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    Default Study links wildfire boom with rise in temperatures

    I saw this in the local newspaper and thought it would be worthy of discussion. What do you think?


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Study links wildfire boom with rise in temperatures

    By ROBERT LEE HOTZ
    Los Angeles Times
    7/7/2006

    LOS ANGELES - In a devastating symptom of global warming, the changing weather of the West has stoked a rise in large wildfires over the past 34 years as spring comes earlier, mountain snows melt sooner and forests dry to tinder in a fever of rising temperatures, scientists reported Thursday.
    More than land use changes or forest management practices, the researchers concluded, the changing climate was the most important factor driving a fourfold increase in the average number of large wildfires in the Western United States since 1970.

    All told, the average fire season has grown more than two months longer, while fires have become more frequent, burn longer and are harder to extinguish. They burn 6.5 times more land than in the 1970s, the researchers found.

    Last year was the worst wildfire season on record, with more than 8.53 million acres burned nationwide by the end of December. So far this year, more than 60,000 wildfires have charred almost 3.9 million acres - twice the number of fires during the same period last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

    "It all fits together," said climate researcher Anthony Westerling, who led the research while at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. "The [fire] seasons do start earlier and run longer. It is consistent with a changing climate."

    In the first detailed study of its kind, scientists at Scripps and the University of Arizona analyzed 34 years of wildfire activity, from 1970 to 2003, as well as temperature records, snow-melt trends, stream flows and other climate-related data.

    The research, published online Thursday by the journal Science, was funded by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Forest Service and the California Energy Commission.

    They found that climate change magnified a regional pattern of natural disaster that every year costs more than $1 billion in federal firefighting expenses and untold property damages.

    "This is the equivalent for the West of what hurricanes are [on the coasts]," said fire ecologist Steven Running at the University of Montana in Missoula, who was not connected with the research. "This is an illustration of a natural disaster that is accelerating in intensity as a result, I feel, of global warming. This really links fire activity in the West to global warming."

    The Scripps research team stopped short of linking global warming due to rising levels of greenhouse gases to the increasing wildfire intensity, but they were confident that they have documented a broad climate trend at work and not a fluke of natural weather variability.

    "I see this as one of the first big indicators of climate change impacts in the continental United States," said Thomas W. Swetnam, director of the laboratory of tree-ring research at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who was part of the research team.

    Researchers reported that almost seven times more forested federal land burned between 1987 and 2003 than during the previous 17 years. During the same period, the length of the wildfire season increased by 78 days.


    http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial...07/1069752.asp
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    I believe that the world's climate is always changing. It is a chaotic system at the best of times. Mankind has always adapted to changing climatic conditions, even when we didn't know they were happening. We may be in a warming trend. Available evidence seems to indicate that probability.

    Notice in this study the reasearchers, who actually did the work, did not point out a cause. They did the work and published their results. The speculation about "global warming" being the cause come from the gloom and doom camp of belief. These people not only see climate change, but they believe it is all man's fault, the world as we know it is about to end, and if we spend enough money, we can fix it.

    I am not convinced that 1) man has as big an impact as these people claim , 2) we can do anything to prevent change or 3) prevention of change is a desirable condition.

    There are too many factors that affect the global climate that we have no control over at all. Things like the energy output of the sun (it cycles and is in an upward trend from all available evidence) and volcanic activity are two examples of things that have major impacts on long term weather patterns that have no relationship to mankinds activity.

    What do I take from this article? I will take the original numbers and research and use it as further justify the need for a new brush truck to my city council.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kd7fds
    I believe that the world's climate is always changing. It is a chaotic system at the best of times. Mankind has always adapted to changing climatic conditions, even when we didn't know they were happening. We may be in a warming trend. Available evidence seems to indicate that probability.

    Notice in this study the reasearchers, who actually did the work, did not point out a cause. They did the work and published their results. The speculation about "global warming" being the cause come from the gloom and doom camp of belief. These people not only see climate change, but they believe it is all man's fault, the world as we know it is about to end, and if we spend enough money, we can fix it.

    I am not convinced that 1) man has as big an impact as these people claim , 2) we can do anything to prevent change or 3) prevention of change is a desirable condition.

    There are too many factors that affect the global climate that we have no control over at all. Things like the energy output of the sun (it cycles and is in an upward trend from all available evidence) and volcanic activity are two examples of things that have major impacts on long term weather patterns that have no relationship to mankinds activity.

