Washington Post connects wildfires, climate disruption; Obama doesn’t

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The Washington Post reports: “Colorado and U.S. Forest Service firefighters are battling the state’s most destructive wildfires ever. Lightning and suspected arson ignited them four weeks ago, but scientists and federal officials say the table was set by a culprit that will probably contribute to bigger and more frequent wildfires for years to come: climate change.” The President was in Colorado Springs touring the fire on Friday and said nothing about the connection to global warming.  He again talked about the fires on his Saturday radio address. No mention of global warming.

Washington Post, July 2 (excerpt; published online July 1 with the title “Colorado’s table was set for monster fire“)

Scientists Link Monster Fires, Climate Change

By Darryl Fears

…Colorado and U.S. Forest Service firefighters are battling the state’s most destructive wildfires ever. Lightning and suspected arson ignited them four weeks ago, but scientists and federal officials say the table was set by a culprit that will probably contribute to bigger and more frequent wildfires for years to come: climate change….

“We’ve had record fires in 10 states in the last decade, most of them in the West,” said Agriculture Department Undersecretary Harris Sherman, who oversees the Forest Service. Over the past 10 years, the wildfire season that normally runs from June to September expanded to include May and October. Once, it was rare to see 5 million cumulative acres burn in a year, but some recent seasons have recorded twice that.

“The climate is changing, and these fires are a very strong indicator of that,” Sherman said….

[C]limate change has been been linked to warmer temperatures that cause snow to melt earlier and rain to evaporate faster, parching the land, contributing to drought and drying out the vegetation that can fuel fires, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas’s state climatologist.

Under such conditions, snow and rain can fall at the same rate as before but the drier earth is slower to revive.

In Colorado’s warmer climate, a plague of pine beetles has thrived. Without extremely cold winters that reduce their numbers, the beetles breed twice per year instead of once. They nibble trees until they die, leaving millions of acres of potential firewood.

The High Park fire west of Fort Collins, where 33,000 residents were evacuated, is feeding on forest filled with trees eaten by beetles….

The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder was among the first to sound an alarm.

Climate scientists there saw temperatures warming nationwide. Rain cycles changed from mild and prolonged to hard and short. During the longer dry spells, land was susceptible to burns, said Bob Henson, meteorologist and science writer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

Colorado is in the middle of “a terrible dry period,” Henson said. The snowpack statewide was less than 3 percent of the normal level on June 1, about the time the fires started….

Earlier posts:

Climate science denier Colorado Congressman wants federal wildfire disaster aid

Boykoff: Obama’s rhetoric of ‘clean energy’ vs. the reality of climate change  Obama’s evasive approach to talking about the inconvenient truths of global climatic disruption.

Also see these excellent posts:

David Roberts at Grist:  Did climate change ’cause’ the Colorado wildfires?  One insightful framing for how Obama and other ‘leaders’ might begin to show some leadership in talking about such issues.

Climate Progress:  NBC Meteorologist On Record Heat Wave: ‘If We Did Not Have Global Warming, We Wouldn’t See This’

Climate Communication:  Heat Waves and Wildfires

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9 Responses to Washington Post connects wildfires, climate disruption; Obama doesn’t

  1. Al Black says:

    When there was deep snow over all the UK, record cold in Europe and Russia, and Blizzards in the USA last winter, we were told “That’s not Climate, that’s Weather!”
    Now after a 15 year period of flat or declining global temperatures, when we get a hot spell we are told “That’s not Weather, that’s Climate!” I’m not buying it, guys. It is just weather, and the wildfires are helped by a policy of not back-burning the forests to reduce fuel loadings, and by the idiocy of building housing among the trees without fire breaks between the two.
    Don’t try to lay the blame for this on harmless, beneficial to plants, non-pollutant CO2. If Rio didn’t give you the message then you are blind – Rio was the funeral rite for the busted hypothesis that was called Anthropogenic Global Warming.
    Your theory is flawed, your cause is lost, your God is dead: Global Warming is now Religion, not Science. The IPCC Computer models are now known to have zero predictive power: nothing they predicted has come to pass. Temperatures are not rising, nor are the seas.
    Your Prophet Al Gore has led you to a desert of failed ideologies. You may fool the Politicians for a few more Budgets, but the common people are on to you. Jump from this bandwagon before it plummets off the cliff!

