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California Has Always Had Fires, Environmentalism Makes Them Worse

September 12, 2020

By Paul Homewood


[Editor’s Note – This post appeared earlier without any body! Sorry for the confusion!

Also the previous post failed to download some NOAA graphs, so I have resorted to screenshots]


Michael Schellenberger rubbishes wildfire claims:




I woke up an hour later than normal yesterday morning because smoke from northern California’s forest fires had blotted out the sun. My bedroom windows glowed orange. It looked like a scene out of the 1983 made-for-TV movie, “The Day After,” about nuclear war.

I wasn’t the only one creeped out by the apocalyptic hue. “’A Nuclear Winter’ Over Bay Area, as Wildfires Blot Out the Sun,” read a New York Times NYT +0.1% headline. “Without the smoke, it would be a clear day,” noted a scientist. “This is all generated from the fires.”

The same mechanism that caused the orange sky is what could destroy agriculture in the wake of a thermonuclear war: particulate matter from burned wood blocking parts of the light spectrum from reaching the ground.

And yet the air quality wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked. “The good thing about it is most of the (smoke) is staying aloft,” the air quality meteorologist for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), said. “The sun is able to scatter those smoke particles that produce this apocalyptic orange color that we’re seeing.”

And while the 2 million acres that have burned in California so far in 2020 is 10 times more area than burned in 2019, it’s still 2 million acres less than the lowest estimate for acres burned within modern state borders annually before Europeans settled in America.

“California was a very smoky place historically,” says Malcolm North of the US Forest Survey.“Even though we’re seeing area burned that is off-the-charts, it’s still probably less than what used to be burned before Europeans arrived.”

Many reporters note that more area has burned this year in California than at any other point in “the modern period,” but that period began in 1950. For the last half of the 20th Century, the annual area burned in California was just 250,000 acres a year, whereas the best-available science suggests 4.4 and 12 million acres burned in California annually before the arrival of Europeans.

Read the full story here.


Back to the present though, and it is worth noting that although fires in California and some other western states are at recent record highs, nationally wildfire acreage is actually slightly less than the 10-year average:



The biggest fire in California is in the Mendocino National Forest, to the north of San Francisco, and is reckoned to be the largest in Californian history.

There is a long running rural USHCN station at Angwin Pacific Union College, which is situated just next to the forest. Temperatures there last month were not especially high, either daily means or maximums:



Meanwhile the summer as a whole has been the second coldest on record:



The Mendocino lies in Division 1 – North Coast Drainage, where rainfall last month was above average. Rainfall for the summer as a whole, and spring/summer combined, was below average, but in line with many other years on record. (It is of course the odd exceptionally wet year which pushes averages up).




There is nothing in any of this data to suggest that climate change has anything at all to do with the Mendocino fires.

  1. Curious George permalink
    September 12, 2020 6:25 pm

    California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) blames “global warming” for the fires. Global warming is occurring in California in 2020. Not in Europe, and not in 2019.

  2. Geoff B permalink
    September 12, 2020 6:39 pm

    The climate change zealots jump on any event that they believe is caused by warming to justify the move to net zero, its like a Pavlovian response.
    So lets just for once, give them the benefit of any doubt, to stop the US west coast forest fires lets institute net zero……….30 years to get to it….no fossil fuels…no hydrocarbons..vast investment in batteries, hydrogen, wind, solar, carbon capture etc etc. OR why don’t we manage the forests, remove the brush and chaparral, allow commercial logging, stop building houses without fire breaks, have controlled fires and allow small fires to burn themselves out. That is achievable maybe in 10 years, it is low technology and relatively low cost. Why do they not get on with allocating more funds to projects that can achieve short term results, rather than advocate the lunacy of being able to change the earths climate.
    By the way are China going adopt these net zero policies?

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 12, 2020 7:28 pm

      Plus very many. Well said!

    • A Gwynn permalink
      September 12, 2020 9:16 pm

      Spot on..well said

  3. Robert Christopher permalink
    September 12, 2020 6:45 pm

    “The sun is able to scatter those smoke particles that produce this apocalyptic orange color that we’re seeing.”

    I thought it was the dust in the atmosphere.

    It’s hard not to infer the reporter has a non-scientific background. 🙂

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      September 12, 2020 6:48 pm

      I was talking about the sunlight being scattered.

  4. September 12, 2020 7:05 pm

    O/T So why would a *news* show go on about species extinction ?
    This so called *news*, it wouldn’t be PR for a certain network’s TV show tomorrow ?
    “ExtinctionTheFacts, 8pm BBC1 Sunday with David Attenborough”

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      September 12, 2020 11:57 pm

      It is sad that I have now come to regard Attenborough and facts as complete strangers. He was good when he restricted himself to introducing us to animals.

    • In the Real World permalink
      September 13, 2020 11:29 am

      Another off topic . Did anyone see the Lindsay Hoyle news article where he wants to bring in “Lockdown ” type restrictions to deal with ” Climate Change ”

      Looks like the ” One World Government ” Marxists are starting to admit that the whole idea is that nobody should be able to have their own vehicles to drive , and only do anything that the ” Rulers ” decide that they can . While everybody has to pay huge amounts extra in taxes .
      Which is what the IPCC leaders have admitted is the whole idea of the Climate Change scam .

