Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What denier blogs won't talk about - California fires

Sou | 6:02 AM Go to the first of 41 comments. Add a comment
One of the most striking signs of climate science denial is what you read on denier blogs during major events. Or rather, what you don't read. Anthony Watts lives in Chico California. In his home state at the moment, all you will read about, and if what we experience in Australia is any indication, all you'll see on television and hear on the radio are reports of the devastating fires. But not on the "most read" climate conspiracy blog in California, WUWT. Not a word.

Visit the website of the LA Times and read the stories, made all the more heartbreaking by the matter of fact manner in which the reports are written.

Living in a state that is also one of the worst in the world for wildfire (we call them bushfires), I can relate only too well.

My heart goes out to the people caught up in the Valley Fire and the Butte Fire in California. The latest reports from the LA Times are brutal:

Valley fire (as of 6:30 a.m.)
  • 61,000 acres burned
  • 5% contained
  • 13,000 people displaced
  • 400 structures destroyed
  • 1,255 fire workers
  • 4 injured firefighters
  • 1 confirmed death

Butte fire (as of 6:30 a.m.)
  • 71,063 acres burned
  • 30% contained
  • 10,000 people displaced
  • 6,400 structures threatened
  • 35 homes, 79 outbuildings destroyed; 4 structures damaged
  • 4,409 fire workers
  • More than 6,000 homes evacuated

With warming, it's not just the area burnt, it's the ferocity of fires. And the difficulties of fighting them. In some cases, the firefighting aircraft can't fly because of cloud and smoke cover. It's difficult for the firefighters to know exactly what is burning where.  It's easy to forget that if you stay to protect your property, the water might not flow. Or a fireball will erupt. Shallow dams are no protection in a fierce firestorm. And if you change your mind and decide to leave because the fire is too big and fast and fierce, the road might be blocked by fallen trees. All these things happened here, too, a few short years ago. People don't know if they've a home to go back to or not, and too many don't.

And don't forget how hard it is to breathe when there's thick smoke all around. It gets in your eyes and your lungs. (Every fire plan pack should have face masks, proper ones, as well as water and protective clothing (cotton and wool, not flammable plasticky stuff, and decent boots)).

I know that other parts of North America have been ravaged by fire this season, too. 

But not a peep on denier blogs. All that Anthony Watts wants is to stop funding climate modeling experiments. He doesn't want to know about climate and he doesn't want anyone else to know either. On his blog he's got an article suggesting spending money on climate research is insanity. I'm not joking. Doesn't he know that fires are only going to get worse over the coming decades? You think it's bad now? Just wait a bit.

Just as ludicrous was his comment today about Alaska (which had a huge number of fires this season), when he implied that all the melting ice on land and sea, and all the high temperatures were caused by warm pockets of humanity.

Well, California has a lot of warm pockets of humanity without a home, after the events of the past few days. Not that you'd know anything about that, if you relied on climate conspiracy blogs like WUWT.

Here's a video of someone who left it rather late to drive to safety. Thankfully not too late.

Have your fire plan ready, leave early and be safe, people.  Fire is deadly.


Magma said...

"Fires? What fires?"

Catmando said...

This one is 52 miles by road from Chico


Sou said...

Another problem we had, which I'm guessing is an issue in California right now too, is that all the volunteer firefighters and aircraft are deployed so when another fire breaks out it can take a while to get resources to it. The coordinators have to make some very tough decisions. Lives and livestock and property come first, but then do they try to save native forest and wildlife, or commercial plantations?

And then there's exhaustion - people somehow find the stamina to keep going, but it takes its toll.

Catmando said...

Anthony's own Fox affiliate local talk radio station has this as its first story on its news page at the moment (archived so it doesn't change)


By the way, check out Anthony's weather page at the radio station site. It uses computer models to predict the weather. So obviously some models are approved by Watts.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

I have some relatives in Los Alamos, NM (home of the bomb!) and being scientific types in that town someone figured out a way to tell if your home was still standing. Just call. If the phone rang, that meant the circuit was still closed, but if you got a busy signal....

Rattus Norvegicus said...
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Rattus Norvegicus said...

It is actually worse than that. Pretty much all the wildland fire crews in the country are deployed in CA, OR or WA. They've basically run out of resources for fighting fires this year because there are so many large ones. I live several hundred miles from the fires in OR and WA and yet the sky was filled with smoke all day yesterday and by the evening you could smell the smoke in the air.

Sou said...

It was the same here.

In 2003 there were thousands of volunteers deployed fighting fires all over, from December through to March. The next big fire season it was a lot more difficult. Employers can only give up staff for so long before they go broke. Self employed volunteers the same.

Between 2003 and 2009 there was probably as many (or more) hectares burnt as in the entire twentieth century - and we had some very big fires last century. Where I live we had three major fires in three separate fire seasons. Two of them burnt more than 1.3 million hectares - each.

