May 23, 2024

More Wildfire Misinformation at the Seattle Times

 The Seattle Times continues to shamelessly exaggerate and hype the regional effects of climate change.

This week they really went overboard regarding wildfire.

Yesterday's front page features a large banner headline stating that western Washington faces an above-normal risk of wildfire.


Why?  They claim because of low snowpack and precipitation.

The truth is that there is no reason to expect an above-normal wildfire season in western Washington this summer.  Let me tell you about the situation and note that I am writing a paper on this topic (the meteorology of westside wildfires) for my real day job.

Wildfires in western Washington require very different conditions than wildfires in the interior of the Northwest.  Specifically, to get a major wildfire over the wet/cool westside requires strong easterly (from the east flow).

Major western Washington wildfires are rare because the region is moist and dominated by cool, moist maritime air.  

Strong easterly flow pushes out the marine air and causes warming and drying as the air sinks down the western slopes of the Cascades and Olympics.  And this strong easterly flow has to occur in a very limited time window when the fuels are dry enough to burn:  essentially late  August and the first half of September.

The last major westside wildfire was in September 1951 on the northwest side of the Olympic Mountains near Forks (about 33,000 acres).  Strong northeasterly winds were observed.  There have been a few smaller western Washington wildfires (again with strong easterly flow) such as the Bolt Creek Fire (15, 000 acres in September 2022).  There is no increasing trend of such fires.

I read this book last week

Snowpack has very little correlation with western Washington fires because such fires are generally at lower elevations where the snow melts out early even in normal years...and again, these fires don't happen until late summer anyway.

If the easterly winds occur, a hot/dry late summer helps, but at this point there is no reason to expect unusual summer conditions.  El Nino is gone and this summer we will be transitioning to La Nina.  In any case, the correlation of El Nino/La Nina with our summer weather is very weak.  Furthermore, May is turning out to be seasonally wet and cool.

Importantly, there is no reason to expect an increased probability of an unusually strong easterly wind event this summer.  None.  

In fact, the latest European Center pressure prediction for September (the big easterly wind month), is for higher than normal pressure offshore, which WEAKENS easterly flow (see below).



And if the above front-page article is not scary enough, the Seattle Times had a hyped-up opinion piece about the wildfire season now becoming everywhere all the time.   



It even included the claim that:

In fact, it’s getting to the point that wildfire season is all year long.

Do you know how many wildfires are burning over Washington State and adjacent areas now?  Zero.  See proof below.


The article notes there are some fires in Canada, BUT THAT IS TYPICAL for the Boreal Forests.

For those of you worried about wildfire, guess what the forecast is for the next few days?

A nice wetting rain  over western Washington (see below, through Sunday morning)


And then EVEN MORE rain is predicted new week (see ensemble of many precipitation forecasts over Seattle).


Finally, today I was sent the most wonderful video of the aurora, with a background of triumphal music (see below).  Created by 
Bart Durbin. 

Be prepared to be emotionally affected.   Bart did a wonderful job creating this.





19 comments:

  1. "The Seattle Time's juvenile attempts at gaslighting is now everywhere, all at once."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, the timing also seemed a little odd considering the last few weeks of below normal temps and above normal rain and past blogs where you've identified the East Wind correlation on West side wildfires. On a slightly different topic, I was looking at snowpack and it's getting closer to normal for this time of year: i.e. 21" SWE vs. normal of 27" SWE for the overall cascade crest range in WA. Do you think the state will call off the emergency given that we're substantially above the 75% threshold for drought declarations?

    ReplyDelete
  3. What are your thoughts with wildfire season extending later into the autumn due to climate change? If vegetation is drier later in the season (due to increased evapotranspiration over the warm months), dry fuels become more commonplace during the season when these intense east wind events are historically more common.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charlie...not clear. Climate models suggest that global warming would weaken the easterly winds, particularly during the late summer and winter, thus reducing the potential for wildfire...cliff

      Delete
  4. The good news here is that the broader swath of the public (all over the world, not just in the US) is ignoring this propaganda, other than the rabid Climate Change Alarmists that have become irrelevant to the discourse. Chicken Little can keep screeching all it wants, but when people are worried about making their credit card payments and affording their weekly trips to the grocery store, this concern is going to be far down on their lists.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Nearly nine out of ten wildfires are caused by people and can be prevented."

