38 thoughts on “Acres Burned, through 29 December

  1. Steven Kopits

    Well, if I use this graph as a metric of global warming, then one is left to conclude that there was global cooling from 1960 to 1998, with global warming only starting thereafter. That really doesn’t line up with anyone’s AGW thesis, pro or contra.

    On the other hand, LA area has been very dry this year.

    And I believe it’s a balmy 7 deg F there in our globally warmed Madison, Wisconsin tonight.

  2. CoRev

    Only the left gets it! Climate change causes everything bad about the environment and when asked to falsify the hypothesis, they double down with more claims. They don’t eve realize that doing so negates every claim about the cause.

    If a hypothesis can not be falsified it is not a hypothesis, and can graduate to a theory. That is where we stand with “Global Warming” as a science. (Note: I did not add the definitive term “anthropogenic” to further refine the science from its core concepts.)

    If/when political and environmental demands are based upon such inconclusive/shoddy science, what better term is there than hoax? A leftist religion or ideology is perhaps a better term, since most claims confuse short term local weather events with (Global Warming science) which is both longer and wider in its nature. Hence the term Global in the referenced blog’s, “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”!!!” title, and the data referenced is both “National” and “Seasonal”, neither wide nor long term in accordance to your Global Warming reference.

    Bending terms and citing a questionable science to support an ideology is what is being done. Can you point to the scientific evidence DIRECTLY relating US wildfires to Global Warming versus recurrent LOCAL weather phenomena?

  3. Bruce Hall

    Happy New Year.

    We’ll be sitting in front of a roaring fire (in the fireplace, of course) and drinking hot coffee, while watching UW, Penn State, and UM continue the bowl success for the Big Ten. Later, we’ll take a walk across our lake which froze three weeks earlier than usual and chat with the ice fisherman about their catches (usually some panfish and northern pike) and the weather. Forest fires and global warming will not be our concern until Californians and their poor urban, forest, and water management start heading toward the Midwest to escape what they’ve created.

    High: 15°F
    Low: 1°F

    High: 12°F
    Low: 0°F

    High: 13°F
    Low: 3°F

    High: 19°F
    Low: 6°F

    High: 16°F
    Low: -1°F

    High: 8°F
    Low: -1°F

    1. noneconomist

      Ed Hall: in the sunny Sierra foothills, it should reach 65 today; it was 67 at one point yesterday. 45 last night.
      Chamber of Commerce weather, but…
      Problem? That’s about 13 degrees above average (normal) daytime, 14 degrees above at night.
      Added problem? While we received 15 inches of rain in November, we got a half inch in December, ruining the vacations of numerous travelers who were counting on better skiing over the holidays.
      More important, however, lack of rain and snow means less water for the downstream reservoirs. As you may know, snow levels in the Sierra have been gradually declining over the past decades, leading many water districts to PLAN for less impounded water, even though rainfall may be significant, as last year showed. (Heavy mountain and foothill rains often require downstream releases in anticipation of more heavy rains with little upper elevation snow)
      Contrary to candidate Trump’s pronouncements, the recent drought had everything to do with lack of rain and snow, attested to by the large number of dead ad dying trees in the Sierra where, we agree, forests do require significant cutting, thinning, and selected controlled burns.
      Re: forest thinning: more needs to be done in the Sierra. But for much of SoCal, the hillsides are heavy with brush, not trees. When fall fires do occur, heavy mudslides often follow. My San Bernardino in-laws have experienced plenty of both. Controlled burns also help, and those are increasing, weather permitting. Such burns become much dicier in SoCal.
      Good news. Looks like rain a few days next week, but little snow above us. In the meantime, I’ve have to suffer with more warm days and cool nights.
      Looks like I was wrong about today’s temp. Thermometer says it’s 70 on my back deck. Oh well.

      1. dilbert dogbert

        We spent Xmas at Donner Lake. The sweet and wonderful wife got lots of skiing in on some new powder. It has been cold enough for the resorts to make snow. She skied at Squaw, Alpine and Sugar Bowl and skied her legs off because of short lift lines.

