an abrupt increase in wildfire activity since the mid-1980s, in apparent contradiction to the paper I just mentioned.
Prior work shows western US forest wildfire activity increased abruptly in the mid-1980s. Large forest wildfires and areas burned in them have continued to increase over recent decades, with most of the increase in lightning-ignited fires. Northern US Rockies forests dominated early increases in wildfire activity, and still contributed 50% of the increase in large fires over the last decade. However, the percentage growth in wildfire activity in Pacific northwestern and southwestern US forests has rapidly increased over the last two decades. Wildfire numbers and burned area are also increasing in non-forest vegetation types. Wildfire activity appears strongly associated with warming and earlier spring snowmelt. Analysis of the drivers of forest wildfire sensitivity to changes in the timing of spring demonstrates that forests at elevations where the historical mean snow-free season ranged between two and four months, with relatively high cumulative warm-season actual evapotranspiration, have been most affected. Increases in large wildfires associated with earlier spring snowmelt scale exponentially with changes in moisture deficit, and moisture deficit changes can explain most of the spatial variability in forest wildfire regime response to the timing of spring.
Fire: a destructive yet essential element
Naturally, WUWT fans don't want to learn about fire, though many have very strong opinions on the subject. There is a much more nuanced article as an introductory piece in the journal, which is open access. Here's some of what the authors, Andrew C. Scott, William G. Chaloner, Claire M. Belcher, and Christopher I. Roos, wrote:
There is an increasing realization that fire is a major Earth system process  affecting not only the atmosphere, but also the biosphere in profound ways. Further, it has been recently established  that increasing global temperatures will lead to increased fire risk and indeed recent studies suggest that the increase is greater during periods of rapid global change . Fire has not only an impact on the landscape and vegetation, but also on humans . This is a significant paradox. Fire is essential to the health of many plant communities and is used by mankind but is also hazardous to mankind, not only from the fire itself but also from smoke and from post-fire erosion and flooding. It was, therefore, particularly timely to bring together some of the world's leading fire scientists to discuss the impact of fire on the biosphere, including humans, to discuss the role that mankind is playing in altering the nature of fire systems and to examine the central paradox that fire is both a destructive yet essential element of the Earth system and the regulation of that system.
From the WUWT comments
garyh845 complains that the press release didn't say what is causing the world to warm. I thought everyone knew that these days.
May 24, 2016 at 5:42 pm
“The warming climate, which is predicted to result in more severe fire weather in many regions of the globe in this century, will probably contribute . . ”
I note – it does not say ‘the warming climate enhanced by an anthropogenic greenhouse gas footprint . . .’
If they are predicting that future warming is caused by, or increased by, a human footprint then, they should say so.
Gerald Machnee wonders if they are admitting that climate hasn't changed. (No, of course they aren't. It has and is.)
May 24, 2016 at 8:10 pm
Well, they did not fins any increase but threw in their lick about forecast increase with climate change. You mean they are admitting that climate has not changed??
Bruce Cobb thinks he's seen a contradiction.
May 25, 2016 at 5:50 amThing is that the researchers were looking at area burnt, not the number of fires or the severity. Fire weather is bad enough now, and will get worse.
“there is increasing evidence that there is overall less fire in the landscape today than there has been centuries ago”
“The warming climate, which is predicted to result in more severe fire weather in many regions of the globe in this century, will probably contribute further to both perceived and actual risks to lives, health and infrastructure.”
These two statements don’t jibe with one another. We know that it is warmer now, and yet there is overall LESS FIRE, not more. But, in the twisted logic of Climatism, it will result in more fire in the future. Notice, too, that “the warming climate” is simply assumed. We can’t say what the climate is doing now, and most certainly can’t predict what it will do in the future. Cooling may very well be in the cards, possibly decades-long.