Right Opinion

A Word About Wildfires

Joe Bastardi · Aug. 15, 2018

Like 2017, we predicted a bad wildfire season in the spring. The fact that California had a wet period in the spring was a big reason to think a big wildfire season would ensue. The wet conditions resulted in additional foliage, so even if California had a “wet” summer by its standards, naturally it would dry out. Why? Because summer is a dry time in California even if there is average precipitation, which there has been by the way.

Here is March and April, which tipped us off to the wildfire threat:

This came after a dry January and February.

So we started looking at what can lead to that “flip,” so to speak. 
In the analog years, we saw the very dry January and February — similar to this year.


March and April trended wetter, though not as wet — likely due to the fact that in previous analogs, the water west of California was not as warm as it was this year, so more moisture was available. But the signal of a wetter March and April was there.

Then we had a normal May, June, and July.

This year, May-July looked identical in California.

The wildfires aren’t some apocalypse. It’s due to a known pattern — dry, wetter, then back to normal. This forecast tool for California supplies us with hints going forward. I again remind the reader: If not for being involved in the climate debate and having knowledge of analogs that involve more than just a result, I would not have a) discovered a link to the California outlook and b) then made projections going forward about a transitional ENSO season for summer temperatures (I highlighted major warmth, especially up front), hurricanes, and now the winter.

We not only look for the absolute value but how we get there — for instance, if we notice a pattern of dry/wetter/drier in a target area, we then try to match it up. This means the value of making the forecast for California led to me looking hard at the prospects of a coming El Niño.


Let’s do some simple math. According to this article from NPR, humans are the leading causes of wildfires.

Here is an excerpt directly from the article:

Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: “intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions, and campfires.”

But the average for all forests is even higher. The latest research shows that nationwide, humans cause more than 8 in 10 — 84 percent.

“We are playing a really substantial role in shifting fire around,” says fire ecologist Jennifer Balch at the University of Colorado. Balch looked at the big picture, going through records of 1.5 million wildfires over a 21-year period. She says people are starting fires where and when nature normally doesn’t — at times when forests are often too wet to burn easily or at places and times when lightning isn’t common.

As a result, Balch says, not only are people causing the vast majority of wildfires, they’re also extending the normal fire season around the country by three months.

Not only that, but the current period can’t match the 1930s.

Let’s take out the agenda-driven ideas here and simply look at the math.

California has three times the amount of people living in it than 60 years ago. If humans are responsible for nearly 85% of the fires, what should happen if humans are causing the bulk of them? In addition, what should happen to damage costs if humans are living in places they weren’t before? So yes, humans are a cause — but not because of them changing the climate. By insisting on challenging nature, there is going to be a heavier price to pay. It’s similar to people building on flood plains or in hurricane-prone areas. Even looking at the 15% of fires supposedly not caused by humans, if more humans are living where they previously were not, what is going to happen to damage costs regardless?

In fact, given the sheer numbers, one has to wonder why damage costs are not higher. This says to me that the policies being hammered at by man-made global warming antagonists are actually working because there has not been a threefold gain in wildfires despite a threefold gain in nearly 85% of the cause. My allies are going to hate me for pointing out that the sheer numbers argue damage costs should be worse That being said, the attribution to CO2-induced climate hell is absurd. What is sad is that articles like the one above (and notice I took it from NPR) never refer to simple common sense. Increase the cause of the problem threefold, are you are going to have problems. Combine that with a known pattern to create extra fuel, and what do you get?


The saddest part is this gets lost because of agendas that have nothing to do with analyzing the actual cause of the problem. The benefit for me is that by seeing things like this, it gives me an edge in forecasting. But it’s still sad to see the yelling and screaming and finger-pointing that in reality have little, if anything, to do with the problem itself. While that is unfortunate, there’s an even darker side: The threat of arson increases to support agenda-driven positions. That is a huge elephant in the room.


Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”

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