Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Monday, July 19, 2021
one study using just 6.8 years of data determined sea level at Tuvalu had fallen by 8.9 mm/year in contrast to a 2008 study using 15.5 years of data claiming sea level rose by 5.9 mm/year.
Sunday, July 11, 2021
For those who truly want to be guided by science, put aside the climate crisis hysteria. We can explain the natural dynamics of all heat waves by simply knowing 1) how heat is transported along the earth’s surface; 2) how heat is transported vertically; 3) how solar heating changes; and 4) how the greenhouse effect varies.
Below is a map of global temperature anomalies for the year 2014 that illustrates natural climate dynamics. There is no uniform warming that might be expected from a global blanket of greenhouse gases. Across the globe, surface temperatures alternate between regions of above average warmth (red) with regions of below average (blue). (Gray regions lack sufficient data). Indeed, the observed cooler eastern USA is dubbed a “warming hole” by climate scientists because its cooling trend contradicts global warming theory. It requires a natural climate dynamic explanation.
The temperature pattern is associated with regions where warmer air from the south more frequently intruded northward, while simultaneously, cold air from the north intruded southward. This pattern is due to a naturally wavy jet stream and associated pressure systems. The warm red regions indicate regions where high pressure systems dominate. In the northern hemisphere, high pressure systems cause clockwise atmospheric circulation that pulls warm air northward on its western side, and cold air southward on its eastern side. Low pressure systems circulate counter-clockwise, conversely pulling cold air southward on its western side. These combined circulation patterns partly explain both the extreme cold that dropped Texas temperatures as much as 50° F below average in February 2021, as well as extreme heating that raised USA’s northwest temperatures 30°- 40° F above normal the following June. Similarly in 2019, northward transport of heated air from the Sahara desert caused heat waves over Europe and Greenland. Such natural heat transport can also cause coastal Alaska to be warmer than Florida.
Below is an illustration of how high and low pressure systems also cause opposite patterns of vertical air circulation, as in the natural Madden Julian Oscillation. Low pressure systems are regions of upward rising air. As the air rises, water vapor condenses to form clouds. Although the clouds increase the greenhouse effect, clouds reduce solar heating to a greater degree. The net effect causes cooler surface temperatures. To balance the weight of rising air, the air must sink elsewhere, causing a high pressure system. However, that sinking air is now almost devoid of water vapor. The resulting clear skies reduce the greenhouse effect, allowing more infrared heat to escape, but also increases solar heating. Because increased solar heating is greater, the net effect is warmer surface temperatures.
High pressure systems often cause heat waves due to how heat is transported, their associated clear skies and increased solar heating. The eastward moving Madden Julian Oscillation, as well as El Nino and La Nina events along with other oscillations, can unexpectedly interact to amplify regions of sinking air and thus determine the location of a high pressure system and heat wave.
Finally, vertical air motion adds another warming dynamic. The gas laws are unequivocally proven physics and state that by simply increasing pressure, air temperature will increase without any added energy (aka adiabatic warming). Thus, the increasing weight of the atmosphere on sinking dry air warms that air by 5.4°F for every 1000 ft it descends. In addition to surface wind transport, this dynamic contributed to record heat on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula where air was descending from the mountains. Along the west coast of the United States, air pushed from the Sierra Nevada to the ocean coast (aka the Santa Ana and Diablo winds) causes California to experience unusually warm temperatures (and larger fires) during the winter. A similar descending flow of air from the Cascade mountains, contributed to the June 2021 extreme heat wave in Washington and Oregon.
Even when descending air doesn’t reach the surface, it also warms the surface by suppressing convection. Air contacting the earth’s solar heated surface warms and rises (aka convection). However, air only rises if its warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. Descending air from several thousand feet in altitude warms as it falls. Yet despite that warming air only reaching 100 feet above the ground, it suppresses convection that normally carries heat from the surface to the upper troposphere. The effect is like the extreme warming of a car’s interior when rolled up windows prevent heated air from leaving.
The world’s expert on northwestern USA’s weather, Cliff Mass, has presented evidence showing the 2021 heat wave was a “black swan event” where all the natural dynamics discussed above converged. As illustrated by global warm and cold anomalies below, the northwest heat wave was a uniquely local event. Yet to support his agenda, President Biden has fear-mongered the Northwest heat wave as a global climate crisis. Biden doesn’t know science and would look foolish in a climate debate. Disturbingly, some scientists dependent on global warming funding also suggest only global warming explains that heatwave. However, they ignore the fact that the heatwave’s clear skies reduce the local greenhouse effect driven by water vapor. Additionally, global warming can’t explain cold events such as Europe’s record cold just 2 months earlier. So, beware! The media is promoting misinformation. Only natural climate dynamics scientifically explain recent extreme weather events.
