Wrong, Denver Post, Fires and Floods Aren’t Increasing – Watts Up With That?

Of the weatherREALISM

By Linnea Lueken – April 5, 2022

the denver mail He recently published an article claiming that global warming will cause more severe wildfire seasons as well as more severe flooding in the western United States. The data indicates that these claims are false; wildfires in the west are not due to climate change, and there is no trend of increased or decreased precipitation in the US.

The article, titled “Fire and Rain: The West Will Get More One-to-Two Extreme Weather Hits,” cites researchers who published a study looking at “fire weather” climate model simulations and precipitation projections along with assumed ongoing climate change.

the denver mail writes:

“The double whammy of nasty wildfires followed by heavy downpours, triggering floods and mudslides, will hit the western US much more frequently in a world skipped by warming, becoming a frequent occurrence, according to a new study”.

First of all, it is vital to note that these claims are not based on observations or recorded data, but rather on climate model projections of future fire and flood weather conditions, using the same warming models and scenarios that fail to replicate current temperatures and past. climate realism has repeatedly shown that climate models are flawed and their projections cannot be trusted, here, here, and here, for example.

The study’s authors themselves admitted that they used modeled “worst-case” warming scenarios, which are highly unlikely to happen. To justify the use of extreme scenarios, the researchers said that “at the time they could not use simulations of most likely scenarios with some moderate emission reductions.” The researchers stated that even moderate warming scenarios would result in a “fourfold increase in fires and floods” in the Pacific Northwest. They provided no evidence or supporting reasons to support this claim, and there is none.

the denver mail spoke with a scientist not involved in the study, who indicated that global temperature and climate models may not work locally in the way the study is applying them. Despite offering this cautionary statement, always happy to toe the line, he then backtracks and unscientifically says: “[s]until the results make sense.”

Real-world data shows that these projections are implausible.

The western United States, and the Pacific Northwest in particular, have historically been prone to dry and wet seasons due to the oscillating nature of Pacific weather patterns, called El Niño and La Niña. As described in climate realism articles here and here, for example, those weather patterns are completely natural and occurred long before the industrial revolution. These cycles can last for years and there are no signs that they are getting worse in severity.

Drought is an important factor for the ignition of forest fires. Data from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Palmer Drought Severity Index shows that drought severity in the Southwest, including California and Colorado, has decreased over time, as shown in the graph below .

Figure 1: Severity of drought in the southwestern United States, 1895-2020, from NOAA (2021) data, graph generated by EPA and found at https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators /southwest.

These data do not suggest that wildfire frequency or severity should increase due to drought conditions.

Weather at a Glance: Wildfires completely debunks the claim that wildfires are on the rise in the United States, demonstrating in the chart below that these fires are much less severe than they were in the early 20th century.the century, with only recent climbs.

Figure 2: Acres burned in US wildfires since 1926.

Recent increases in wildfires in western states like California, Washington and Oregon are likely due to decades of poor forest management. State and federal governments have refused to take an active role in removing dry brush and dead trees for nearly 40 years, as explained in a Climate Realism article, here, leading to a dangerously high fuel load. high that can be easily ignited under the right conditions.

Taken together, the available observed data provide no reason to believe that the kind of moderate warming the earth has experienced over the century will suddenly lead to catastrophic wildfire and flood conditions for the western United States. the Denver Post The article is long on unsubstantiated claims and short on facts. Faulty computer model projections are no substitute for evidence and data on climate trends, and current trends are not alarming in the least.

Linnea Lueken


Linnea Lueken is a researcher at the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While an intern at The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a Heartland Institute policy brief “Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracking.”

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