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Oregon’s Wildfires

September 27, 2020

By Paul Homewood




 I have already taken a close look at the wildfires in California, but what about Oregon, which has also been badly hit?


But first though, let’s look at the national YTD stats from the  National Interagency Fire Center:


Nationally, this year so far is a long way from being a record, and ranks only sixth since 2010. While the west may be badly hit this year, other areas are faring much better.


Back to Oregon, and a look at the weather data there this summer. The fires have been concentrated along the Willamette Valley, which runs north to Portland:



This is Division 2 in Oregon:





Rainfall there this summer has not been unusually low, and recent summers have been no drier than the majority of years prior to the 1970s.

Equally, temperatures have not been especially high this summer, and have been similar to most summers prior to the cold, wet 1970s.

I have not shown the graph, but we see exactly the same pattern occurring in Oregon as a whole.

If we look at the spring and summer combined, we come up with similar results:




Clearly Oregon is warmer and drier than it was in the 1970s to 90s, which may have had an effect on wildfires. But this has nothing to do with global warming, as Oregon’s climate has merely returned to its state prior to that cold, wet interlude.

It is also clear that the intensity of this year’s fires in Oregon are not due to excessive heat or dryness, as the weather there this summer has not been extreme. Other meteorological factors do come into play, of course. As meteorologist Cliff Mass explains, the major factor behind this year’s fires has been strong, dry easterly winds, something which is expected to weaken under global warming.

  1. Carbon Criminal permalink
    September 27, 2020 11:29 am

    “Texas actually has more forest and higher temperatures than California, but the Lone Star state rarely struggles with fires, perhaps because 95 percent of its land mass is privately owned and these owners act as responsible stewards of the land.

    If climate change was truly the primary culprit of the wildfires, wouldn’t it stand to reason other parts of the US would be suffering similar results?”

    Texas probably has fewer arsonists.

  2. September 27, 2020 11:53 am

    Great work on trend analysis as usual. Thank you. There are a few other considerations, as enumerated here:

  3. September 27, 2020 12:44 pm

    Let me add another factor to the fires is Oregon, Washington and California. Many are being deliberately set. Antifa and BLM operatives are being urged to do so. One directive was to bring bottles of water to insert themselves into fire-fighting units where they could set fires. Pick-up trucks were found with bottles of water, gas cans and chain saws. The chain saws were to fell power poles in hopes of sparking fires. Many of the fires are started some 100′ off of major highways. There have been a number of arrests. Some of these terrorists/arsonists were located via social media as they had posted selfies of their handiwork.

    • Bloke back down the pub permalink
      September 27, 2020 2:05 pm

      I’m afraid I don’t have a link and I cannot verify its veracity but I saw on twitter a map showing North American wildfires with a very pronounced cut-off along the Canadian border, above which there were only one or two fires. Presumably climate change is no respecter of borders which would back up the idea that most of the US fires were deliberately set.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        September 27, 2020 3:37 pm

        Not sure if this helps
        Weekly Synopsis

        As of September 9, Canada has had 3,621 fires and a total of about 235,124 hectares burned. Overall, theses values are lower than the national 5-, 10-, and 15-year averages. Canada’s 10-year average is 5,639 fires and 2,864,437 ha burned.

        This has been a relatively quiet fire year on a national level, with many jurisdictions proactively enacting fire bans and wide scale restrictions early in the spring due to COVID-19 measures. The national preparedness level did not reach level 4 or 5 this year, unlike 2017 and 2018 where a large portion of the summer was spent at preparedness level 5.

    • Curious George permalink
      September 27, 2020 4:04 pm

      “The chain saws were to fell power poles in hopes of sparking fires.”
      Safety matches would be too heavy to carry.

      • October 3, 2020 12:33 pm

        I don’t explain it, I just report it. These are terrorists and thus I don’t think the way they do.

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 27, 2020 2:09 pm

    Now, are all Betts off?

  5. Tim Spence permalink
    September 27, 2020 2:12 pm

    A bit off topic but this week I heard one of the fires in a Western state was closing in on a marijuana plantation. Thousands have volunteered to help sniff up the smoke.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 27, 2020 2:49 pm

    How anyone can winkle out a climate change signal when? :-

    “As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.”

    (Lightening/California this year may well be atypical, but that’s random not climate.)

    Obviously even modest efforts on education/prevention/vigilance/fire fighting/law enforcement etc. would massively exceed any supposed influence of climate change.

    • Athelstan. permalink
      September 27, 2020 3:35 pm

      Read this sh**,

      That study showed that climate change was behind an increase in the frequency and severity of fire weather – defined as periods of time with a higher risk of fire due to a combination of high temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and high winds.

      How we outran a California wildfire
      Is Trump right about the cause of US wildfires?

      The new review covers more than 100 studies published since 2013, and shows that extreme fires occur when natural variability in the climate is superimposed on increasingly warm and dry background conditions resulting from global warming.

      “In terms of the trends we’re seeing, in terms of the extent of wildfires, and which have increased eight to ten-fold in the past four decades, that trend is driven by climate change,” said Dr Matthew Jones from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, who led the review.

      “defined as periods of time with a higher risk of fire due to a combination of high temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and high winds”

      farcical as it is hilarious.

      all you need to know – UEA univesity of easy access.

      • Jackington permalink
        September 27, 2020 10:48 pm

        Not another Dr Jones at UEA!?

      • dennisambler permalink
        September 28, 2020 10:49 am

        You start with a conclusion….

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      September 27, 2020 5:59 pm

      A good comment by MrGrimNasty (above)
      I’ve posted this idea, but the percentage I found was 84.
      That is, 84% of fires are a consequence of human involvement.
      Two of this summer’s fires were caused by:
      1. An inexperienced operator took a power pole down with a backhoe [this was just ¾ mile from our house; quickly stopped, so only those who saw the smoke know of it];
      2. A gender reveal party reported in the BBC

      The BBC report should be updated.
      As of Sept. 26, the fire footprint is 22,666 acres with 92% containment.
      I use the term “footprint” because the post-fire assessment will show many acres of unburned land within the official perimeter. Few read these reports, but a full damage report will follow within a year.
      See the 3 photos here: Fire severity – ResearchGate

  7. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    September 27, 2020 6:16 pm

    Paul wrote:
    Nationally, this year so far is a long way from being a record

    Note 1: The Oregon and Washington mountains, and much of the rest of the 2 states have had significant rain in the past week. Internal to the fire’s perimeter the burning may continue as flare-ups occur. New big fires are unlikely.
    Southern Calif is still hot and dry.

    Note 2: The National Interagency Fire Center site is:
    Note 3: Google Earth is connected to fire info via MODIS.

  8. September 27, 2020 6:58 pm

    ODF Fire History 1911-2017

    Click to access 20180305_odf_centuryfirehistory_11x17.pdf

  9. Graeme No.3 permalink
    September 27, 2020 11:08 pm

    In the table I notice that this year ranks 7TH for the number of fires and 6TH for acreage burnt.

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