One more added thought since first pubished. In contrast to the media's fear mongering about ever increasing heat waves due to the so-called climate crisis, here's the EPA's heat wave trend:
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
To honor their sacrifice in the battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863, President Lincoln later spoke, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” Indeed, the American Civil war was a pivotal moment in the battle for human dignity versus thousands of years of worldwide slavery.
Slavery economically only benefits those in power. Throughout recorded history, captives from tribal warfare were enslaved, as were criminals and debtors. Slaves worked the fields and mines, fought in the conqueror’s military, or became domestic and public servants. Such constant inter-tribal warfare was in large part driven by natural climate change. During favorable climates, to feed a thriving population they expanded into neighboring territories. Similarly, centuries of drought and famines also forced populations to seek out greener pastures to survive. During the last ice age, the unpopulated Sahara Desert was larger than today. But when the climate warmed about 10,000 years ago, causing monsoons and the tropical rain belt (Intertropical Convergence Zone) to shift northward, the “Green Sahara” evolved with bountiful grasslands with scattered shallow lakes, which were rapidly colonized by humans.
Then about 6000 years ago, the earth began to cool (the Neoglaciation) and the Sahara quickly reverted to desert, forcing humans to seek productive lands elsewhere. The cooling trend brought increasing drought not just to the Sahara but throughout the Mediterranean and Middle east regions as well as parts of India and China. Some humans migrated to river valleys of the Nile, Mesopotamia, Indus, and Yellow River leading to the great river civilizations. Some moved to higher elevations or were forced southward, while others became warring nomads. The good news is some climate models suggest the current warming could bring more rain to the Sahara region.
Beginning around 2500 years ago, the Romans were forced to battle their neighbors. With each victory Romans acquired more slaves to work their fields and mines, and to grow a slave army that could further expand the Roman empire. By 1 AD it is estimated approximately one third of Rome’s residents were slaves. Although most cultures that embraced slavery also forbid enslaving people of their own tribe, slavery was not driven by racism. It was driven by economics. Most Roman slaves were acquired from racially identical neighboring tribes in Italy and Europe.
The coldest period of the Neoglaciation was the recent Little Ice Age, approximately lasting from 1300 to 1900 AD. During that period, a warring tribe of nomads evolved into the Ottoman Empire. In part they also gained dominance via a powerful slave army (Janissaries). The Ottoman’s thirst for slaves also induced robust regional slave markets. Barbary Coast pirates (modern day Morocco and Algiers region) and the Crimean kingdom launched slave raids into Europe for slaves to be sold to the Ottomans. Europeans often lacked the numbers to repel those slave raids because the Bubonic Plague and Little Ice Age famines had decimated many populations. Slavic populations were targeted so frequently, their ethnicity gave rise to the term “slave”.
|West African "Slave Coast"|
The city of Timbuktu (in the modern country of Mali) located just north of the Niger River flourished in the 1300s as western Africa’s trade center for gold, salt, ivory, and slaves. As a result, it was targeted by several competing tribes and empires battling to control the wealth of the trans-Saharan trade routes. West African slave trade was mostly confined to the continent. It is estimated the nearly one third of the Songhai empire consisted of slaves during the 1400s and 1500s. When improved ocean navigation by the Spanish and Portuguese opened the America’s, a very profitable slave trade developed between Europeans and Africans. Enslaved native Brazilians working sugar plantations, were first to generate great wealth for the Portuguese. But native Brazilian populations were soon decimated by introduced diseases like smallpox. Seeking cheap slave labor, the Portuguese and Spanish turned to the ongoing African slave market and African tribal leaders were eager to expand their slave trade for European goods, particularly guns and ammunition to better defend themselves. By late 1500s west-central Africa became known as the Slave Coast.
The trans-Atlantic slave trade expanded from Brazil to new sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and then the cotton plantations of southeastern USA. But the slaves never went peaceably. Throughout history from the Spartacus Wars of 73 BC, to the Haitian Revolution of 1791, to Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831, slaves fought for their freedom. In America there was also a growing humanitarian movement pushing to abolish slavery led by blacks such as Frederick Douglas and whites such as William Lloyd Garrison. As a result, the Slave Trade Act of 1794 prohibited American ships from engaging in the international slave trade. In 1807 the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves made it illegal to import new slaves. However due to its national economic importance, domestic slavery was still not outlawed. The northern state’s textile industry (as well as England’s) also profited from cheap cotton and indirectly fostered slavery. Given such economic incentives to maintain slavery, the emerging abolitionist movement was a tribute to America’s guiding creed that all people deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Although still falling short of equality, between 1781 and 1804, all states north of Maryland passed laws to gradually abolish slavery.
