A Few Things Ill Considered

RealClimate on the Australian bushfires

I recently wrote about the tragic bushfires in Australia and how it seems to me that it is reasonable to ask if this would have happened without anthropogenic climate changes.

Real Climate has the details on this in their latest post: Bushfires and extreme heat in south-east Australia.

The post is by David Karoly, Professor of Meteorology at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He identifies four factors in the fire’s ferocity – maximum temperatures, relative humidity, wind speeds and the ongoing drought – and discusses the possible role of climate change in each of them. For three of the four, climate change is either likely a factor or consistent with the observations. Wind speeds were not exceptional or related.

He begins this way:

There has been very high global media coverage of this natural disaster and, of course, speculation on the possible role of climate change in these fires. So, did climate change cause these fires? The simple answer is “No!” Climate change did not start the fires.

and I suppose it is important to state that clearly and plainly right up front, because “caused by” (wrong) is easily conflated with “would not have happened without” (my opinion).

What we had in Australia at the onset of these fires was a convergence of many extreme, and some unprecedented, conditions. Record breaking highs (like 47.5oC in Laverton), an extreme heatwave (“unprecedented in 154 years of Melbourne observations”), record low relative humidity (5%), a 12 year long drought and a record dry start to the year all conspired to create a huge tinderbox of bush. Lightening and arsonists were the triggers.

One very interesting thing Karoly discusses in the article is the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) designed to gauge the weather conditions associated with fire danger. The scale was adjusted so that the weather during the infamous Black Friday fires in 1939 would have had a rating of 100. Ratings above 50 are considered extreme. At a number of sites in Victoria, Australia on February 7, 2009, the FFDI reached “unprecedented levels, ranging from 120 to 190.”

His conclusion is:

While it is difficult to separate the influences of climate variability, climate change, and changes in fire management strategies on the observed increases in fire activity, it is clear that climate change is increasing the likelihood of environmental conditions associated with extreme fire danger in south-east Australia and a number of other parts of the world

The article generally supports what I said, despite a couple of scolding comments I received, that it is not at all indefensible to say that this event was outside the natural range. Because he is a responsible scientist, he couches his conclusions in caveats and qualification. But, as I am an irresponsible blogger, I get to call a spade a spade.

This event would not have happened without the impacts of anthropogenic global warming.

Comments

  1. #1 Ed Nemechek
    February 16, 2009

    (letter to Editor, for publication) –STOP THE AUSTRALIAN WILDFIRES AND IMPEACH THE TOP RESPONSIBLE OFFICIALS !! –Why didn’t they call in the available Supertanker waterbomber aircraft (12,000 to 24,000 gallon water or retardant drop capacity) that would have stopped these fires cold in the beginning of the fires? –see: evergreen supertanker (on internet) or: waterbomber.org (on internet) or (-1-804-240-4065 Global Emergency Response- IL-76, Supertanker).
    These eight aircraft should have been called in weeks ago, two from California and six from the international Russian Water Bomber fleet and even NOW! –and put on contract for future use. These fires shouldn’t have to happen year after year (JBS.org (search: wildfire). -What is happening in Australia now is an example of what has been happening in America also for many years because they REFUSED the Supertankers. The responsibility for these fires rests with the top fire officials and government potentates at the top who have REFUSED to use the Supertanker final solution for over 14 years and let Australia (and America) burn. Impeachment and appropriate prosecution is certainly in order for these top officials, from the Prime Minister (or President) on down. Supertanker water bombing aircraft have been available for over 14 years and not used by top fire officials !! -Sincerely, Ed Nemechek, PO- Box 3263 Landers, California.92285 -760-246-8059. ednemechek@verizon.net

  2. #2 Peter McKellar
    February 17, 2009

    Ed Nemechek,

    They don’t use them because firefighters tell us consistently that they just don’t work. That seems like a good enough reason not to waste public funds on them.

