It's not just Alberta: Warming-fueled fires are increasing

It's not just Alberta: Warming fueled fires are increasing
In this May 7, 2016 file photo, a wildfire burns south of Fort McMurray, Alberta. A dry and blistering hot northern Alberta is burning and doing so unusually early in the year, but that's only the latest of many gargantuan fires on an Earth that's grown hotter with more extreme weather. (Jonathan Hayward /The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Alberta's unusually early and large fire is just the latest of many gargantuan fires on an Earth that's grown hotter with more extreme weather.

Earlier this year, large wildfires hit spots on opposite ends of the world—Tasmania and Oklahoma-Kansas. Last year, Alaska and California pushed the U.S. to a record 10 million acres burned. Massive fires hit Siberia, Mongolia and China last year and Brazil's fire season has increased by a month over the past three decades.

It got so bad that in 2009, Australia added a bright red "catastrophic" to its fire warning index.

"The warmer it is, the more fires we get," said Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta.

Last week, temperatures pushed past 90 degrees Fahrenheit (mid 30s Celsius) in Alberta, which is unusual for May in northern Canada.

It's not quite so simple though. Many factors contribute to the complex increase in big fires, Flannigan and several experts said. They include climate change, the way people use land and firefighting methods that leave more fuel—trees and brush—to burn.

But the temperature one stands out, Flannigan said.

"The Alberta wildfires are an excellent example of what we're seeing more and more of: warming means snow melts earlier, soils and vegetation dries out earlier, and the fire season starts earlier. It's a train wreck," University of Arizona climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck wrote in an email.

It's not just Alberta: Warming fueled fires are increasing
In this Sept. 11, 2015, file photo, a firefighter turns his head from flames of the Butte Fire burning near San Andreas, Calif. A dry and blistering hot northern Alberta is burning and doing so unusually early in the year, but that's only the latest of many gargantuan fires on an Earth that's grown hotter with more extreme weather. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Worldwide, the length of Earth's fire season increased nearly 19 percent from 1979 to 2013, according to a study by Mark Cochrane, a professor of fire ecology at South Dakota State University.

Fires had steadily been increasing, but then in the late 1990s and early 2000s, "we've suddenly been hit with lots of these large fires we can't control," Cochrane said.

In terms of acreage burned, the worldwide total may be dropping because of better firefighting, but in North America and Siberia "fires have grown quite a bit due to warming," Columbia University climate and ecology scientist Park Williams wrote in an email. "My estimate is that global warming has been responsible for about half of this increase."

For the entire U.S., the 10-year average number of acres burned in wildfires has more than doubled from about 3 million acres in the mid-1980s to 7 million acres now, according to an analysis of government data by The Associated Press.

Twelve years before the Fort McMurray fire set northern Alberta ablaze, a study by Flannigan and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found that "human-induced climate change has had a detectable influence" on a dramatic increase in wildfires in Canada. Flannigan said the area burned in Canada has doubled since the 1970s "and we think that's due to climate change."

"Globally we are seeing more fires, bigger fires, more severe fires," said Kevin Ryan, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist who is now a fire consultant, with a recent stint in Indonesia, where fires were big last year.

It's not just Alberta: Warming fueled fires are increasing
In this Sept. 12, 2015 file photo, a fireman works to contain a wildfire on a field in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, Indonesia. A dry and blistering hot northern Alberta is burning and doing so unusually early in the year, but that's only the latest of many gargantuan fires on an Earth that's grown hotter with more extreme weather. (AP Photo, File)

Fires in some places, such as Indonesia and Canada, are bad when there's an El Nino—a warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide—because it triggers drought in those regions, Ryan said. In Indonesia, changes in land use are a bigger factor than climate, Ryan said.

But elsewhere, it's temperature and moisture, too much of one and not enough of the other, scientists said. As the air warms, it gets "more efficient at sucking the moisture out of the fuels" which makes them more prone to burn, Flannigan said. Then add in lightning. A study found that lightning increases 12 percent with every degree Celsius and that can trigger more fires. Flannigan said there's evidence of fire-triggered clouds in Alberta causing at least two more fires because of lightning.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences earlier this year in a study determined that "climate warming has resulted in longer fire seasons." But other factors, such as the way fires are fought and land use, make it difficult to scientifically attribute individual fires and regional fires to climate change, the report and other scientists said.