It wasn’t that Southerners were more racist than northerners. Politics were simply driven by highly profitable cotton plantations, and cotton only thrived in the warmer southern climate. Only 25% of southerners owned slaves. Many of the south’s yeoman farmers voted against seceding from the union. Blacks and whites formed the Free State of Jones in Mississippi and the Free State of Winston in Alabama. Some formed the Arkansas Peace Society and many whites, especially from Arkansas and Tennessee joined the union army. Eventually, it was a Union army consisting of 90% white and 10% black soldiers, facing death and mutilation from canons, muskets, and bayonets, as they did at Gettysburg, that began America’s irreversible emergence from millennia of global slavery and step closer to our ideal of equality. Finally in 1865, the 13th amendment to the constitution legislated, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Nonetheless, still attempting to profit from forced labor, some tried to circumvent the 13th amendment by using convicted criminals to engage in free forced labor. In the past a racist police force could disproportionately and dishonestly convict blacks and poor whites, but today we are weeding out such racists cops. The great majority of police are good people trying to keep our neighborhoods safe and uphold our ideal of equal protection under the law. Likewise, the Jim Crow laws first enacted during the late 1800s were attempts to maintain political control by suppressing black voters, but the Voting Rights Act of 1965 put an end to that injustice. Unfortunately, others seeking their own political power, introduced a new form racism that dishonestly pandered to black voters and has abandoned Matin Luther King’s universal ideal that we judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
For instance, in 2006 when white members of Duke University’s lacrosse team were accused, albeit falsely, of raping a black stripper. It ignited waves of social justice protests. The white attorney general, Mike Nifong seeking re-election, hoped to garner the support of black voters by convicting those white players, despite obvious evidence of their innocence. Nifong was later disbarred for fraud, dishonesty, deceit and making false statements to a judge. And despite an ATM photo of one of the accused that verified his innocence, mobs of students and professors eagerly abandoned our ideal of presumed innocence until found guilty in order to “virtue signal” their anti-racism. Photographs of lacrosse team members were posted around campus while others suggested the lacrosse team had been acting like rich plantation owners of the past. Even now there are professors who similarly virtual signal that Americans ought to abolish “whiteness” and politicians like Georgia’s new senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock gave a sermon arguing the “US must 'repent' for whiteness worship”, all pushing a racist suggestion that all whites think and behave the same.
Just as we must work to rid racists from all positions of power, we must also disavow those fabricate racists actions. Activists and politicians ignore America’s great forward strides simply to manipulate white disgust and guilt for the horrific racism of the past. To gain political power, they exacerbate a racial divide that had been healing. Some white politicians claimed you “aint black if you don’t vote for me”; versions of “vote for me and I’ll set you free” only maintain a “ball of confusion”. There are others like actor Jussie Smollet, simply trying to gain personal notoriety by fabricating a racial attack. When the black attorney general Daniel Cameron found no evidence to charge white police officers in the death of a black woman, to maintain the racial divide, politicians and activists denigrated his integrity repeating he was “skin-folk not kin-folk”. Despite bipartisan recognition of past voter fraud, one party has pushed to eliminate the fraud prone practice of ballot harvesting. Although it does not prevent anyone from voting, politicians in favor of ballot harvesting dishonestly call its elimination “Jim Crow on steroids”. All those activists and politicians are only dividing the races and dividing our country.
Any objective analysis would find America’s system should be praised for our steady, albeit slow, evolution from global slavery engaged in by all races, towards more completely ensuring our ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. Politicians and activists suggesting the USA is systematically racists use backwards thinking to suggest past injustices are still ever present. Yet they ignore the facts that people from the Nigerian region were once brought to this country as slaves in the 1700s and 1800s, but now Nigerians voluntarily come to America and are one of America’s most successful immigrants. Such present-day success repudiates claims of systematic racism. For people who truly want equality for all, our focus should be on those countries where forced labor and modern slavery still run rampant.
As the Global Slavery Index recently reported, the 10 countries most engaged in today’s forced labor and modern slavery are the African countries of Eritrea, Mauritania, South Sudan, Burundi, the Central African Republic, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Cambodia, and communist North Korea. As in past centuries, those countries are vulnerable to modern slavery due to the constant conflicts which are often driven by environmental crises and corrupt systems. And unlike the USA’s dedication to liberty, those countries suffer politically from highly repressive regimes, such as the Chinese Communist government’s enslaving of Uighur Muslims.