    They do make good media events tho. The media photographers get to come out, take photos, go “ohhh, ahhh”, they do one token run and then get rolled back into the hangar. It does keep many of the press away from the danger areas and allow the real work to be done on the ground.

    “final solution”? – has an ominous sound. Where have I heard that before?

  3. #3 Ed Nemechek
    February 17, 2009

    To: Peter McKellar : I would make the assumption that you have been exposed to the propaganda of the Fire Industrial Complex that makes big bucks off these fires and doesn’t want to see the fires (and profits) end when the Supertankers come in and END the fires in about one day at relatively dirt cheap prices. We should remember that the Russian Supertanker fleet of 5 Supertankers (now 6) has been stopping fires worldwide for over 15 years with a 100% record of accident free effective firefighting and the Canadian Supertanker fleet of 2 Supertankers has a 45 year accident free great record. There is also a Boeing- 747 Supertanker (biggest in the world at 24,000 gal. capacity) in California that could be used. We must end the monopoly of the worldwide Fire Industrial Complex that deliberately and horribly facilitates fires (now in Australia), by refusing the Supertankers (as they have done in Australia), and feeds off the charred bodys of innocent victims worldwide. The people in Australia and the U.S. should DEMAND the Supertankers be used and impeach and prosecute ANY politician failing to use them as allowing the fires to continue is mass murder. – Ed Nemechek, California -USA. -760-246-8059.

  4. #4 Lee
    February 18, 2009

    For those of you who haven’t been exposed to it before, Ed Nemechuk has been positng this drivel for years, throughout the American west.

    The DC10- supertanker costs $30,000 / hour to operate, with a 3 hour contract minimum. That means it costs $90k every tie it is called. The evergreen 747 supertanker was more like $50k / hour, with a 5 hour minimum. With turnaround times factored i, that means it costs $20,000 – $50,000 per single fire retardant drop, using these airplanes.

    A drop from the supertankers is about 20,000 gallons run out over several hundred yards – maybe a third of a mile – with a drop width of a few dozen yards. A drop of that magnitude, delivered at a max rate of perhaps 1.5 drops per hour, will not put out a developed fire, or even slow it all that much. Hell, it usually wont put out a developing fire, even assuming that one can find the fire core and target it early enough to have a chance of getting the entire fire covered with one drop.

  5. #5 MikeB
    February 18, 2009

    The ‘Fire Industrial Complex’ – WTF?

  6. #6 John
    February 19, 2009

    Well hot damn Ed, how much is the company paying you?

  7. #7 Ed Nemechek
    February 20, 2009

    IT’S APPARENT THE SUPERTANKER CRITICS HERE ARE ENGAGING IN SELF-SERVING DISINFORMATION (I think they’re firefighters or officials afraid the Supertankers will stop their money-making fires and cut off their overtime pay and jobs). The Boeing -747 Supertanker (24,000 gal. capacity) can lay down a retardant fire break 100 feet wide and 25,000 feet long in seconds, and would have stopped the Australian fires cold in the beginning of the fires, and even later, or now (see: JBS.org (search: wildfire) –see: evergreen supertanker (on internet) or: waterbomber.org (on internet) or (-1-804-240-4065 Global Emergency Response- IL-76, Supertanker). The Supertankers are cheap compared to the $million per day average it costs to fight only one wildfire with ground pounder troops that take weeks or months to follow the fires until they burn out by themselves. It’s obvious to me that top fire officials oppose the Supertankers because they don’t want to see their firefighting empires end when the Supertankers end the fires in 1 or 2 days instead of weeks or months. – PS: – I don’t receive any pay from Supertanker companies or anybody else. I simply want to save the lives of the fire victims that the top fire officials sacrifice every year by their inhuman selfish REFUSAL to use the Supertankers. They should be investigated, prosecuted and doing life in prison. — ednemechek@verizon.net