    What do I take from this article? I will take the original numbers and research and use it as further justify the need for a new brush truck to my city council.
    I agree that we are in an upward trend. However, I do think that this trend may be impacted, to what degree I cannot say, by humans. It is proven that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, many of the processes we take for granted produce CO2. I am not by any stretch saying that the end is near, but I do believe that we do have an impact on our environment, and climate, however small that may be.

    What I was looking at more was if the increased difficulty in containment and extinguishment is due to the warming trend or land management practices. I would think that no matter how warm it gets (within reason) or how quickly it gets there, good land management practices will slow fire spread, and make it easier to confine and extinguish, but, I am not a wildfire expert by any stretch of the imagination.

    And good luck on the brush truck.
    Shawn M. Cecula
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    Wow!

    They looked at whole of 34 years of climatological data to reach that conclusion!

    What great science!

    Let's see...

    If you look at 1970 to 2003, there where 12 major hurricanes to hit the U.S.

    In the the preceding 34 years ('35 to '69) there where 26 major hurricanes to hit the U.S.

    Hey, Global Warming must've cut our liklihood of being hit by a major hurricane in half!

    Yeah, right.

    Anytime someone starts postulating global warming is the cause of something, the words "junk science" come to mind.

    Yes, it may be happening. And whether or not it happens, it would be a good thing to cut our CO2 emissions.

    But frankly, we really don't have the depth of knowledge developed yet to blame issues on it.

    One part of the problem is we have only been keeping detailed, global climatological records for under 150 years...give or take 75 years or so in different areas.

    We don't know what "normal" is.

    When Lewis & Clark first saw the Great Plains, they said it was great.

    The next generation of explorers didn't know what Lewis & Clark where smoking with the Indians...they called the same area The Great American Desert.

    30 years later, pioneers thought it was the greatest agricultural land on earth.

    Then it went bust.

    Then it boomed in the golden age of agriculture in the 19-teens.

    And by 1930, it was a dust bowl again.

    Thirty year trends on a complex issue don't even begin to impress me, because they are well within normal climatic fluctuations.

    In 1816, it snowed in Connecticut in June. Yes, part of that was from the explosion of Mount Tambora. Part of it was that was still during the "Little Ice Age."

    Heck, look at New England --

    Since the ice sheet retreated about 12,000 years ago New England has never existed in a state untouched by man. The ecology of our area is still influenced by the original humans to the areas who early on adopted fire as a normal practice -- burning the underbrush from the woods. Our trees by and large are species adapted to fire. That's not an accident -- and the original settlers in New England could see the affects of the "open forest" the natives maintained with fire.

    How do you fix what is normal and natural, when there has never been an ecology in place since the last ice age in my area that wasn't directly manipulated by man?

    Ok, maybe I should rant off.

    But I get the impression there are people trying to re-live glory days of being able to ban pollutants based on direct correlations (like DDT to egg shells). We don't have enough knowledge here -- and I'd argue that CO2 emmission reductions should simply be argued on the basis that it's good policy to reduce pollution, rather than trying to show a tenous existence of "climate change" which is like saying rain is wet -- yes, it's a fact the climate changes.

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    I thought it was things like lightning, camp fires, and stupid people with ciggarettes. I'm pretty sure the place would burn even if the overall temperature was 5 or 10 degrees cooler. I really don't think 100 vs 90 degrees is making a functional difference.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Dal,
    I was hoping you would reply to this one. I am in agreement with your line of thinking. 35 years data is definitely a small sample size for the hypothesis being investigated. I know that data has been available through other sources (rocks, strata, trees) for CO2 vs temperature going back a long while. (I dont remember the source, just remember seeing graphs and such) The same cyclic CO2 and temperature pattern has been observed since before man walked this earth. But, there has been a slight change in the slope of the change since the industrial revolution. This could be due to any number of causes, but people will equate it to mans fault. I agree CO2 control is a good policy to adopt on the principal that we should reduce pollution emissions. I dont see us causeing a "The Day After Tomorrow" scenario, but, I do see changes in our climate. It will be interesting to see what coming years bring us in the way of hurricane activity, and fire activity.
    Shawn M. Cecula
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    In the early and middle 1970s, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous other mainstream publications ran story after story breathlessly describing how the world as we knew it was poised to suffer an environmental calamity due in part to mankind's activities.

    The great disaster looming in our future was a New Ice Age.

    Now, three decades later we're overheating.

    I echo Dal's comments. Junk science designed to appeal to populations that make decisions by 30 second sound bytes.