Similarly, those with a political agenda will wrongly blame a CO2 induced “climate crisis” for Africa’s environmental crises. But it is the naturally shifting of rain patterns since the loss of the Green Sahara and during the Little Ice Age that generated conflicts then and made 21st century Africa vulnerable to inevitable drought inducing natural climate variability. La Ninas periodically bring drought and famine to the east African region of Ethiopia and Eritrea every few years, a region now at war. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation drove devastating drought in the Sahel region in the 1970s and 80s forcing migrations but reverted to more rains since the 1990s. These natural episodes of drought are predictable and allow governments weeks to prepare and adapt. But in the long run, only improved agricultural systems and vibrant trade will prevent environmentally driven conflicts, and that requires a free entrepreneurial economic system and honest politicians.
|Abe and me at Gettysburg June 2021|
Sunday, June 13, 2021
On May 5, 2021, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published Nicholas Wade’s article “The Origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?” After detailing all evidence the article suggested COVID-19 was created at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Likewise the former CDC director and politicians had previously warned of the human-engineered virus. Furthermore a Chinese virologist from Wuhan, Dr. Li-Meng Yan, bravely disagreed with her government’s denial, publishing that COVID-19 was purposively engineered. Despite the “lab leak” theory’s increasing probability, it had first been quickly dismissed by virologists and the media. Why?
In 1982 Nicholas Wade had also co-authored the book Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science. Virtually everything he warned about, can be seen regards the COVID deceit. Wade is not an anti-science conspiracy theorist. Wade wrote for the preeminent scientific journals Nature and Science and was the New York Times’ editorial science writer from 1982 to 2012. Wade simply warned modern science is not free of fraud and its self-policing safeguards can be easily corrupted.
Unlike Darwin or Galileo, modern careerist scientists are pressured to produce certain results to ensure their income and status. Although many resist such pressures, history is littered with those that couldn’t. Regards COVID-19, Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, depends on government grants and donations. EcoHealth Alliance’s slogan is A World Without Pandemics. They controversially believe by making natural animal viruses more infectious to humans in the lab, science can learn how to prevent future pandemics. Thus if they dared admit their engineered virus had escaped the lab causing 3 million deaths and destroying businesses, their funding would collapse.
Similarly other virologists feared attributing the pandemic to an escaped engineered virus would also restrict their research and funding. So Daszak and others immediately labeled the “lab escape theory” a conspiracy theory. Likewise Dr Fauci, a longtime proponent of such “gain of function” research, labeled his critics “anti-science”. This same tactic is used by climate scientists to defend their funding. They label skeptics “deniers” and “peddlers of misinformation”. In contrast, they portray themselves as delivers of gospel truths. It is precisely such elitism Wade had warned about. Although elites may have gained their status for good reason, to maintain their status, they are not immune from fabricating data.
Wade documented how the uncritical acceptance of elite opinions has led to bad science. For example the story of Hideyo Noguchi, once hailed as the greatest microbiologist since Louis Pasteur. When he died in 1928, Noguchi had published 200 papers claiming he had identified the causes of yellow fever, polio, rabies and others. Although his work proved wrong 50 years later, he had never been challenged, simply because he worked for the most prestigious research institute of his time.
In the 1970s, John Long was exalted for developing tissue cultures to study Hodgkin’s disease, a feat no other could accomplish. Although it was later shown Long’s cultures were from Owl monkeys and not humans and his data all fabricated, his publications had sailed through peer review because he worked for the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital. It took Long’s more honest assistants to point out falsified data. Japanese anesthesiologist Yoshitaka Fuji fabricated data in a whopping 172 peer-reviewed papers starting in 1993. In 2015, the editor of the most prestigious medical journal the Lancet, suggested Half of Science Is Wrong. Similarly, in 2015 Stanford University epidemiologist John loannidis echoed much of what Wade wrote in 1982. In the paper Reproducibility in Science: Improving the Standard for Basic and Preclinical Research the authors wrote “there is compelling evidence that the majority of these discoveries will not stand the test of time. To a large extent, this reproducibility crisis in basic and preclinical research may be as a result of failure to adhere to good scientific practice and the desperation to publish or perish.”
The take home message is all scientific claims, and all elites, must be critically questioned. Whether Daszak and Fauci, or climate scientists Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, elite scientists are not totally trustworthy despite media narratives. Mann hired a public relations person to shape his public image. It’s the skeptics who ensure the scientific process is not short-circuited by power hungry elites who try to prevent further debate.
For example in climate science, emails exposed elites like Phil Jones, Thomas Wigley and Ben Santer who discussed how to “adjust” observed temperature trends to better support their CO2 theory. Warming in the 1930s and 40s similar to today, suggested a naturally oscillating climate. So in 2009 they wrote, “It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with why the blip". Accordingly, much temperature data has since been adjusted as exemplified in the Death Valley temperature trends from the US Historical Climate Network. They removed the observed “warm blip” (black line below) to create a trend (red line) that better fit their theory.
Accordingly the motto of the oldest scientific institution is Nullius En Verba: Take no one’s word!