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      I suggest you do some homework, instead of just spouting this denialist blather. You might start with the National Academy of Sciences (unless you think that is a religious rather than scientific organization):
      http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/sample-page/panel-reports/

      • Al Black says:

        Rick
        I appreciate that your orders are to attack the person rather than debate the points I raised, but why don’t you use your own critical faculties? The sea isn’t rising – I can verify that every time I go to the beach, and so can you. The Global temperature has not risen in the last 15 years either: check the NASA satellite data.
        I’m afraid the NAS has been infiltrated by Democrats so I’d recommend this link instead.
        http://c3headlines.typepad.com/.a/6a010536b58035970c0168eb7b4b62970c-popup
        When your Politics make you suspend the Scientific Method, then you have indeed wandered from Science to Religion, or at least to political activism, which I regard as a religion. When applicants for academic positions are asked “Do you believe in Global Warming?”, what does that say about freedom of speech and academic integrity?
        More importantly, the moronic political output of the IPCC has done untold harm to the cause of science, by portraying itself as science. To say “The Science is settled!” is to spit on science. That is politics dressed up as Science, and denies the possibility for a hypothesis to be disproved by real-world evidence. Anyone who says “The Science is settled!” either has no scientific training or has prostituted it for political ends.
        For Shame!

        • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

          My “orders”? If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a take-marching-orders person.

          You want to throw out the entire climate science community with a single misleading graphic? Please. The National Academy of Sciences has been “infiltrated by Democrats” — that must explain away all the evidence in their 4-volume America’s Climate Choices assessment.

          Seems to me you’re a case of denialists doubling down on their denialism and marginalizing themselves with ever more bizarra statements. It’s truly moronic, and beyond insulting, to call the IPCC authors moronic. Of course, Democrats have also “infiltrated” psychology and the social sciences, but here’s an analysis that our more mainstream readers might find useful:

          http://www.amazon.com/Republican-Brain-Science-Science—Reality/dp/1118094514/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341594862&sr=1-1&keywords=republican+brain+the+science+of+why+they+deny+science

          Take it somewhere else from now on.

          • The history man says:

            I cant believe your quoting the IPCC whose leader is a well know Green activist. The same IPCC who employs young Green students to write and review climate change reports who have in the past sabotaged work done by proper climate scientist who go against the whole manta of what the IPCC stands for. The IPCC might have fooled the more susceptible of our society the ones who cant think for themselves but just a little background checking of its leaders and their embarrassing gaffs like the Himalayan Glaciers retreating when they are not and Venice will be under water in decades plus Hurricanes Are Getting Stronger gaff and many more embarrassing gaffs has shown the rest of the world that they are a charlatan organization.

          • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

            This is just recycling simple-minded propaganda talking points from the denialist blogosphere. I’ll venture to guess that you know nothing of climate science and have never bothered to learn. I’ll bet you have never read a single chapter from any of the IPCC reports, perhaps not even a single page, nor read or listened to any significant amount of material presented by leading climate scientists — let alone understand what climate science is about.

            Take this somewhere else.

        • Tim Palmer says:

          Here we have a man who can measure sea level just by going to the beach! This is a remarkable talent, if it is anything beyond saying, “Look, there is the sea. That is sea level”!

          It is a classic example of tautological reasoning: “I can see sea level. I cannot see sea level changing. Therefore, sea level is not changing.”

          Unfortunately, the apparently total lack of appreciation for variables in these statements is appalling!

  2. Todd Jensen says:

    The evidence for climate change comes from many, many different angles and is from thousands of experts around the world. The IPCC is not the only ones who are saying this is happening! Please explain how if this is not happening, that the first half of 2012 is the hottest on record. How does that square with the claim that temperatures have been flat for 10-15 years? There was a typo in the IPCC report about the time the Himalayan glaciers would disappear. So from that , their entire report is discredited?

  3. John Robertson says:

    The incidence of massive wildfires has increased primarily because of unintended consequences of polices for six decades by the Forestry Service, undisciplined logging the anti-logging wing to the Environmental Movement and the Endangered Species. For decades the Forestry Service policy has been to immediately address and extinguish fire outbreaks thus curtailing low order ground fires from burning undergrowth. These fires are essential to the overall health by returning essential nutrients to the soil, removing the primary fuel source before the density increases in volume that causes the old growth trees to burn. GAO
    In the case of the Sequoia tree the heat from these fires is an essential element of their seeding cycle, the heat causes seed release. The problem has occurred because the two primary tools for reducing the density of fuel in forests–controlled burning and disciplined logging–have been increasingly restricted by the Forest Service. Controlled burning of moderate stands of undergrowth–fires that would not be hot enough to harm larger trees–is no longer possible in many areas of the west, because the forest density is so great that foresters fear such fires could not be kept under control. Disciplined logging, which preserves forest health in privately owned forest lands, has been dramatically cut back in National Forests because of protests by a small but vocal group of anti-growth, anti-logging organizations with little or no expertise in forest management process. The anti-logging campaign has resulted in essentially the same outcomes.

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