"This is absolutely a harbinger of things to come," said Canadian climate scientist Weaver, now a Green party legislator in the British Columbia parliament.


Explore further

Fort McMurray blaze among most 'extreme' of wildfires, says researcher

More information: U.S. fire statistics: www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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May 10, 2016
human-induced climate change has had a detectable influence...

The pseudo-scientists can't resist attributing it to "human-induced climate change".

Here's a question: how much of recent warming is natural and how much is caused by humans? You don't know? Neither does anyone else, regardless of how loudly they proclaim their certainty. It's simply impossible to extract the human signal from the natural signal. The earth periodically warms and cools around 28º F all by itself over approximately 100,000 year cycles.

https://www.clima...arge.png

The warming of a little over 1º F from 1975 to 1998 is almost the same amount as the warming from 1910 to 1945. The earth cooled about 0.5º F between those periods. After a 17-year hiatus from 1998, it appears to be warming again. Climate scientists claim that the 1910 to 1945 warming was natural, but the warming after 1975 is mostly human-induced. How do they know? They don't.

May 10, 2016
True to the shameless cult they are, the AGW Alarmists couldn't resist exploiting this tragedy.

May 10, 2016
These fires are related to global warming and from jetstream disruption bringing warmth to Alaska and the backside is cold east of the Rockies and what this means is that it's drier, then when it heats up it's tinder dry.

Why is it drier during an El Niño? ... this is a great talk on the history and changes leading to these very destructive fires; 56:42; "Reaping the Whirlwind: Wildfire and Climate Change in the Western United States"; https://www.youtu...oXW0P6gs

May 15, 2016
Yes - they are called Milankovich


"I'm just saying I don't understand it and neither does anybody else." -- Freeman Dyson

"I'm skeptical because I don't think the science is at all clear, and unfortunately a lot of the experts really believe they understand it, and maybe have the wrong answer." -- IBID

"Of course [the weather] concerns me, but of course, we don't know much about the causes of those things. We don't even know for sure whether it is more variable than it used to be. I mean the worst disasters were the Ice Ages, and nobody really understands for sure the causes of Ice Ages, so I'm not saying the climate disasters aren't real, I'm merely saying we don't know how to prevent them." - IBID

If Freeman Dyson doesn't understand climate, then you don't either.

It has been colder (4th and 5th Century; Little Ice Age) and warmer (Viking Era) than now in historical times, well before the Industrial Revolution. The hockey stick is a contrived falsehood

May 15, 2016
So now your argument is that climate is inherently unknowable? It isn't God, you know. It's a physical process. We're not all sitting around going, "well, the existence of climate can neither be proved nor disproved and so climate agnosticism is the only intellectually-honest option".

So hear a quote from the book of Dyson and ponder the unknowable mysteries of life. What else can we add to the list of natural processes you've deemed unknowable? Gravity? Biology? Evolution? Thermodynamics? Please do tell.

May 15, 2016
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Jun 02, 2016
aksdad claims
Here's a question: how much of recent warming is natural and how much is caused by humans? You don't know? Neither does anyone else, regardless of how loudly they proclaim their certainty
Wrong !

Called Radiative Transfer (RT), well known for >100 yrs !
https://en.wikipe...transfer
Most recent of which quantified:-
https://en.wikipe..._forcing

aksdad claims
.. impossible to extract the human signal from the natural signal
Only for those not educated in; Physics, Math (periodicity, Fourier), Experimental Methods, Instrumentation etc

aksdad says
earth periodically warms and cools around 28º F all by itself over approximately 100,000 year..
Sure & likely other influences too, its not the issue...

Why do ALL narrow facile AGW deniers fail to comprehend 2 key issues, along with ugly anti-intellectual stance:-

1. Physics of Heat (RT)
2. Rate of Change

Why can't they learn basic Physics of heat ?

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