Latest posts by James M. Taylor (see all)
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2013 was one of the quietest wildfire years in U.S. history, according to objective data from the federal government’s National Interagency Fire Center. The 47,000 wildfires last year may seem like a very large number – and it certainly gives global warming alarmists like Brown plenty of fodder for misleading global warming claims – but the 47,000 wildfires was less than half the average number of wildfires that occurred each year in the 1960s and 1970s. Importantly, the Earth was in a cooling phase during the 1960s and 1970s when so many more wildfires occurred.
The unusually quiet 2013 fire season continued a long-term trend in declining wildfires. From 1962 through 1982, for example, at least 100,000 wildfires occurred in the United States every year. Since 1982, however, not a single year has registered 100,000 wildfires. During the past decade, an average of 73,000 wildfires occurred each year. During the 1970s, by contrast, an average of 155,000 wildfires occurred each year.
The 2014 wildfire season, moreover, has been relatively quiet so far. The total number of wildfires is well below the 1962-2013 average, and is even below the average for the past decade. Even so, the below-average 22,000 wildfires so far this year give global warming alarmists plenty of opportunities to mislead the public about the scientific facts.
The long-term decline in wildfires reflects an ongoing improvement in global soil moisture and an ongoing decline in global drought.
A scientific study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Hydrology reports, “Evidence indicates that summer soil moisture content has increased during the last several decades at almost all sites having long-term records in the Global Soil Moisture Data Bank.”
Similarly, a scientific study in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters reports, “An increasing trend is apparent in both model soil moisture and runoff over much of the U.S. … This wetting trend is consistent with the general increase in precipitation in the latter half of the 20th century. Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the country over the last century.”
Droughts and wildfires have always occurred and will always occur. While global warming is reducing the frequency of droughts and wildfires, global warming will not completely eradicate droughts and wildfires. They will continue from time to time despite their long-term decline. This allows alarmists and political responsibility-shirkers like Jerry Brown to blame global warming and his political opponents for the relatively few droughts and wildfires that still do occur.
Jerry Brown can invent his own political narrative but he cannot invent his own scientific facts.
[Originally published at Forbes]