        1. noneconomist

          Good news, dilbert. For both you and the ski lifts. When we can, we take the old scenic route (Donner Pass Road/Old Hwy. 40) into Truckee on the way to Reno.
          Should be 50 today at Sugar Bowl (6900′ elevation). Unfortunately, looks like a rain-snow mix later this week with daytime temps in the 40s, high to mid 50s here. Possible mountain snow next week with colder temps. We hope.
          These warmer winter temps, of course, mean less snow, drier forests, with increased fire dangers as a result. Unfortunately, increased thinning and more controlled burning will not change that.

  4. Rick Stryker


    The causes of variations in wildfire activity are complex, with changes in temperature and drought conditions being important, but other human activities significant also. The most recent IPCC report has low confidencein observations of drought globally, and, if drought conditions do exist, to what they could be attributed to. There is no compelling evidence that increases in drought conditions have contributed to wildfire increases. Temperatures have risen, albeit very slowly. On the other hand, since the 1850s, wildfire activity has been suppressed by other human activities. The recent paper Long-term perspective on wildfires in the western USA, by Jennifer Marlon (of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) et al, shows that, considered over thousands of years, the amount of recent wildfire activity is not unusual, but when considered with respect to recent environmental conditions, is very unusual. There are not too many fires, but rather too few–from the mid-1800s to the present–, what the researchers call a “fire deficit.” That fire deficit is growing despite the recent increase in fires that you document. Human activities, such as timber harvesting, livestock grazing, community expansion, etc. are suppressing fires, overwhelming any alleged climate change effects. The effects of the fire deficit are not really known, but as the forest service explains, too little fire can be damaging to the environment, since fires “minimize the spread of pest insects and disease, recycle nutrients to the soil, and promote the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants.”

  5. Rick Stryker


    I think Trump used the term “hoax” because he wanted his tweet to be memorable. A more sober description of climate change alarmism might be “mass delusion” but that term doesn’t have the same twitter legs. Climate change alarmism is most historically similar to the eugenics craze that gripped scientists and leftist intellectuals in the early part of the 20th century.

    Happy (Frigid!!) New Year

  6. Bean

    There is always more to a story. It isn’t just a simple case of more acreage burns and we have to pay more $ to put it out and global warming is responsible. Here’s what the California Society of American Foresters think. http://norcalsaf.org/policy/forest-fuels-management/

    “Over the past century, fire exclusion and selective logging of large conifers have resulted in extensive forested areas dominated by dense stands of relatively small trees of shade-tolerant and fire-sensitive species, such as white firs and incense-cedars. The result has been a large increase in the volume and continuity of live and dead wood fuels near the forest floor that provide a fuel ladder connecting surface fuels with the forest canopy (McKelvey et al. 1996). ”

    I grew up and live in what is now the tinderbox of Colorado’s front range and have watched the forest fuels density increase significantly, watched more and more of the state’s population move into the Wildland Urban Interface [WUI], and seen the results of completely inadequate mitigation, poor management of population increase in the WUI, and the results of forest management policies that exacerbated the fire risk situation. Fires are suppressed to prevent property loss in areas that used to burn. Mechanical mitigation is completely inadequate. We have more people and structures in high risk areas, and more people causing fires. With more people in the forest, the probability of fire increases. So when we have a fire, the radically different forest of today burns hotter, puts more lives and property at risk, and requires more and higher cost fire suppression effort to protect a larger percentage of wildfire acreage because people live there.

    I submit that if you stack land use practices, forest management policies and practices, the results of the total fire suppression policy after the “Big Burn” of 1910, the inadequate planning associated with urban growth in the wildland areas, that global warming would come in as a minor contributor to increased acreage burned and increased suppression costs to protect more lives and property. We did it to ourselves. Man is definitely responsible for the problem but global warming isn’t the causative agent.

