Climate change and droughts and wildfires.

History shows us there has always been climate change, from ice age to the Minoan temperature optimum to the Roman warm period to the dark ages to the medieval warm period to the little ice age to now. The question is, where does the climate go from here, how much will it warm from here, or will it start cooling again? One question is; will wildfires contribute to global warming, or will the smoke act as a cooling agent? The only way to give an answer as a scientist is to look at what the wildfire trends are. Wildfires have decreased 25% worldwide in the last 15 years!  This is according to NASA:the full article is in https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145421/building-a-long-term-record-of-fire

and has this very interesting time lapse video of the wild fires of the world:

The question is then: Why are wildfires decreasing?

One possible exclamation, droughts are decreasing. Let us check:

No, there is no discernible trend in droughts.

Since the beginning of industrialization CO2 has risen about 50%. CO2 is the feed-stock for all plants and indeed the earth is getting greener!

Yes, most areas are getting greener. There are a few areas that are getting less green, such as the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, the South American Gran Chaco, the American South West and the edges of the Gobi desert. The global environmental challenges are still enormous, but thanks to the overall increased vegetation the earth can now feed an additional 2 billion people, not to mention provide livable habitat for many more animals.

What increased CO2 does to global temperatures will come in future installments.

Climate change and wildfires. The problem is more due to forest management.

The natural life cycle of forests in the dry part of western United States is rejuvenation and growth, interrupted by forest fires. In fact, the lodgepole pine requires a fire to release the seeds in the cones. Without the fire they will not  germinate. Forest fires every generation is the normal occurrence for the dry, western forests. Then in the 1930’s, to stop the wild fires they started forest management in earnest, dead trees removed and underbrush cleared, and wildfires were cut by over 90%. They also harvested a lot of good, mature trees, but that is a different story. The chart below tell the facts:

Forest fires were very few from the late 50’s to late 90’s. But with forest management comes a price. Nature can no longer support as many birds and animals as before, and some species were already vulnerable and close to extinction. So, partly due to the power of the Sierra Club and other organizations it was decided to return nature to its original state as much as possible. That would be fine except we no longer live in the 19’th century, when California had less than a million inhabitants. It now has 40 million inhabitants and use up all the water that rains on it and more. People have to live somewhere, so they make beautiful settlements in tinder dry forests. This is the problem out west. You can not have settlements in an unmanaged forest and get away with it, the fire will get you sooner or later. The solution is to set aside some forest lands for natural growth, but only where nobody lives and manage all other forests. Climate change has very little to do with western forest fires, there has always been years of droughts, interrupted by torrential rains. As it was in biblical times in Israel and Egypt, so it is in the American west.