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    Someone get Al Gore in here, if he isn't too busy inventing the internet.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I think somebody is justifying their grant money. I've heard for years how the US Forest Service has been suppressing fires for 100 years which has resulted in increased fuels leading to larger fires. Only problem with that is the US Forest Service only implemented the 10 O'clock policy (all fires to be contained by 10, O'clock the next day) in the mid 1930's and by the 1970's they started reintroducing the idea of prescribed fire use, so the 100% policy was only a period of 30-40 years, not 100. Granted there is room for more fire use but there are many factors hampering that.

    The thing that gets me with all this the fires are getting worse is 2 of the biggest fires of all time happend long before global warming, 100% suppression etc,

    in 1871 the Pestigo fire burned more than 1.5 million acres in Michigan / Wisconsin.

    in 1910 fires burned over 3 million acres in Idaho / Montana over a two day period.

    While much later, but long before these issues were popular a fire occured in Central California, in 1961 the Harlow fire burned 20,000 acres in 2 hours, this is one of the fastest spreading fires ever recorded.

    You will notice all of these fires were well before the 1970 cut off used by the researchers.

    I'd be curious to see a 10 year trend over the last 150 years and see if we really have an increase.

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    I think that's part of the problem nonsurfin...

    We don't have any steady period over the last 150 or even 400 years (at least on my coast) to compare this with.

    If you look at southern New England from the early 1600s (mainly since I read some books that covered this period earlier this year )

    When the native population was at full strength, most of the forest understory was burned regularly.

    They could hunt, sneaking up on deer...because there where no leaves and twigs on the ground to go snap, crackle, pop. Each fall, or spring, the duff would be burned off.

    The forest floor was largely sparse grass and other light fuels. The canopy had lots of fire resistant nut bearing trees like Oaks and Chestnuts. So you had lots more deer and bear and other large animals then even today (!@#$% deer...)

    Where White Pines survived the fires, they grew to be 10-12' in diameter at their base, and towered upwards of 200' -- this is putting them in the class of size as a small Redwood!

    The early European explorers introduced new germs, and the native population dropped dramatically.

    When the first settlers arrived, they found many arable areas recently abandoned and started farming those. And while they saw the woods as more over-grown, they also realized they where not deep, dark woods.

    In the 150 years or so it took to push into the interior hill towns, the woods did become dense thickets, not having burned for the most part in a century and a half.

    By 1830, most of New England was open farm and grass lands, interspersed with the occassional woodlot.

    The forests of today are based on many of the fire resistant species, like Oaks, that where around from when natives managed the woods with fire.

    But we don't burn the woods anymore.

    So what is "natural?"

    Today's woods full of middle age trees, and a decent understory?
    Cleared agricultural fields?
    A forest of giants and a thicket underneath?
    A forest of giants with grass in the sun speckled understory?
    Do we go back to before man was influencing the woods, to sparse vegetation first establishing itself after the retreat of the glaciers?

    And if the ecosystem in New England developed pre-European with the native peoples, I've got to think it wasn't the only place influenced by ancient peoples.

    So that asks, what is the baseline for "bad" fire seasons and do we even understand yet how that ecosystem developed and how it acts over centuries?

    But like I said, I have no problem with CO2 limits. There are pollution sources we know -- like acid rain -- that continue to have impact on our forests whose cause-and-effect is much easier to demonstrate and prove. We do a **** poor job protecting ourselves from imported bugs -- hey, it's commerce, why stop people from shipping things in wood! Even if it brings in Chestnut Blight, Dutch Elm Disease, Adelgids that attack Hemlocks, our White Pines aint' doing so hot recently, and a myriad of other diseases that attack our trees. It's a travesty we're losing the rain forests at the rate we are. But of all the real and discrete and easily provable problems, why do so many activists rally around a flag that even if true ends up being, "Yeah, so...our climate is always changing."
    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 07-07-2006 at 05:22 PM.

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    Thumbs up Wow..................

    Fantastic Discussion. As a self-proclaimed "Weather Nut" (there are those who would say just plain nuts) I've watched this drama unfold over a period of time. And "A Period Of Time" is the problem. We simply do not have a strong enough data base, covering an adequate length of time, to use to draw conclusions that have a solid scientific certainty. Here in the Mid Atlantic area, the late 1940's had some really bad Fires. So did the early 60's, the mid 70's, the mid 80's. and the late 90's thru 2002. So what is the common point? I can't find one. If there were 500 years of data, I might be able to come up with a "Scale of Probability" to use in planning for future "Bad Fire" years, but it's not very reliable with the small amount of data currently available. Dal, any thoughts on this?......
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    Default And............

