The West Coast’s Epidemic Wildfires

By Roy L Hales

As British Columbia reels from the worst fire season in its recorded history, it is easy to look upon this as a local problem. Only much of Oregon is wrapped in smoke, there are reports of ash falling like snow in some Washington cities (photo at top of page) and two days ago a state of emergency was declared in Los Angeles. What is causing  the West Coast’s epidemic wildfires?

The West Coast’s Epidemic Wildfires

Screenshot from Western Canada Smoke Forecast issued 20170905 – courtesy http://firesmoke.ca

Meteorologists are linking the spread of wildfires to a heat wave.

Renee Duff, of AccuWeather, writes, ” … The continued dry, hot weather will feed ongoing wildfires and threaten to trigger new ones. A smoky haze will shroud the sky wherever a fire is burning or downwind of a blaze.”

Only, as the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, “Since 1970, average annual temperatures in the Western U.S. have increased by 1.9° F, about twice the pace of the global average warming.”

Temperatures Also Rising In BC

Smoke from British Columbian wildfires settles on Calgary – by Malcom via Flickr (Public Domain)

Environmental Reporting BC says temperatures have also been rising north of the border. The average annual temperature rose more than 1.4 degrees between 1900 and 2013.

“Most of the annual warming trend has occurred in the winter. The average temperature increase in winter across the province is 2.2°C per century. Winter temperatures have increased by 3.0 to 3.8°C per century in the north, 2.6 to 2.9°C per century in the north-central region and 1.5 to 1.7°C per century in central, interior and southeastern B.C.”

As Temperatures Rise

“Over the past 12 years, every state in the Western U.S. has experienced an increase in the average number of large wildfires per year compared to the annual average from 1980 to 2000.”

A recent Harvard study suggests this will continue, ” … by 2050, wildfire seasons will be about three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky, and will burn a wider area in the western states”.

Top photo credit: It is “snowing” with ash in Vancouver WA.– courtesy Lana Zoubkov‏ via Twitter

4 thoughts on “The West Coast’s Epidemic Wildfires”

  1. The book “The Forest and the Trees” has within it the reason for the increased temperatures of the west.
    I do not contest that greenhouse gasses warm sea water that increases what is more aptly called climate breakdown. But the issue in the west, in my view the culture of baby trees providing far less evapotranspiration, shade, water and depth of water table than existed previously.

    When I was a boy, the trees were far older than the men, and today, If I were a tree I would 3/4s through with my second life.
    I am 70, trees are cut today at 40 year rotations. Trees grown today niether have the deep roots and all the microrisal culture for rich soil to act as a sponge and hold vastly more water, nor the thick bark to protect from fire.

    Baby trees act like torches to crown fires. Trees are not a crop, though they can be managed with fire to increase their value, and without being clear cut, so eco-cultural resources stay in place. Written by Gordon Robinson, the Forest and the Trees shows how to manage forestry for 175 to 215 year rotations, and use fire to clear stems of timber so clear wood is produced. Forestry is not new to mankind. Read the Forest’ Journey.
    Clear cutting was ‘scientific’ ploy so the land companies granted ever other square mile between here and kingdom come could liquidated it when the hundred year pretence of the golden spike of 1969 could be forgotten; and land liquidated and all the wood on it.

    All a half awake human need do, if they have the gumption is walk among the baby trees growing, walk under the canopy of so called ‘mature’ trees ready to be cut at 40 years old, and also walk under a canopy of actually mature trees, 150, 200, or 250 years old. You can measure the difference and it is in tens of degrees.

    In my opinion, our forestry practices are a great contributor both to increased fire and temperatures in the west, man made.
    Of course, It was good man culture and use of fire that allowed the Indians to hunt game here for 35,000 years, and fire did some of the clearing.
    The forests are so thick some places in Oregon and Washington that a deer could not navigate through it.
    What we call forestry today is a failure. And it is not the first time in human history an entire industry has caused calamity.

    Forests create soil. Today’s forestry seems blind to that.

  2. Gordon Robinson managed Southern Pacific RR forests for nearly 30 years with more wood cut, and more wood standing for each of those years. He accomplished this in the fire prone forests of California and used fire to increase the value of the stands. He was fired, after nearly 30 years of preforming this feat because he refused to clear cut. The reason, he said was that the annular ring of a sapling was about that of an egg noodle, and of a larger tree was releatively as large as a sheet of paper. He did the math. All can be found in The Forest and The Trees, by Island Press. SP wanted to liquidate, and cut everything. We still live in that culture.

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