Monday, May 24, 2021
|Critical Prescribed Burn|
According to the C2ES website, the transformed successor of the PEW foundation’s Center on Global Climate Change, “Climate change has been a key factor in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the Western United States.” “Climate change enhances the drying of organic matter in forests and has doubled the number of large fires between 1984 and 2015 in the western United States.” NASA’s Global Climate Change webpage agrees stating, “hot and dry conditions in the atmosphere determine the likelihood of a fire starting, its intensity and the speed at which it spreads.
Thus every politician trying to excuse bad landscape policies, every environmental group and every scientist seeking funding, and every journalist promoting a crisis to attract readers repeatedly tells some version of the headline The Devastation of Human Life is in View: what a burning world tells is about climate change. The good news is scientific facts totally refute such fearful narratives.
A Candle Can Light Your Way
The average temperature of a candle’s flame is a whopping ~1800°F (~1000°C) and readily demonstrates how heat is transferred. Hold your hand to the side of the flame. Despite the flame’s high temperature, you can bring your hand very close to the candle because the wick’s small mass produces relatively small amounts of radiation. The closer you bring your hand to the flame, the more heat you can feel. That heat reaches your hand via heat wave radiation. Just inches away however you can’t sense much heat at all because radiation spreads out as the distance from the heat source increases, making the heat that reaches your hand increasingly less dense, and thus less intense. Although a bon fire may only reach temperatures of ~1110°F (~600°C), its larger mass produces more energy forcing you to stay much further away where the heat intensity becomes adequately reduced.
Now place your hand over the top of the candle . There you can’t hold your hand as close to the flame because in addition to radiation, the candle heats the air and that hot air rises carrying heat upwards via convection. Convection is why a ground fire will burn overstory branches and perhaps evolve into a crown fire. When fire fighters estimate how fast a fire will spread, they must consider convection and the slope of the terrain. Fires can spread more rapidly when convection carries more heat upslope.
The Wisdom of Firebreaks
Building firebreaks are fire fighters’ primary tactic. Just as you can create enough space between you and a bon fire, a firebreak creates a safe distance between the searing heat of an approaching fire and potential fuels. Rivers and streams act as natural firebreaks. Fearless fire fighters armed with pulaskis and other hand tools, tirelessly clear swaths of land down to bare soil creating fire stopping intervening spaces. A small fire with limited fuels can be halted with a small fire break. Larger fires often require bulldozers to plow wider firebreaks, while the most intense fires also require airdrops of water and fire retardants.
Before our era of fire suppression, frequent wildfires naturally generated networks of firebreaks. After America’s era of fire suppression began in the early 1900s, not only did the supply of forest floor fuels accumulate, enabling bigger fires, but fewer natural firebreaks were created, enabling greater wildfire spread. To defend homes and towns, people must now maintain adequate “defensible spaces” by creating their own firebreaks.
Winds and Spot fires
Despite cooling down from peak summer temperatures, downed power lines and high winds ignited northern California’s Tubbs Fire in early October 2017. Called Diablo winds, these high winds arise every autumn as cooling inland deserts develop high pressure systems that drive dry winds across California towards lower pressure regions on a warmer Pacific Ocean. Large fires in southern California are driven similarly by the Santa Anna winds that peak during the inland’s coldest winter temperatures. These strong winds are not the result of global warming. In truth, climate models predict global warming should reduce these winds by warming inland deserts.
As the Diablo winds scattered burning embers, spot fires jumped firebreaks, and raining devastation on the town of Santa Rosa. Embers got trapped under eaves, entered attics through outside vents and ignited rooftops. As one house burnt, it generated enough radiant heat to ignite a neighboring home. Without burning a single neighborhood tree, house after house was reduced to ash. Such residential neighborhoods cannot create defensible spaces between established houses, so residents must install screens that prevent embers from igniting their homes and construct fire-proof roofing.
|Tubbs Fire destruction of Santa Rosa Neighborhood|
The 2018 Carr Fire was California’s 8th largest fire and started when a towed trailer blew a tire causing its wheel rim to scrape the asphalt. Resulting sparks ignited roadside grasses. Because sparks from power line failures or scraping wheel rims are carried by molten particles, extensive scientific studies have examined what size and temperature of these molten particles can ignite fires. When a molten particle lands on potential fuel, it transfers its heat via conduction. For fuels with 6% moisture content to reach ignition temperature, a small 6-millimeter (mm) particle must be over 1700°F (~950°C). Fuels with higher moisture content require more energy to first evaporate the water before combustion can begin. Thus fuel with 25% moisture content requires the same sized particle to have a temperature over 1800°F (~1000°C) to ignite the fuel. Because a larger particle (14 mm) can carry and transfer more energy, a lesser temperature of about 1300°F (~700°C) is needed to ignite fuel with a 25% moisture content.
