The western fires haven’t gone away yet, and likewise it is too much to hope that the climatistas would give up their narrative that climate change is the dominant factor in increasing fire area and intensity. Herewith a second helping of some facts and data to supplement our previous item on this topic.
Start with NASA’S Earth Observatory, which presents data showing that on the global scale wildfires actually declined in area between 2003 and 2015, as shown below. (If you scroll down on the link, you can see this chart animated.)
As NASA reports:
One of the most interesting things researchers have discovered since MODIS began collecting measurements, noted Randerson, is a decrease in the total number of square kilometers burned each year. Between 2003 and 2019, that number has dropped by roughly 25 percent.
Science magazine reported on this trend in a 2017 article, “Human-driven decline in global burned area.” From the summary, with my added emphasis.
Humans have, and always have had, a major impact on wildfire activity, which is expected to increase in our warming world. Andela et al. use satellite data to show that, unexpectedly, global burned area declined by ∼25% over the past 18 years, despite the influence of climate. The decrease has been largest in savannas and grasslands because of agricultural expansion and intensification. The decline of burned area has consequences for predictions of future changes to the atmosphere, vegetation, and the terrestrial carbon sink.
Unexpectedly! It’s amazing how often you can expect “unexpectedly” to show up when the data doesn’t backup the political narrative. The abstract continues:
Fewer and smaller fires reduced aerosol concentrations, modified vegetation structure, and increased the magnitude of the terrestrial carbon sink. Fire models were unable to reproduce the pattern and magnitude of observed declines, suggesting that they may overestimate fire emissions in future projections.
Fire models didn’t work, you say? Unexpectedly! Who are you going to believe—the models or your lyin’ eyes?
From here, let’s move on to a 2015 article from a British science journal entitled, “Global trends in wildfire and its impacts: perceptions versus realities in a changing world.” A surprisingly readable abstract, with my highlights again:
Wildfire has been an important process affecting the Earth’s surface and atmosphere for over 350 million years and human societies have coexisted with fire since their emergence. Yet many consider wildfire as an accelerating problem, with widely held perceptions both in the media and scientific papers of increasing fire occurrence, severity and resulting losses. However, important exceptions aside, the quantitative evidence available does not support these perceived overall trends. Instead, global area burned appears to have overall declined over past decades, and there is increasing evidence that there is less fire in the global landscape today than centuries ago. Regarding fire severity, limited data are available. For the western USA, they indicate little change overall, and also that area burned at high severity has overall declined compared to pre-European settlement. Direct fatalities from fire and economic losses also show no clear trends over the past three decades.
Finally, this 2007 paper from Forest Ecology and Management from a team at Berkeley (!) is worth recalling, too:
In the majority of US political settings wildland fire is still discussed as a negative force. Lacking from current wildfire discussions are estimates of the spatial extent of fire and their resultant emissions before the influences of Euro-American settlement and this is the focus of this work. We summarize the literature on fire history (fire rotation and fire return intervals) and past Native American burning practices to estimate past fire occurrence by vegetation type. Once past fire intervals were established they were divided into the area of each corresponding vegetation type to arrive at estimates of area burned annually. Finally, the First Order Fire Effects Model was used to estimate emissions. Approximately 1.8 million ha burned annually in California prehistorically (pre 1800). Our estimate of prehistoric annual area burned in California is 88% of the total annual wildfire area in the entire US during a decade (1994–2004) characterized as ‘‘extreme’’ regarding wildfires. The idea that US wildfire area of approximately two million ha annually is extreme is certainly a 20th or 21st century perspective. Skies were likely smoky much of the summer and fall in California during the prehistoric period. Increasing the spatial extent of fire in California is an important management objective. The best methods to significantly increase the area burned is to increase the use of wildland fire use (WFU) and appropriate management response (AMR) suppression fire in remote areas. Political support for increased use of WFU and AMR needs to occur at local, state, and federal levels because increasing the spatial scale of fire will increase smoke and inevitability, a few WFU or AMR fires will escape their predefined boundaries.
“Political support for increased use” of forest and fire management techniques is the one thing California hasn’t seen over the last two decades of uninterrupted “progressive” rule.
Now back to your regularly scheduled “climate apocalypse” news media coverage.