We had a fire start in the next valley over and it raced into our valley. All the local firefighters and aircraft were two valleys away fighting a fire there, so the fire got away and burnt huge areas again.

All that happened in our "big dry", just like the west of north America is facing now.

I have a very healthy respect for fire.

Sou said...

there *were* probably...

Someone else said...

i am fortunate to be out of harms way of the big fires currently burning in CA, but the images that are showing up on twitter are absolutely stunning.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Having grown up in CA, I can say that they should scare the hell out of you. They do the job for me and I only had to experience one close up and threatening.

Rattus Norvegicus said...
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kushal kumar said...

The ongoing planetary impacts related to fire are read by this Vedic astrology writer as : These are suggestive of likely propensity to grow more furious in California to be capable of causing further damage on 19 and 20 of September 2015 ( dates as per Indian Standard Time). Same is the case in relation to fire at other vulnerable places round the globe. However, sufficient precautions or strategy adopted in advance could either reduce gravity of outcome or may in some cases, write off the outcome of such fire. So appropriate and sufficient human strategy to tackle the situation comes into picture and must be brought to play where need be.

thefordprefect said...

wait long enough and there will be less to burn and they can then crow about how the area burned in 2015 is more than in 2018 so wild fires are getting less and hence AGW is a myth..

Andrew said...

Indeed, once there are no trees left to burn and no ice left to melt, we can stop worrying about wildfires and sea level rise.

Andrew said...

Indeed, once there are no trees left to burn and no ice left to melt, we can stop worrying about wildfires and sea level rise.

Harry Twinotter said...

Once the character of the vegetation changes from repeated burnings, it won't change back.

Australia already has fire adapted vegetation, it regenerates quickly. But I have noticed even that has limits, the trees can get replaced by shrubby vegetation.

guthrie said...

So what sort of extra economic cost do increased wildfires have? It seems to me that it would run into hundreds of millions, yet somehow they don't seem to figure on the scale. Is the idea that once everything has burnt that can burn, hey presto, no more wildfires and everything will be fine?

MightyDrunken said...

As CAGW is a myth, all evidence shows that AGW is a myth. Obviously forest fires is therefore another indicator that AGW is a myth and nothing to worry about.

jrkrideau said...

Western Canada, this summer, was hit by the worst fires in history, AFAIK. They were sorta related to some of the Alaskan fires. It was bad enough that we were drafting in Australian firefighters (not unusual actually) and for the first time I can remember, mobilised both regular and militia military units as firefighters from bases two or three thousand kilometres away from the fires.

Just to top it off the fire season started roughly two months early.

No reason for Tony to notice.

Cam said...

jrk...to be honest, though, a lot of the fires in B.C. (particularly in the Prince George district) were allowed to burn if they weren't threatening structures and were naturally caused. This is similar to some of the fires in Alaska. It is part of the natural cycle, and some species of trees (Ponderosa Pine, for instance) need the fires to open their seed pods. Unfortunately, the ideas in the past of suppressing every fire has allowed major fuel supplies to build up and in particularly dry years such as this one, it takes very little for a fire to explode. Because of the fuel build up, the fires are much more intense than if past fires hadn't been suppressed which makes it difficult for the forest to regenerate because the soil has been scorched and essential nutrients destroyed.

jrkrideau said...

If the person Escaping Anderson Springs during Valley Fire was a resident and not a firefighter he definitely qualifies for honourable mention in the Darwin Awards.

jrkrideau said...

True but there were a lot of firefighters out there and a fair number of evacuations, at least in Saskatchewan. And was not Kamloops holding its regular, yearly marshmallow roast? Only bigger and better.

Luckily population density is so low that the actual numbers of evacuees was fairly small.

It has taken us decades to realise that we don't need to fight every fire but it looks like people are finally catching on. Still does not one have to keep an eye on them and occassionaly contain them?

I was out cycling east of Kingston just in time to see buses from CFB Kingston heading out, presumably heading for the Ottawa Airport.

What really got me was the haze in Vancouver. I thought it rained there twice a day and three times on Sundays. I didn't think serious fires were allowed on the West side of the mountains.

FLwolverine said...

Totally agree! My god, that was terrifying just to watch.

Richard Tete said...

So to review, natural fires in Canada that didn't impact anyone. While we are here, lets shut down the tar sands.

cRR Kampen said...

IDZ, Instant Desertification Zone.
The Cali forests won't grow back.

Presently the fires are still far too small. Y'all know why.

Jammy Dodger said...

I am quite surprised WUWT has chosen the strategy of ignoring the drought. That sort of says they are acknowledging it is something to do with climate change.

Why do they not just come out as usual and deny climate change has anything to do with it?