Depending on moisture content, most fuels must reach ignition temperatures between 644°F (340°C) and 795°F (440°C) to start a fire. Stronger winds are more dangerous in part, because they transport larger embers. Small embers lack adequate energy to raise fuels from ambient temperatures of 70°F or 90°F to an ignition temperature of 644°F and higher. More so, the 2°F increase in global air temperatures since the Little Ice Age, increases the fuel’s temperature insignificantly and thus highly unlikely to increase “the likelihood of a fire starting, or increasing the speed at which it spreads” as NASA claimed.
Seek and You Shall Find
Many of today’s climate scientists are eagerly funded to seek out any problems that climate change might rain down on society. However those seeking dire consequences of global warming, are blinded to the significance of critical dynamics like fire suppression, natural fire breaks, and the increase in human ignitions during colder months and so fail to account for their effects. Thus they obscure or misdiagnose the appropriate remedies. Instead, they insist that a 2°F increase in global temperature increases atmospheric aridity or increases water vapor pressure deficits, and dangerously dry out the accumulating fire fuels. They make their claims, not based on wildfire physics, but via simple short term statistical correlations between increasing drying trends and increasing burnt areas. They typically commit 2 scientific sins. First, they fail to control for how much other critical dynamics increased burnt areas. Second, they cherry picked 1970s or 1980s starting dates for their trends, dates which mark the reduction of fire suppression policies that now allowed fires to burn for greater periods of time.
|Human ignitions have lengthened fire season from Balch 2017|
In contrast, carpenters and woodworkers long ago sought to determine how changing temperatures and relative humidity affect wood moisture because it affects the quality of their work. The average moisture content of newly logged “green” Douglas fir is 43%, the green heartwood of eastern white pine averages 50% and green heartwood of ponderosa pine averages 40%. The interior dryness of most homes dries the wood which finally equilibrates at roughly 8% moisture content. If high moisture green wood is installed, that wood shrinks and warps as it equilibrates with the interior dryness and undermines the integrity of their carpentry. So lumber yards dry green wood to the ~8% moisture content that carpenters demand. Because air drying may take 2 to 5 years to reach that moisture content, lumber yards speed up the drying process via kilns and other mechanisms. Furthermore, because changes in moisture content is an ongoing dynamic process, to minimize seasonal moisture fluctuations, homes are constructed with moisture barriers.
Because the precise moisture content of wood is economically important, tried and true estimates of wood moisture content have been developed. Calculations are driven mostly by changes in relative humidity. In the naturally hot dry Mediterranean climate of California, 3- to 8-inch diameter pieces of wood will absorb moisture during the rainy winter season, reaching ~30% moisture content by March. Moisture content then falls to between 10% and 5% in July and remains low through September until the rains return. From a global warming perspective, if relative humidity is kept constant during California’s rainless summers, for every 2 °F increase in temperature anomalies, calculations estimate that moisture content will only decreases by a rather insignificant 0.056% .
Rising CO2 Concentrations Don’t Correlate with Historical Wildfires
Historically bigger wildfires are indeed associated with drier years. In California, natural ocean oscillations cause decades long cycles of droughts followed by rainy periods. California is driest during La Nina events and La Nina events are more common during the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Because an El Nino event shifts the location of greatest rainfall westward, every 3 to 7 years El Ninos produce wetter seasons for California, but simultaneously cause droughts in southeastern Asia. This dynamic was dramatically illustrated by the 1997-1998 El Nino that soaked California but concurrently caused severe drought and extensive wildfires throughout Indonesia.
Thus, some climate scientists have determined changes in precipitation and “century-long warming around the northeast Pacific margins, …can be primarily attributed to changes in atmospheric circulation” caused by the PDO. After 1999, the Pacific Ocean switched to a negative PDO phase, predicting the emergence stronger California droughts and wildfires for the coming decades. Similarly, in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park between 1700 and 1975 AD, 70% of large fires burned during dry conditions created by La Nina events that coincided with a negative PDO, even though those phases co-occurred only 29% of the time. Scientific studies showing more western USA droughts and fires since 1970, have typically failed to account for the effects of La Nina and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that naturally drive western USA’s current dryness.
In addition to PDO and La Nina effects, dryness in the American southwest is modulated by the North American monsoon season. While California’s driest period occurs during July and August, Arizona and New Mexico’s dry season ends when the summer monsoons in July and August bring abundant moisture. Despite centuries of cooler Little Ice Age temperatures, wildfires were more frequent and burned more extensive areas then, than during the warmer 20th and 21st centuries. Before the era of fire suppression began in the early 1900s, Southwest lightning fires ignited in April could burn for months. Suddenly, with the advent of 20th century fire suppression policies, “very few or no fire scars were recorded on any of the trees represented after 1900”. When let-it-burn policies were re-instituted during the 1970-1979 decade, the burnt area in several southwest forests increased by 40% compared to the previous decade.