    I also thought the name of the author of the news article is appropriate to the subject matter.
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    Nice to see that someone has posted (and beat me to it) the mere fact that we have let the underbrush and fuels build up in forests and that in and of itself is detremental to the microenvironments of forests.

    It is that much easier for a small fire to burn up on the high fuel loads in the lower levels of the forest and quite easily work its way up into a crown fire and burn every damned thing thing from top to bottom. Thus burning longer, hotter, deeper (many fires can easily get deep into the undergrowth), and all of this combined makes it more difficult to extinguish - thus allowing other fires to continue to burn because of the difficulty with resource allocation.

    As mentioned, the native populations (before us white folk arrived to screw things up) used to do their own "prescribed burns" and if a fire were started by lightning it would be allowed to burn itself out.

    To use two examples - Yellowstone Nation Park fire in 1988 devastated huge tracts of land within and outside of the park in Montana and Wyoming. The environmental eco-nuts went ballistic over it. Turns out that it was one of the best ecological things (on a micro level) for the forest to have happen to it.

    Same can be said for the area around Mt. St. Helens - the hundreds of thousands of devasted acres of trees have begun to regrow and seed new forests to rejuvinate its ecology.

    So why are these fires all fought and extinguished so rapidly???????

    1) People have no understanding of the ecology that is evolving here, they only see teh short term damage, not understanding that it is best in the long term.

    2) People drop down McMansions worth several hundred thousand dollars in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere and are shocked when mother nature steps into the mix and lo and behold their home is threatened. I mean what in the hell did you expect people? So we fight these fires to save homes that are in the wildland/urban interface and we naturally have to fight the fire because we can't lose the house.

    3) Because we can, and man has always feared fire and must do all that he can to stop it and minimize its risk. Sometimes you just have to let things burn out on their own - and things go better that way.

    Now I am no environmentalist wacko, tree hugging, end of the world, doomsday theorist, but people have made a tremendous impact here. We need to do what is right for the LONG TERM, not be so short sighted.
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    Talking Yup!!............

    Quote Originally Posted by DaSharkie
    Now I am no environmentalist wacko, tree hugging, end of the world, doomsday theorist, but people have made a tremendous impact here.

    OK, OK. Would you settle for a just plain wacko label?? (Sorry Bro, I couldn't pass that up)

    You are, of course, right on the money. Prescribed Burning does a lot of good, and I am one who supports the practice. One problem that has occured from time to time is that the "Controlled burn" becomes a "Uncontrolled Burn" and causes damage to property that it was supposed to benefit. Los Alamos, NM comes to mind as one, probably the worst, example of an "Uncontrolled" Burn. If there is anything that's in short supply in the Wildland Fire Protection business, it's education of the public in what is needed to properly manage our Forest resources. In Maryland, it is extremely difficult to get the State to participate in Prescribed Burning for private landowners AND other Government agencies because "we don't have the money or people" to do it. The ONLY item on the Environmental agenda in this State is "Saving" the Chesapeake Bay, and the jerks that are looting every other agency in the Department of Natural Resources to pay for it. Other problems that we encounter include the Clean Air freaks that go bananas at the first sight of a wisp of smoke.
    Several years ago, I was one of the management team on a 30 acre Fire when this woman appeared at the command post, literally screaming that we must stop the smoke from blowing towards her house. I told her that she had two options, take a shovel and join the crew building the line, or be taken into custody for disorderly conduct and a competentcy exam. She disappeared instantly. But that's the kind of crap we live with. And I don't see it getting better.
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    I'm no scientist or chemist. But something tells me that huge amounts of artificially made compounds being put into an organic environment is not a good thing.

    And for the record. Most sane people realize that Gore pushed the legislation that brought the internet into the public domain. No one ever believed he worked on the old DARPANet writing code.

    So give your Gore bashing a rest. And for the record I'm not a big fan of his either.
    Last edited by scfire86; 07-09-2006 at 11:06 AM.
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    For what it's worth, the exact quote:

    During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

    And we remember Ford for his clumsiness tripping as much as we remember Gore for his clumsiness in turning a phrase. Fair? Probably not. But fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dalmatian190
    For what it's worth, the exact quote:

    During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

    And we remember Ford for his clumsiness tripping as much as we remember Gore for his clumsiness in turning a phrase. Fair? Probably not. But fun.
    When it comes to malapropisms our current Idiot in Chief will have no peer when the history books are written.

    I bet his English profs at Harvard are very proud of giving him passing grades.

    And you're right. It is fun.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86
    When it comes to malapropisms our current Idiot in Chief will have no peer when the history books are written.

    I bet his English profs at Harvard are very proud of giving him passing grades.