  5. September 12, 2020 7:23 pm

    Kinda liked my comment earlier today to someone who was shrilling that this was just a preview of what to come:

    You mean back to what nature naturally dolled out before man started interfering?

    Nature wants to have it’s way.

    We either let it do it’s thing – have it’s land back – or we manage it much better – so that it can’t get out of hand (from our perspective).

  6. September 12, 2020 7:26 pm

    Great post Paul – thanks.

    BTW – here is the climate division map for CA

  7. It doesn't add up... permalink
    September 12, 2020 7:43 pm

    I am sure that Californians regard turning Orange to be truly apocalyptic. Looking at the map, I can see the outline for a JOSH cartoon – a forward leaning Trump in the manner of a cartoon Phil Silvers barking out the orders.

  8. September 12, 2020 8:47 pm

    Thank you for your relentless and effective effort to expose the california climate change hysteria effort to explain away bad management and bad governance with an appeal to climate change.

  9. Harry Davidson permalink
    September 12, 2020 9:20 pm

    I saw it pointed out BTL on WUWT that in the last 50 years California has had a considerable invasion of non-native species, specifically Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus brush now clogs whole valleys that used to open. It also exudes a gum that burns fiercely, as well as the wood of the tree itself.

    So the flora has changed to make the area much more liable to big fires.

    • Duker permalink
      September 13, 2020 12:06 am

      The Eucalyptus both assists the spread of fires by burning the canopy but its designed to survive the fire, so recovers in 5-10 years and 20 years later will burn gain. Im not sure if its an invasive species which spreads naturally and quickly but if it is the natural under-story is inhibited and the ground water is depleted.
      The same smoky skies in summer were noticed by the first Europeans to arrive in Australia where the Eucalyptus is native.

      • bobn permalink
        September 13, 2020 12:56 am

        Eucalyptus was introduced to california as its a fast growing, drought tolerant evergreen. Its also as mentioned a fire adapted tree that prospers through fires. It survives them, recovers faster than other species and spreads via fire. So Eucalyptus will likely take over all the california forests naturally (fire takes down its rivals and eucalyptus moves in behind the fires) if man doesnt halt its spread. clever tree.

  10. I_am_not_a_robot permalink
    September 12, 2020 10:13 pm

    Michael Shellenberger on Tucker Carlson:

  11. Broadlands permalink
    September 13, 2020 12:01 am

    In addition to mismanagement, forest wildfires are the result of an increasing number of people visiting the forests for recreation, with some accidentally causing a fire and others deliberately causing a fire. The correlation between population and major wildfires is very good. Lightning, of course, has been causing wildfires for centuries and still does.

    • September 13, 2020 5:54 am

      I saw that you addressed the accidental and deliberate cases, but I wanted to add some links to citations, and a bit of snark to spice it up. //:o]

  12. September 13, 2020 5:51 am

    And then there’s arson, both deliberate (just 2 examples, though there are more)…
    …and accidental…

    So, I guess in addition to Leftists not managing forests properly, pyromania is also a consequence of global warming, as well. Makes as much senses as anything warmists come up with.

  13. M E permalink
    September 13, 2020 6:56 am May be of interest!

  14. September 13, 2020 12:13 pm

    There are several factors at play and the last 2 are not pleasant.

    California has the type of vegetation known as Mediterranean Sclerophyll and called Chaparral in the western United States. It is found in coastal areas of the Mediterranean, California, Australia, etc. and consists of shrubby plants with coriaceous (leathery) leaves which contain resins. These burn these plant formations burn frequently and swiftly. These flash fires do not kill the roots systems and thus the vegetation returns fast. So we are dealing with fire-prone and fire maintained plant systems.

    The mismanagement of California’s vegetation has been monumental. But, is this all just the result of environmental whackos? There is a growing sentiment that it is purposeful to some degree. California has mis-managed their financial system for decades with their socialist legislatures and governors. When they needed bailed out, they appealed to the Federal Government an in the past got their way and kept on mis-managing both forests and finances.

    However, along comes Donald John Trump who has a good understanding of what they have been doing. And they have been thumbing their noses at Federal law, creating “sanctuary” cities, preventing ICE from removing illegal alien criminals and other stupidities. When Governor Newsom came crying to him, Trump said, you have been and are continuing mismanaging your forests leading to this. Furthermore, you are defying Federal law. No more money until you shape up.

    So along come the fires the past couple of years with pleas for federal “emergency” money to deal with the crisis. A lot of the fires are springing up along the I-5 Corridor which also looks a bit suspicious. Fires are one of the tricks of Antifa to create chaos. In addition to natural fires in such vegetation formations, we may also be dealing with “arson” to get Federal monies to prop up the failing California government AND arson from the Communist Antifa and BLM groups.

  15. AndyG55 permalink
    September 13, 2020 1:39 pm


    How has the percentage of Eucalyptus changed over time in California.?

  16. September 15, 2020 11:03 pm

    Aside from crazy pseudo-environmentalists, the deranged criminal justice system, which is supposed to guard us against those nuts, is just as criminally insane. Here’s yet more evidence.

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