Finally, based on changes in the amount of unique organic substances emitted from wildfires and transported to Greenland, ice cores have revealed maximum fire activity in boreal forests also occurred during the Little Ice Age between 1500–1700 AD. That higher fire frequency was attributed to multi-annual droughts caused by failed Asian monsoons. Colder temperatures had caused extensive droughts by pushing the Intertropical Convergence Zone’s rain belt southward, reducing Asian monsoon rains.
A Lit Household Match Can’t Ignite a Log
Still, natural droughts cannot fully explain many wildfire dynamics. A lit match can’t ignite a log, no matter how dry it is. Despite reaching temperatures of ~1100°F (~600°C), total combustion of the match’s small mass can’t provide enough energy to sufficiently raise the log’s temperature to the ignition point. Although lightning raises air temperatures to an astonishing 50,000°F, less than 4% of all lightning strikes start fires. Lightning’s extreme heat will boil the tree’s internal water, often causing the struck tree to explode. But lightning’s fleeting nature usually doesn’t sustain enough energy transfer to ignite the tree. More often, due to a much smaller combustible mass,` the duff and fine fuels at the base of the tree are more easily heated to ignition temperatures as lightning rapidly passes to the ground.
A lit match, small molten particles or lightning can easily ignite fine fuels, because their small mass only requires relatively small amounts of energy to reach ignition temperatures. Fine fuels are grasses and small diameter twigs with large surface-area to volume ratios that makes dead fine fuels very sensitive to changing humidity. Thus fire fighters also characterize fine fuels as 1-hour lag fuels, meaning on any typical dry summer day, dead grasses and small twigs lose 60% of their moisture in just one hour. Thus fine fuel flammability is a function of fire weather, regardless of how our climate has changed. However if fine fuels are sparse, then like a lit match, they burn out before providing enough heat required to ignite larger pieces of wood. Dense patches of burning fine fuels are needed to provide enough energy to ignite larger fires.
Abundant fine fuels act as small kindling, much like the crumpled newspaper we use to ignite larger kindling in our fireplaces. Fine fuels also act like fuses that rapidly carry a fire into more dense shrublands with larger twigs that, when ignited, can provide enough energy to burn tree branches. One theory attributes the lack of USA wildfires in the early 1900s, in part, to the beginning of overgrazing that removed much of the natural fine fuels. Now, as feedlots fattened cattle more efficiently, marginal pastures have been abandoned and have become overgrown, thickening with fire enabling fine fuels. Grazing also introduced Eurasian grasses that have further increased fine fuel densities, and now provide more kindling to start bigger fires.
|Fine fuels spread fire in Sonoma Co without burning trees|
Because the complete combustion of grass or paper happens so rapidly, fast moving fine-fuel-fires have a very limited time frame during which they can ignite larger kindling, and not nearly enough time to ignite living trees. And this dynamic is greatly affected by the moisture content of larger kindling. If the moisture content of larger kindling is too high, longer periods of sustained heating are required to both evaporate the added internal water and then raise temperatures to the point of ignition. Thus during wet years, fine fuels are less capable of igniting larger fires. Conversely, dry years reduce the time needed to reach ignition temperatures, allowing fine fuels to more easily spread fire.
Once larger branches and pieces of wood ignite, combustion produces sustained temperatures of 1110°F (~600°C) and higher. That combustion now provides enough heat to dry out and ignite any vegetation intercepting the approaching fire. And again, fire suppression dangerously allows the buildup of both fine fuels and larger kindling that then allows fires to reach sustaining ignition temperatures. Clearly the wisest fire policy requires better management of the landscape’s fuels. From a climate change perspective, at ~1110°F a fire emits dense radiant heat energy at the rate of ~31,700 watts of energy per square meter. (W/m2). In contrast, the amount of energy added to a wildfire by a doubling of CO2 is a mere 3.5 W/m2, which is a totally insignificant factor in the speed of wildfire spread.
Pants on Fire
Fact checking the science of wildfires, NASA’s narrative that rising CO2 concentrations are increasing the “likelihood of a fire starting”, increasing “its intensity” and increasing “the speed at which it spreads” must get a rating of Pants on Fire. Likewise claims that “climate change has doubled the number of large fires” gets a rating of Pants on Fire. Wildfire physics simply does not support any such fear mongering narratives. Every politician, every environmental group and every scientist trying to scare up more funding by uncritically blaming wildfires on CO2 induced climate change are not only ignoring good published science, but they’re also pushing wrong remedies and downplaying the correct remedies needed to benefit society and our environment. Better managed landscapes that control fuel supplies, and the re-introduction of fires via prescribed burns, will create more effective firebreaks and more healthy open habitat that coincidentally also increases wildlife diversity. Those are treatments we all should support.