    And you're right. It is fun.
    Don't forget Yale.

    Same as former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Cinton and Gerald Ford, VP Dick Cheney, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senators Hillary Clinton, Mark Dayton, James Jeffords, John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Arlen Spector.

    Kinda makes you think what they actually teach at those Elite Ivy League schools...
    --------------------------------------------------------

    As for global warming someone might want to point out that the United States is not the only country on the planet. I am certain that India, China and Russia (and all their states) are really concerned with global warming.
    Last edited by lexfd5; 07-09-2006 at 12:47 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lexfd5
    Don't forget Yale.

    Same as former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Cinton and Gerald Ford, VP Dick Cheney, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senators Hillary Clinton, Mark Dayton, James Jeffords, John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Arlen Spector.

    Kinda makes you think what they actually teach at those Elite Ivy League schools...
    The big difference is none of those you mention mangle the english language like Dubya.

    But you're correct. It makes you wonder just how tough a program they're running considering the amount of money paid and the difficulty to get accepted. Although there are those who accuse Dubya of being accepted on a rich person's version of affirmative action program. What is tacitly known as the legacy admission at both Yale and Andover Academy.
    Last edited by scfire86; 07-09-2006 at 06:24 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods
    OK, OK. Would you settle for a just plain wacko label?? (Sorry Bro, I couldn't pass that up)
    Hey man, I know I am a wacko. Certifiably so. No insult received on this end. Mrs. Sharkie would totally agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by scfire86
    When it comes to malapropisms our current Idiot in Chief will have no peer when the history books are written.
    You obviously have not heard of the mayor of Boston. Allow me to introduce you to Mayor Thomas Menino a.k.a "Mumbles."

    http://www.mumblesmenino.us/


    Your point is well taken. Though it does depend upon which situation he is in when it comes the President's speaking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaSharkie
    Your point is well taken. Though it does depend upon which situation he is in when it comes the President's speaking.
    Never heard of him. But when folks start putting books together Dubya sayings this will be a place to start.
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    Let’s see… “So far this year, more than 60,000 wildfires have charred almost 3.9 million acres…”. This means that there was a mean average of over 300 wildland fires per DAY. If we can assume that there were few wildland fires in January and February, that means a mean average approaching 500 wildland fires per day. What’s wrong with this picture???? I can’t wait to read the entire article in Science.

    In some related research, several years ago I read a report (I believe financed by the National Academy of Sciences and conducted by MIT) where an increase in pollution generated particles have caused rain droplets to decrease in size. Also, the number of rain drops have increased due to the increase in the number of particles. (Remember that in order for a rain drop to form, a dust particle is needed so that the water molecules can coalesce around the particle.)

    Since the global temperature has increased, the smaller water droplets evaporate faster as they descend through the atmosphere. This is due to the smaller droplets having a larger surface area to diameter ratio. The droplet then increases in temperature faster resulting in more water being evaporated.

    The effect of more water evaporating is that water vapor is a “greenhouse” gas. This then increases the global temperature with a spiraling effect. It was predicted that within 50 to 75 years the effect will be that no water will reach the ground surface as the droplets will be smaller and smaller increasing the evaporation rate.

  23. #23
    IACOJ BOD
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    So we got 50 to 75 years to grow taller as a species?

    Sunshine come on down here for a visit in RAIN season.

    I can show you THAT is BS.

    Yup we been smacked by the flood beast for the last three years running.

    EVERYONE has been saying it is colder this year than they can remember.

    Gues what....

    "This year is NORMAL". Based on 125 years of weather / temparuture recording in Kiwi Land.

    The last 3 years were warmer.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by FireH2O
    Let’s see… “So far this year, more than 60,000 wildfires have charred almost 3.9 million acres…”. This means that there was a mean average of over 300 wildland fires per DAY. If we can assume that there were few wildland fires in January and February, that means a mean average approaching 500 wildland fires per day. What’s wrong with this picture???? I can’t wait to read the entire article in Science.
    Actually there were alot of fires in Jan and Feb, I guess you weren't paying to Texas, Oklahoma and Florida earlier this year. THe fire season is year round in the US, starts out in the south, moves to the SW in the spring, then north in the summer comes out to California in the fall and then the east gets it in the late fall, then back to the south.

    The west gets most of the big front page fires but wildland is a problem across the nation.

  25. #25
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    SCfire Quote

    Never heard of him. But when folks start putting books together Dubya sayings this will be a place to start.


    I would have to say that for a guy I have supported on many of the issues in the past and present, his inability to master speaking can be an embarassment.

    Hookem Horns

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