  8. #8 Ed Nemechek
    March 12, 2009

    REPEAT WARNING FOR THIS SPRING: -WILDFIRE ARSON is becoming commonplace in our state and country and has to be combated. Reports from arson investigators in Australia indicate over 1500 arson caused wildfires there since October of last year reportedly causing the worst natural disaster in the history of Australia. In view of this we must BEWARE OF al-Qaidas’ worldwide wildfire threat recently.– REGARDING THE MASSIVE AUSTRALIAN ARSON WILDFIRES going on there and wildfires now occuring across America, where arson is suspected, that have already killed one firefighter in Oklahoma, I think it’s obvious this kind of thing can, is, and has happened here and in other countries, which is why we need to build and employ large numbers of Supertanker Jumbo Jet firefighting aircraft as rapidly as possible as al-Qaida has said they intend to employ wildfire against the whole world (that means us), even to the extent of creating artificial climate change from the fire pollution. WE MUST DEMAND THE SUPERTANKERS BE BUILT AND USED – NOW, (there are 9 Supertankers operational worldwide at this time that could have saved Australia, and can save our country IF used this year (see: JBS.org (search: wildfire) or: (1-800-JBS-USA-1 for free info. packet) or: waterbomber.org or: evergreen supertanker (on internet). – Ed Nemechek.California.-U.S.A. —760-246-8059. — ednemechek@verizon.net

  9. #9 Crakar14
    March 12, 2009

    Ed, do you really think the CIA would set fire to their own country?

    Anyway i have a question for everyone, according to Coby Et al, the bushfires were caused by GW. However it has recently snowed in the Alpine regions of Australia (not far from the fires). Snow in the middle of summer!!!!!! We dont get much snow here in the middle of winter how can this be?

    So if GW caused the extreme that caused the bush fires i wonder what caused the snow to fall? And please dont give me that GW causes GW and cooling.

  10. #10 coby
    March 12, 2009

    Actually, what I said was: “This event would not have happened without the impacts of anthropogenic global warming.” There are always many contributing factors in any extreme event.

    Crakar, is it unusual to get below freezing in those regions? I ask because snow is the result of sub-zero temperatures AND percipitation. Increased snowfall is aften a result of warming as colder air can not hold as much moisture. This is why, for example, the greenland ice sheet is thickening in the high elevation interior, the slight warming is causing more percipitation.

    Regardless, it is unlikely that a simple cold snap can be attributed to a global climate change of any kind. The weather that resulted in the FFDI reaching 190, on the other hand, is truly remarkable.

  11. #11 Joe
    March 26, 2009

    The DC10- supertanker costs $30,000 / hour to operate, with a 3 hour contract minimum. That means it costs $90k every tie it is called. The evergreen 747 supertanker was more like $50k / hour, with a 5 hour minimum. With turnaround times factored i, that means it costs $20,000 – $50,000 per single fire retardant drop, using these airplanes

    whoever wrote this stupid comment needs to just stop writing. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT PAL. THE DC-10 ONLY COST $5,000 PER HOUR TO OPERATE AND ACT CHEAPER THAN TO RUN BECAUSE IT CAN DO IN ONE DROP WHAT AN S-2 OR P-3 CAN DO IN 8 OR 9 DROPS. PLUS YOU HAVE DAILY COST WHICH ARE WITH EVERY AIRCRAFT AND WHICH DIFFER BUT NOT BY MUCH.

  12. #12 JOE
    March 26, 2009

    A drop from the supertankers is about 20,000 gallons run out over several hundred yards – maybe a third of a mile – with a drop width of a few dozen yards. A drop of that magnitude, delivered at a max rate of perhaps 1.5 drops per hour, will not put out a developed fire, or even slow it all that much. Hell, it usually wont put out a developing fire, even assuming that one can find the fire core and target it early enough to have a chance of getting the entire fire covered with one drop.

    ANOTHER STUPID COMMENT THE DC-10 WHICH IS THE ONLY ONE OF THE SUPERTANKERS IN THE USA WHICH CAN DROP RETARD. WILL LAY A LINE AND CAN LAY A LINE 150FTx3500FT. WATCH YOUTUBE!!!!