    "caused by people" does not mean arson. The reasons are many: poor wiring in out-buildings, a blown tire with a steel rim throwing sparks, pulling off a highway into dry grass, burning of debris, discarded cigarettes, recreational activity, powerlines, and the list goes on. A few are arson. Some are lightning. We can't stop the last of these, but the others can be vastly reduced.
    I live on the rapidly drying east slope of the Cascades.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It baffles me that anyone pays any attention to the Seattle Times at this point. All it is now is an agenda driven, fear-mongering rag of a newspaper. If you lack the ability to think for yourself, and love overreacting to things that are not an issue, this is the paper for you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Snowpack has very little correlation with western Washington fires because such fires are generally at lower elevations where the snow melts out early even in normal years...and again, these fires don't happen until late summer anyway."

    That seems like reverse logic, Cliff. There are reasons that wildfires don't happen until late summer. Snowpack is part of it. So are temperature and precipitation, which are predicted by NOAA to be warmer and lower than normal this summer, respectively. Seems like you're sticking your neck out pretty far with this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jerry... you are not correct. The reason the easterly winds are generally end of summer is because that is when the east pacific high weakens and pressure starts building inland. Snowpack is not the reason that westside fires wait. They wait even with years with above average snowpack. Having a hotter and drier than normal summer helps...like 2015 for example... but the easterly winds are the key. ..cliff

      Delete
    2. It seems to me that the Seattle Times article is mostly reporting the fire season outlook as issued by the National Interagency Fire Center, which called for a slow beginning to the fire season in the West but becoming more severe under warmer, drier than normal conditions expected in July and August. They seem to expect this will bring the greatest potential to western and northwest Washington State compared to what normally occurs. This would be similar to the last two summers where the north Cascades had extensive warm, dry periods, dry lightning storms and more than the usual fire activity. There may or may not be a significant east wind episode this summer, but larger than usual fires could still occur just as in the past two summers. The potential for large fires may also extend to areas of Eastern Washington where spring rainfall has been light and if dry lightning storms, which are usually the cause of large losses east of the Cascades, follow any extended warm, dry periods.

      Delete
  8. Seattle Times is not a newspaper. It is a leftist propaganda tabloid. Thank you Cliff for calling out their nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. Ironically, it used to be rather right of center, or at least somewhat conservative. I suppose they are doing what they think necessary to survive, but geez... years ago, I was an editor on our small college newspaper, and if I'd pulled the stuff the Seattle Times does now (as well as the NYTimes), my advisor would have had my head.

      Delete
  9. I was also appalled at the distortion contained within the article. No mention of fuel load and the claim that two recent years were the worst fire years in history were ridiculous. Some additional research reveals that the Climate Lab is composed primarily of journalists who all seem to hold BA degrees in subjects other than the sciences. Amazing, but it explains a lot!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DRHEALY, I can't tell you the number of people in Washington state employed in scientific fields at schools and agencies (dept of ecology), that do not have PHYSICAL SCIENCE DEGREES. When did it becomes a thing to hire a BA in biology or ecology and then have to explain science without understanding the physical laws that rule the planet and universe? I was shocked.

      Delete
    2. 2023 saw massive wildfires in Canada that extended north of the Arctic Circle. It was the worst wildfire year in recorded North American history. Not coincidentally, it was also the hottest year in recorded history, worldwide.

      Delete
    3. Jerry...yet this year is WARMER than last year and the fires are far, far less, in both number and intensity. There is more going on...cliff

      Delete
    4. Cliff - I agree, heat is a contributing factor but far from the only one. That said, given that 90% of the world's forests are in the northern hemisphere, where summer is barely getting started, might it be a bit early to break out the champagne on this year's fire season?

      Delete
  10. Are we in drought or not? From KOMO: "We’re already under a drought declaration,” Franz said". My Lake Stevens weather station says we had 2.63" of rain so far in May. Cliff, can you point to a reliable source for precip info for the region? I'm pretty good w google, but the answer to this simple question is hard to pin down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Craig, this is a comprehensive source. You may need to select "Washington" in the state tab. It shows precipitation (which is not below-normal this year), and snowpack (which is most definitely below normal this year in Washington). The problem is that most of that precipitation has fallen as rain, not snow.
      https://wcc.sc.egov.usda.gov/reports/UpdateReport.html?textReport=Washington&textRptKey=12&textFormat=SNOTEL+Snow%2FPrecipitation+Update+Report&StateList=12&RegionList=Select+a+Region+or+Basin&SpecialList=Select+a+Special+Report&MonthList=May&DayList=26&YearList=2024&FormatList=N0&OutputFormatList=HTML&textMonth=May&textDay=26&CompYearList=select+a+year

      Delete

Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

More Rain for the Northwest is Good News for Wildfires

After a very pleasant dry spell, another rainy period is ahead for the western side of the region and the Cascades on Friday and Saturday.  ...