  7. PaulS

    If I take the Figure 1 seriously, something in a fairly flat trend stepped fairly abruptly over roughly 1997 to 2005. That suggests a major factor going beyond a small fraction of a degree of underlying long-term temperature trend. (That trend could not possibly be detected experientially, but only by exacting statistical analysis, over the plotted time.)

    Since the subject is mainly California, was there some loony change in regulations or fashion that aggravated the pileup of fuel? Or that inhibited the construction or use of proper firebreaks? Or an increase in arson? Or something (or things) else?

  8. PeakTrader

    Hillary Clinton: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders…”

    Do we really need much more forest fires and another hundred million people, and their subsequent generations, with much less education than the domestic population residing in Western States?

  9. Erik Poole

    Menzie Chinn wrote: “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”!!!

    Menzie Chinn, think of the bright side. With Global warming, you have a popular phenomena that you can readily and eruditely finger-point. In a world of narcissistic position politics, it makes you look cool ‘n classy.

    Just imagine. Liberals and self-styled progressives do not have to know anything about ecology or history or question popular American policy choices, just finger point away.

  10. Bean

    PS. Here’s the history of acres burned going back to 1916: See page II-48 fig 16-1. https://www.fs.fed.us/research/sustain/docs/national-reports/2010/2010-sustainability-report.pdf

    Note that today’s acres burned are only about 20% of the total acres burned in the early 1930’s. We have a lot of burning to do to equal the fires of the 1930’s. The extremely steep decline in acres burned after the 1930’s is attributed to the USFS policy to fully suppress every fire. The USFS got very good at fighting fires.

    To find any correlation with climate requires developing some means of removing the contributions of suppression policy, steadily increasing suppression capability, the impact of land use and land management, and the increasing human contribution to fire starts due to the increasing number of people in the forests. Up to 90% of our fires are human caused [US Park Service].

    What I would like to see is an investment analysis. Where do we invest our scarce dollars in order to best reduce acres burned, reduce suppression costs, and the resultant remediation costs when suppression fails?

    1. 2slugbaits

      Bean Your numbers only include US forest fires. Despite the beliefs of many American-centric voters, US data is not the same as global data. We see the same US-centric prejudice when talking about hurricane data and global warming. When you look at total acres burned at a global level going back 200 hundred years of recorded history the largest US fire (in 1910) only ranks 5th. Really, really big fires are in Russia, Canada and Australia. BTW, back in 1939 severe heat and drought conditions in Australia led to the “Black Friday Brushfire”, which ranks 2nd in global history. The largest single fire occurred in Siberia in 2003 (47 million acres) and was due to unusually warm temperatures (for Siberia) and thawing permafrost. So it’s not unreasonable to at least consider the possibility that global warming will lead to more forest fires, ceteris paribus.

  11. Ed Hanson


    You still got time to fortify yourself from the California escapees who flee from but bring their disastrous politics with them. It will take time for their scorched earth policy to burn Colorado. We will fight with delaying tactics, but will lose.

    Happy New Year.


  12. 2slugbaits

    I don’t know the extent to which the increase in burned acreage can be attributed to global warming. But we do know that drier conditions are likely to make things worse. And at the very least we should be concerned by the fact that six of the fourteen largest forest fires in recorded global history all occurred in the 21st century.

    1. PeakTrader

      We can’t really slow the warming cycle, but we can slow U.S. immigration, to slow acres burned, along with raising per capita income growth and reducing the Gini coefficient.

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        PeakTrader: So your maintained hypothesis is immigration ==> acres burned. Interesting, but hard to see causality. Do you have a model? Empirical support?

        1. PeakTrader

          Menzie Chinn, 90% of wildfires are caused by people and population growth in Western States, which includes immigrants, is spreading out. There doesn’t seem to be a upward or downward trend in wildfires caused by lightning.

