Studies confirm that nighttime wildfire activity is increasing

In a study of wildfires in the conterminous United States from 2003 to 2020 researchers found that while fire activity increased during the day in the 18-year period, it increased even more at night.

Heat sensing data from satellites showed significant increasing trends in nighttime wildfire fire activity, with a +54%, +42% and +21% increase in the annual nighttime sum of Fire Radiative Power (FRP), annual nighttime active fire pixel counts, and annual mean nighttime per-pixel values of FRP, respectively, in the latter half of the study period. Activity during the day increased also, with rates of +36%, +31%, and +7% respectively.

Climate change, folks

The reason wildfires typically exhibit less activity at night is due to diurnal changes in weather. Nighttime generally brings lower temperatures, higher relative humidity, decreasing winds, and higher fuel moistures in light fuels.

But a warming climate with occasional multi-year droughts and higher temperatures can lead to nighttime higher temperatures and lower humidities. Drought will lower the fuel moistures in live and dead vegetation. These changes can result in fuels at night remaining available for significant and continuous fire spread. This is causing wildfires to burn with more intensity, spread more quickly, and have more resistance to control 24 hours a day.

And the poor buggers out there on the fireline are less likely to catch a break, a bite to eat, a bit of rest.

A “bomb cyclone” is battering California

A “bomb cyclone” in the Pacific is dumping extreme rain and several feet of snow on California. The wild weather follows a summer of extreme drought and wildfires, and it could bring flooding, mudslides and debris flow to the parched and wildfire-scarred Golden State.

The term “bomb cyclone” refers to the rapid intensification process — “bombogenesis” — that forms it. Such storms occur when pressure in the central region of the storm descend by at least 24 millibars…in 24 hours, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…

The National Weather Service in Sacramento issued numerous warnings on Sunday concerning extreme rainfall, flooding and debris flows. In some regions, rainfall may reach into the double digits in inches.

RTFA because you should add it to that database of info about climate change that’s beginning to form up there in your cerebral cortex. We’re all sort of weather freaks here at Lot 4…for one reason or another. So, this gave rise to discussion how and when this event references climate change.

The only point I raised in the discussion I need to offer here, too. Climate is governed by what is called flywheel effect. Look it up if you want to learn about the physics involved. What it means is that fixing all the problems needing to be fixed, answering all the questions asked, might stop the cause-and-effect relationships that bring about events like this…maybe, just maybe, in a couple decades. Even if you succeeded making those changes in a week or two.

Which ain’t happening, either.

Megafires are becoming common!

What the US Forest Service once characterized as a four-month-long fire season starting in late summer and early autumn now stretches into six to eight months of the year. Wildfires are starting earlier, burning more intensely and scorching swaths of land larger than ever before. Risks for large, catastrophic fires like the Camp fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018 are rising…

More than half of the 20 largest fires in California history burned in just the last four years. Eight of the top 20 fires in Oregon occurred in that time frame too. Last year, Arizona saw the most acres burned in its history. California’s August Complex fire, which consumed more than 1m acres alone, became the first-ever giga-fire in 2020. The Dixie fire this year came close to becoming the second, burning through more than 963,200 acres…

The conditions that set the stage for a staggering escalation in wildfire activity in the American west are layered and complicated, but the climate emergency is a leading culprit…

There are still solutions and mitigations that could slow the shift in intensity – but researchers say that window is closing.

“The trends that are driving this increase in fire risk, fire size, fire severity over time are continuing – that’s climate change.”

Until and unless people press politicians to act upon climate change, reversing human-made trends decades in the making, the dangers to whole communities, whole states, regional disasters, will continue and increase.

U.S. has hottest summer on record

The United States had its hottest summer on record this year, narrowly edging out the previous milestone that was set 85 years ago during the Dust Bowl.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that the average temperature this summer for the contiguous U.S. was 74 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.6 degrees warmer than the long-term average. The heat record caps off a season full of extremes, with parts of the country experiencing persistent drought, wildfires, record-breaking heat waves, hurricanes and other extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.

This summer beat the previous record set in 1936 by a hair, coming in at less than 0.01 degrees warmer than during the Dust Bowl year, when huge portions of the West and Great Plains were parched by severe drought…

Global warming is making heat waves and other extreme weather events both more likely and more severe, and climate scientists have said conditions this summer offer a glimpse of what could become more common in the future.

If you accept and understand the science, get ready to sweat. If you don’t accept the science, guess what? You still get to sweat!

Five possible climate futures

The UN’s latest report on the state of the climate offers a stark warning that humanity’s future could be filled with apocalyptic natural disasters. But that future isn’t set in stone. Depending on global economic trends, technological progress, geopolitical developments, and most important, how aggressively we act to reduce carbon emissions, the world at the end of the 21st century could turn out to be radically different. Or not.

The spectrum of possible futures that await us underpin the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, whose first chapter on the physical science of climate change was released last week. The new report features five climate narratives that differ in terms of the level of projected warming and society’s ability to adapt to the changes ahead. Each narrative pairs a different socioeconomic development scenario with a different carbon emissions pathway, resulting in a Choose Your Own Adventure-style series of endings to the story of 21st-century climate change.

In some of those endings, humanity rises to the climate challenge while making concurrent efforts to reduce poverty and improve quality of life for everyone. The world is hotter and the weather is more dangerous, but the worst climate impacts are averted and societies are able to adapt.

In others, global cooperation is fractured by nationalism, increases in poverty, soaring emissions, and unimaginably hot weather.

You can start by reading this article…if you want to take part in building the changes that are needed. I hope you will.

Siberia is thawing. But, wait, there’s more!

Scientists have long been worried about what many call “the methane bomb” — the potentially catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost.

But now a study by three geologists says that a heat wave in 2020 has revealed a surge in methane emissions “potentially in much higher amounts” from a different source: thawing rock formations in the Arctic permafrost…

The difference is that thawing wetlands releases “microbial” methane from the decay of soil and organic matter, while thawing limestone — or carbonate rock — releases hydrocarbons and gas hydrates from reservoirs both below and within the permafrost, making it “much more dangerous” than past studies have suggested…

“What we do know with quite a lot of confidence is how much carbon is locked up in the permafrost. It’s a big number and as the Earth warms and permafrost thaws, that ancient organic matter is available to microbes for microbial processes and that releases CO2 and methane,” Robert Max Holmes said. “If something in the Arctic is going to keep me up at night that’s still what it is.” But he said the paper warranted further study…

The study said that gas hydrates in the Earth’s permafrost are estimated to contain 20 gigaton of carbon, approximately four times the amount present in atmospheric methane.

At the moment no one has a clue what the potential threat from this carbon is or will be as the climate warms. The only question is “How bad will the news be?”