May 24, 2021
Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition
Thursday, May 6, 2021
Most people are unaware that the greenhouse gases CO2 and H2O, both warm & cool our planet. When I mention that CO2 has a cooling effect, I’m amazed by the hateful tirades from paranoid people who dismiss scientific truth as “dangerous misinformation”.
However, discussions about temperature inversions have occasionally induced more respectful debate with critical thinkers. Most people have observed “frost fans” erected in orchards and vineyards, so are interested in why they work. Frost fans disrupt freezing layers of surface air that can develop at night during the spring, damaging flowers and fruits. Frost fans simply pull warmer layers of air from above down to the surface raising minimum temperatures. But why does that warmer layer of air exist?
During the day, earth’s surface absorbs both solar radiation and the downward infrared heat emitted from greenhouse gases. Absorbing that energy faster than it can emit infrared back towards space, the surface warms. However sunlight doesn’t heat the lower atmosphere (aka troposphere) directly. Nitrogen, oxygen and argon comprise ~ 99% percent of our atmosphere and is transparent to incoming solar energy. Furthermore, unlike greenhouse gases, those gases neither absorb nor emit infrared energy. The troposphere warms primarily by gaining energy via collisions with a heated earth surface. During the day, the warmest air layer lies closest to the heated surface. Rising warm air causes turbulent mixing and collisions with cooler air above that raises air temperatures there. However because air cools as it rises due to decreasing air pressure, warming is limited.
Without solar heating, earth’s surface cools by emitting more infrared heat than it absorbs from recycled heat emitted by greenhouse gases because greenhouse gases don’t intercept all emitted heat. “Atmospheric windows” allow about 23% of the surface heat to escape directly to space without being recycled. The air layer closest to the surface then cools by transferring heat to the colder surface. However, higher air layers can’t sink and collide with the surface again unless they lose their heat. But nitrogen, oxygen and argon can only shed that energy by colliding with cooler greenhouse gases which will absorb their energy and emit half back toward space.
Because the bulk of our atmosphere only cools by transferring heat to greenhouse gases, a small percentage of greenhouse gasses creates a “cooling chokepoint”. Consequently, the atmosphere sheds energy more slowly than the solid earth that more quickly loses energy via atmospheric windows. This difference in cooling rates creates a warmer layer of air above the cooler surface air and is called a temperature inversion. Now imagine a world without greenhouse gases. Without greenhouse gases nitrogen, oxygen and argon can’t lose enough heat back to space and the atmosphere would keep warming.
Outside the tropics, inversion layers more readily form in winter and spring. The earth’s surface holds less heat during winter’s reduced solar heating. Where people use fireplaces to stay warm, inversions layer are revealed by rising smoke that suddenly flattens when it encounters the warmer air above. Frost fans work by drawing down warmer air layers to mix with cooler surface layers, and thus protect crops from freezing. Similarly, months of “polar nighttime” cools Antarctica’s interior surfaces to as low as −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), creating a continent?wide inversion layer. When above average surface temperatures are periodically reported, it’s often the result of high winds that, like a frost fan, disrupted Antarctica’s inversion layer.
In the 1990s, climate scientists determined urban heat effects raised minimum temperatures several degrees but not maximum temperatures. Such areas weren’t warming but getting less cold. That suggests urbanization disrupted local inversion layers. Increasingly covering the land with heat retaining asphalt and concrete, reduces surface cooling. Removal of vegetation or wetness results in hotter surfaces that store more heat. Traffic, tall buildings or frost fans disrupt surface winds bringing warmer air to the surface. All those dynamics raise minimum temperatures, and thus average temperature. Various local disruptions of inversion layers may better explain why some US weather stations show warming trends while 36% show long term cooling.
Our atmosphere also has a global inversion layer. Above the troposphere, is the warmer stratosphere where temperatures increase with altitude due to absorbing solar UV. Because CO2 in a warmer stratosphere emits infrared faster than it absorbs it from the troposphere, more CO2 cools the stratosphere. (For similar reasons CO2 has a cooling effect in Antarctica.) Furthermore storm clouds bring the tremendous amounts of heat stored in water vapor to the stratosphere. Again we can see where the warm inversion begins as clouds stop rising and develop an anvil shape at the stratosphere. Because the stratosphere is nearly devoid of water, the wavelengths of infrared heat released as water vapor condenses to liquid and ice, mostly pass freely to outer space, without recycling it back to earth.
If these dynamics were better understood, people would more likely laugh at climate catastrophe narratives rather than succumb to paranoia.