          1. 2slugbaits

            PeakTrader You mean all those immigrants in Montana and Idaho? And Canada? And Australia? I appreciate that you’re this site’s resident “nativist”, but this is absurd even for you. Not only are you US-centric in your outlook, you have somehow managed to narrow the scope to California-centric. But even that doesn’t make a lot of sense because many of the California fires are not in areas that are particularly immigrant dense.

          2. PeakTrader

            2slugbaits, camping is more popular than you think. Also, underbrush in woodlands can accumulate without people, although there are people, believe it or not, in places like Montana. You seem to believe immigrants and their offspring have nothing to do with population growth.

  13. joseph

    Rick Stryker: “I think Trump used the term “hoax” because he wanted his tweet to be memorable.”

    Once again Trump sycophant Rick Stryker leaps to the defense of Trump when he says the indefensible. Recall that Stryker as the first to leap to Trump’s defense when Trump lied about his inauguration crowds being the largest ever. Recall that Stryker leaped to Trump’s defense claiming that Trump never projected 4% growth when everyone could read those very words on Trump’s own official website. In speeches he said “4, 5, maybe 6%.” Also recall that Trump spent 8 years claiming that he had proof that Obama was not born in the U.S. In fact, he is resurrecting those statements to friends recently. Where is Stryker’s defensive for Trump’s lying for 8 years about Obama?

    There is no level that Stryker will not stoop to debase himself before his Dear Leader.

    The plain fact is that Trump is suffering from dementia. All you have to do is read his most recent interview for the New York Times. He is incoherent, unable to stick to one topic for even the completion of a sentence. He completely contradicts himself in successive sentences. He is still obsessed with the fact that he lost the popular vote to his opponent Hillary Clinton by 3 million votes. He is like a small child, an embarrassment to the country.

    The man is not well. And yet Rich Styker is enthralled by him.

    1. 2slugbaits

      joseph I’m not entirely convinced that Rick Stryker is enthralled with Trump. Before Trump started winning primaries and caucuses Rick Stryker was highly critical of Trump and swore on a stack of Bibles that he wouldn’t vote for him. There are some on this blog who are true believers and are enthralled with anything Trump utters or tweets; but I don’t think Rick Stryker is one of those. Instead, Rick Stryker sees Trump and his supporters as useful idiots that will advance Rick Stryker’s real concern, which is and always has been lower taxes for himself. Rick Stryker just wants to keep the Red Team on the field even though he fully appreciates that Trump is a senile, demented, self-absorbed dumb ass; but Trump will sign anything that the GOP Congress puts under his nose. It’s like Grover Norquist said, all he wants is a President with five digits who is able to sign GOP legislation. And based on Trump’s narcissistic signatures with a bold marker, apparently Trump doesn’t even need five digits. More like a clenched fist the way kindergarteners draw pictures with those fat crayons.

    2. Rick Stryker


      I wouldn’t say I’m enthralled but I’m getting there. When I go down the list of the Trump Administration’s achievements in the first year, I’m amazed at how much they’ve been able to accomplish. So far, President Trump is comparable to President Reagan in leadership and effectiveness. At the rate he’s going, Trump is well on his way to being one of the great Presidents.

      1. baffling

        of course he is also the great liar. but that is also something rick stryker endorses. lying to achieve ones results is a badge of honor in rick stykers world.

    3. noneconomist

      I’m still trying to understand candidate Trump’s emphatic “…there is no drought in California.” nonsense. Sure it played well with those who will believe anything he says, but for those of us living here it was more than laughable. And very expensive for many of my neighbors who’ve spent plenty removing those big dead pines that became significant safety hazards.

  14. PeakTrader

    The Baby-Boomers, born in 1946-64, were born when immigration was very low and before the immigration boom after 1965. When the Baby-Boomers were in their prime years, in 1982-00, we had strong per capita income growth and a powerful Information Revolution. Immigrants, for the most part, were not the cause of the economic boom. A hundred years ago when immigrants had roughly the same skill level as the domestic population, GDP would double when population doubles. However, since 1965, immigrants had much lower skills than the domestic population. So, GDP less than doubles when population doubles. This may explain some of the weaker growth after 2000, and adds to income inequality. Our immigration policy should change to bring in more high skilled workers and fewer low skilled workers. High skilled immigrants may have fewer children and be better able to pay for environmental damage in Western States.