You know the sort of thing - "Drought has always occurred", "The Central England Drought Record was worse than this", "Precipitation gauges are subject to the RPI (Rural Parched Island) effect. That sort of thing.

Millicent said...

Or (to reuse another tired denier meme) ash is plant food, therefore wildfires are a good thing.

Survival Acres said...

I've worked on the overhead teams on a number of large fires and am familiar with the number of personnel and equipment that these requires. You work 21 days straight on big fires, not sure if that is still the required number, but it was then. 18 - 20 hours a day are not uncommon. Sleeping in tents among thousands of people also lying on the ground, it's very noisy usually, so earplugs required. You do eat good once they get the catering trucks and mess tents set up, but you are always very tired and worn out.

I can only imagine what this fire season has been like, the worst in America's history, but there is repeat of this going on in Russia right now.

My own long-term projection is "more and worse" when it comes to fuels, burning, carbon loading in the atmosphere and the destruction of homes, lives and property.

If you pay attention here to what Kevin Anderson is saying, the 4C -6C "real projections" by 2100 means fires beyond anything we can really even imagine.


I live in very heavily forested mountains and its been pretty bad this year, with the future looking a lot worse imo. I see no way to a return to the normal precipitation patterns now (you can't replace the missing ice and restore the jet stream).

America's forests are going to burn, this is just the start of what is going to be hell on earth.

Joseph said...

I think it is difficult for the deniers to deny that we won't see more cases of global warming affecting drought and wildfires. By definition higher temperatures on average will lead to drier conditions. So the next time California goes through an extended drought it will probably be worse than this one.

metzomagic said...

On a related note, and what better place for it. The good news today is that we've managed to deplenish ocean fish stocks by about 49% since 1970. Another great win for humanity. Go humans, go. Make yourself extinct so nature can just get on with it.

metzomagic said...

TBH though, conflict of interest to report. Seafood is my fav food group. Oh well.

Millicent said...

Here's a new take for a Republican who doesn't want to sound pig ignorant of the science but still wants to be a fossil fuel industry puppet.

On April 4, 2015, Fiorina spoke out about climate change in her home state of California as well as how the state has fared in the 2012–15 North American drought, stating that "liberal environmentalists" have brought what she described as a "tragedy" and that California is an example of "liberals being willing to sacrifice other people's lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology"

Sandra said...

Have people here read Gavin Renowden's climate fiction book "The Aviator" ( http://hot-topic.co.nz/ )? Part of the story involves searching for a couple of people among thousands displaced by fires that utterly destroy Melbourne. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but that section was very tough reading after Black Saturday. I don't know how realistic it is: could wildfires generate enough heat to destroy the CBD of a major city?

Sou said...

I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm hoping he writes another book.

Could the CBD burn? People may find out later this century.

His portrayal of the isolated communities of deniers seemed quite realistic. I can imagine them worshipping Fred Singer as some sort of god figure, while shifting to higher ground to escape the rising seas.

Sandra said...

And the airborne evangelist??

My apologies to the author: he's Gareth Renowden, not Gavin.

Anonymous said...

This panic is silly. There is drought and the forests burn off as they should as part of the cycle. Perhaps more noticeable as the population expands into forested areas. Same thing happened in Australia in 2010-2014.

Anonymous said...

It's not panic, but it does represent many lives ruined and billions lost. I suggest you look into the connection between drought, fires and climate change, because it sounds like you're pretty clueless.

It's also not "forested areas" that are burning now. It's neighborhoods and city buildings which are not in the forest.

The Australia fires are also connected to climate change, whether you believe it or not. It will happen again. And again. And eventually, even dunderheads will have to admit that something isn't quite right, the normal patterns of precipitation are all wacked up. Or maybe you could just go join one of those denier groups and sing "la la la" while everything goes black. If you shout long "it's not real" long enough, you might actually convince yourself it's not true.

adelady said...

Do they have anything like fire survival plans in California or elsewhere in the US?

I've noticed in other years that the response of US residents and police _seems_ very different to the way we do things here. But that could just be the way things are reported.

When fires occur here, a lot of reporting is about the unprepared people who didn't think the fire over the hill would get to them as quickly as it obviously did. Along with all the mad people "protecting" their homes by spraying with a garden hose while dressed in shorts with thongs/sandals on their feet. You'd think no one anywhere had ever heard of a Bushfire Survival Plan if you relied on dramatic tv reports in Australia. So I presume there may well be plenty of sensible Americans who do use something like a BFP but they don't get reported.

Anonymous said...

The climate has always changed and there have always been droughts and fires and there always will be. Time will tell whether it is AGW.

Magma said...

And were there fires before vascular plants colonized the land or when atmospheric oxygen levels were less than 10%?

That talking point doesn't get any less ignorant with repetition.