Understanding the Climate and History of California Fires

Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

There is no hope for the truth when world leaders like Governor Brown of California (he runs the 19th largest economy in the world) can present such utterly false information in pursuit of a political agenda.

“Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven’t had this kind of heat condition, and it’s going to continue getting worse and that’s the way it is.”

Civilization began more than 10,000 years ago and, in my opinion, it hasn’t reached California yet. I consider the 20,000-year-old cave paintings a measure of civilization, certainly superior to most ‘art’ produced in California today. It also reflects an awareness of nature that Brown lacks. Yes, the State may be wealthy, and manifest glamor and glitz, but, in my opinion, from Hollywood on down there are very few signs of civilization.

It was created by people going west, as Horace Greeley advised, looking for the promised land. It got drier and drier as they crossed the Mississippi and passed the 500 mm isohyet. They reached California and were determined to make it the land of milk and honey, even though most of the State has deficit moisture conditions all the time. It has burgeoned by literally plundering the water from the north and east including bringing it over the mountains from the Colorado River. The truth is most of the State is arid or semi-arid.

Brown clearly doesn’t know that the world was 6°C warmer 9000 years ago and was warmer than today for at least 95 % of the last 10,000 years known as the Holocene Optimum. Consider those conditions in California today. The Governor should count his blessing for purporting to be in charge during a cooler phase of global temperature. Being ignorant is one problem, opening your mouth and proving it is another. It is time to put the entire issue of weather, climate, and water in California in perspective.

In every lecture I ever gave at any university level, I always began with one or two items from the news that related to what we were studying in the course. It was part of my campaign to show the students that there was relevance to something in their university time. Of course, the information varied with the news cycle and the course I was teaching. However, there were some issues I used to demonstrate the application of another feature and that is the ability to predict based on information and understanding.

In the introductory climatology class, I always mentioned early in September that we can watch for a sequence of events from California. This will begin with complaints about drought and threatened water supplies. In the Fall, we will have stories about fires decimating the landscape and burning up communities. The next in the sequence is rain and mudslides. Welcome to sunny southern California. I don’t recall a year in which that sequence did not occur. The only differences were the intensity of the events, the hysteria of the media and the degree of political exploitation.

Exploitation of the California events is just another example of the standard ploy of environmentalists to take normal events and present them as abnormal. This works because most people have little knowledge or understanding of what is normal. They certainly don’t know anything about the patterns and mechanisms of climate or how they change over time.

Figure 1 shows the general circulation of the atmosphere that over the course of a year creates the average wind and weather conditions affecting each of the zones identified in Figure 2.


Figure 1

Although not identified in Figure 1 you have distinct latitude pressure zones from the Polar High to the Sub-polar Low, to the Sub-tropical High to the Equatorial Low.


Figure 2

Notice that there are only four zones (1,3, 7, and 9) that remain under the same controlling mechanism year-round. California’s climate is categorized under the Koppen system as a Mediterranean climate (Zone 5). It is unique because it is the only climate that has most, over 70% of its precipitation in the winter months. This means you have more effective precipitation for plant growth because less goes to evaporation. This occurs because in the winter California is under the influence of the Subpolar Low with cool, wet conditions, but in the summer, it is influenced by the Sub-tropical High with high temperatures and virtually no precipitation. It is called a Mediterranean climate because that is the part of the world with the largest area and classification was done in Europe. Figure 3 shows all the regions with similar weather conditions.


Figure 3

Here is the annual seasonal pattern of weather for these regions and most of California. Cool, wet winters create specific vegetations with different names in different parts of the world. It is Chaparral (Figure 4) in California and Maquis (Figure 5) around the Mediterranean. They are both shrub vegetation that survive the hot, dry summers but require fire as part of the regenerative process.


Figure 4 Chaparral in California


Figure 5 Maquis in Corsica

After the hot dry summer, the vegetation is parched and vulnerable to fires. These are triggered by several causes including lightning strikes as thunderstorms start to form and human causes that contrary to reports have declined since Europeans arrived. Figure 6 shows a graph of carbon sediments in the Pacific Ocean. Although this is for Central America, the settlement patterns are similar to those in California.


Figure 6

After many areas are burned off, which, with reduced vegetation cover due to shrinking and wilting, exposes soil to rainfall and downslope erosion. As the Sub-polar low migrates toward the equator, it brings rain to the region and so by late in the year the reports of mudslides are added to the collective woes of the promise land.

In this age of environmental extremism with its powerful underlying anti-humanity theme expressed by comments like those of Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA

“Mankind is a cancer; we’re the biggest blight on the face of the earth.” “If you haven’t given voluntary human extinction much thought before, the idea of a world with no people in it may seem strange. But, if you give it a chance, I think you might agree that the extinction of Homo Sapiens would mean survival for millions if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species. Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.”

This may sound extreme, but various slightly more moderate eversion sexist everywhere. Many people react angrily to cruelty to animals while ignoring what happens to children.

Every change that is normal or natural is caused by humans, and this includes forest fires. The environmentalists such as Governor Brown ignore the moral dilemmas in their positions. For example, the number of forest fires and their extent has reduced dramatically in modern times. This is because while people do set fires, they also report and extinguish them more quickly. In the past humans set fires deliberately for hunting and they had no way of controlling them. They and lightning triggered fires frequently and always burned out of control as soil coring indicates. Then there were the vast grass fires, again natural from lightning, but also set by humans for driving animals for hunting. The Hudson’s Bay Journal has an entry at the end of the 18th century that simply says, “The Indians report the whole of the Prairies are on fire.” Paul Kane recorded such an event in his famous 1845-46, nighttime scene painting “Prairie on fire” (Figure 7).


Figure 7. (Editor; I left the copyright in place.)

The town of Carberry in west central Manitoba, was the first community in the Province to install a municipal water supply. It did so primarily to prevent their homes being burned down every time there was another grass fire.

Perhaps the final arrogance of people like Brown is that they consider California an ‘ideal’ climate for people. I know Inuit coming from Arctic Canada to Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay for medical services hated the heat and couldn’t wait to get back to the high Arctic.

It is a risky world and no matter where you live there is some form of natural hazard. Your choice is move or understand and prepare for the hazards of the region. Clearly, Brown doesn’t understand the nature of California and since he is on State welfare he will not move. But that is fine because I don’t understand the nature of Brown, other than his manifest ignorance. The good news for him and the bad news for the truth is that the pattern of fires in Greece, another Mediterranean climate are also being misunderstood, mischaracterized, and mishandled by more bad leaders.

via Watts Up With That?


August 4, 2018 at 04:45PM

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