  15. joseph

    PeakTrader: “However, since 1965, immigrants had much lower skills than the domestic population. So, GDP less than doubles when population doubles. This may explain some of the weaker growth after 2000, and adds to income inequality. “

    PeakTrader just makes stuff up. You can look at the FRED data and since 2000, despite two recessions, including the worst recession since the 1930s, real GDP per capita has gone up 18% while population has gone up only 15%.

    Since 1965, real GDP per capita has gone up 160% while population has gone up 66%. Not just GDP but GDP per capita has grown faster than population since 1965 and even since 2000 and the Great Recession.

    That’s some fine Trumpian lying there by PeakTrader. But I’m sure he had “alternate motivation” for lying. If you lie about something often enough and loud enough, eventually people will believe it.

    Somehow this strategy seems vaguely familiar.

    “His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

    Donald Trump? Nope, that was the psychological profile of a little man in Germany in an official OSS report from the 1940s.

    1. PeakTrader

      Of course, per capita real GDP rises over time. The point is they earn less on average. Do you expect, for example, an immigrant with less than a high school education (like over half of immigrants from Mexico and Central America) to earn more, on average, than someone with a college degree?

      1. PeakTrader

        And, there seems to be a new medical condition – Trump Obsessive Hysteria Disorder – afflicting only liberals. This condition causes liberals to lose all rationality. Journalists are acutely affected – forgetting everything about journalism.

  16. Erik Poole

    Excellent post Bean.

    I would not expect significant improvements going forward as low-density suburbs are as American as Apple Pie.

    To recall another unpleasant bit of business, the US still sports the lowest excise taxes on gasoline and diesel among the rich OECD countries. Presumably that facilitates low density suburb penetration into remaining American wild places.

    As cheap fuel is viewed as an important entitlement right, I do not expect any changes going forward. Recall that former VP Al Gore can go on and on and on about climate change and NEVER, not once mention these low American excise taxes on fuel.

    I suspect that is why so many Democrats supported invading and occupying Iraq aside from the cash payments that the Iraqi government was making to the families of dead suicide bombers.

  17. joseph

    PeakTrader: “Of course, per capita real GDP rises over time.”

    Oh, but here are your exact words: “However, since 1965, immigrants had much lower skills than the domestic population. So, GDP less than doubles when population doubles.”

    Which is complete BS. Both real GDP and real GDP per capita are rising faster than the population, which blows the legs out from under your racist premise. So now you pretend you said something different.

    What was it I quoted above: “never admit a fault or wrong”. You are taking the Dear Leader’s words to heart.

    1. PeakTrader

      So, you don’t believe doubling the population with much lower skills than the domestic population less than doubles GDP? What time period did I give? How is stating facts racist?

      I suspect, there are many Eastern Europeans with less than a high school education too. Do you believe only Latin Americans are undereducated?

      1. PeakTrader

        And, to anticipate your next misunderstanding of what I said. Since 1965 is when there was more (yearly) low skilled immigration. It’s a separate sentence from the (hypothetical) statement that when population doubles, from lower skilled immigration than the domestic population, GDP less than doubles. It was to show per capita GDP grows slower, than otherwise, with lower skilled workers.

  18. joseph

    Okay, PeakTrader, we will stipulate that you are just stringing together random words and phrases in ways that make no logical sense. You seem to have a racist conclusion that you believe a priori, but seem unable to construct a coherent argument to support it using the English language.

    Wait, that sounds exactly like Trump’s New York Times interview. You guys were made for each other. You seem to be fluent in dementia. Is it your native tongue? Perhaps you could translate Trump’s interview for the rest of us.

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