3 Sep 2009, 3:54pm
Climate and Weather The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

Mega Smoke in LA

The Station Fire [here] is 145,000+ acres and growing, and it has churned out smoke in unbelievably vast quantities. The smoke consists of ash and pyrolytic compounds such as carbon monoxide and dioxide. The smoke particles range in size from large embers down to a micron or less in diameter.

The fire has produced its own weather, including pyrocumulus clouds:

Time lapse pyrocumulus for the LA Station Fire

by Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That, Sept 2, 2009 [here]

Like volcanic eruptions, some fires grow large enough to make their own weather with the heat being released acting like convection. Witness this neat time lapse in HD showing the “Station” fire in the Angeles National Forest.

This video was made by photographer Brandon Riza on August 30th, 2009. It is quite well done and quite visually stunning. Click image for time lapse video.

pyrocumulus — A pyrocumulus or fire cloud is a dense cumuliform cloud associated with fire or volcanic activity.

A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture. Phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can induce formation of this cloud. The detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere will also produce a pyrocumulus in the form of a mushroom cloud which is made by the same mechanism. The presence of a low level jet stream can enhance its formation. Condensation of ambient moisture (moisture already present in the atmosphere) as well as moisture evaporated from burnt vegetation or volcanic outgassing occurs readily on particles of ash.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

Pyrocumuli contain severe turbulence which also results in strong gusts at the surface which can exacerbate a large conflagration. A large pyrocumulus, particularly one associated with a volcanic eruption, may also produce lightning. This is a process not fully understood as of yet, but is probably in some way associated with charge separation induced by severe turbulence, and perhaps, by the nature of the particles of ash in the cloud. Large pyrocumuli can contain temperatures well below freezing, and the electrostatic properties of any ice that forms may also play a role. A pyrocumulus which produces lightning is actually a type of cumulonimbus, a thundercloud and is called pyrocumulonimbus.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

Weather doesn’t burn, however; fuels do. Fuels are biomass, the product of biology, something that has been going on in California and elsewhere on this planet for a very long time (more than a billion years).

Human beings encountered SoCal at least 13,000 years ago. They soon discovered that massive conflagrations denuded the landscape and made survival (by humans) a tough go.

So humans (the regular kind, like you and me) figured out that if they burned off the landscape every year, the fires were less severe, the grass grew back quickly, game animals benefited, root crops benefited, an oak savanna developed, and humanity prospered.

About 12,500 years later, the resident land managers and stewards were eliminated by disease and conquest, and Euros took over. The Euros proclaimed manifest destiny and that God gave them personally this “wilderness,” even though everybody was aware that human beings already inhabited the place and had done so for millennia.

Intoxicated by the creation myth they promulgated, the Euros failed to understand traditional land management learned the hard way over thousands of years. The Euros rejected stewardship by anthropogenic fire, and allowed creosote-laden fuels to build up to catastrophic levels.

As predictable and preventable consequences, kaboom! holocausts break out every few years. Yet even after some 300 years of Euro myth-induced disasters, the current residents are STILL unaware and in denial of the time-tested lessons learned by the previous residents.

There are exceptions to the disastrous reign of myth, as indicated in the following news story:

Feds didn’t clear brush in wildfire area

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD (AP), Sept. 2, 2009 [here]

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away highly flammable brush in a forest on the edge of Los Angeles to avoid the very kind of wildfire now raging there, The Associated Press has learned.

Months before the huge blaze erupted, the U.S. Forest Service obtained permits to burn away the undergrowth and brush on more than 1,700 acres of the Angeles National Forest. But just 193 acres had been cleared by the time the fire broke out, Forest Service resource officer Steve Bear said.

The agency defended its efforts, saying weather, wind and environmental rules tightly limit how often these “prescribed burns” can be conducted.

Bear said crews using machinery and hand tools managed to trim 5,000 acres in the forest this year before the money ran out. Ideally, “at least a couple thousand more acres” would have been cleared.

Could more have been done to clear tinder-dry hillsides and canyons? “We don’t necessarily disagree with that,” Bear said. “We weren’t able to complete what we wanted to do.”

Some critics suggested that protests from environmentalists over prescribed burns contributed to the disaster, which came after the brush was allowed to build up for as much as 40 years.

“This brush was ready to explode,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district overlaps the forest. “The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today.”

Prescribed burns are intended to protect homes and lives by eliminating fuel that can cause explosive wildfires. The wildfire that has blackened 140,000 acres — or nearly 219 square miles — in the forest over the past week has been fed by the kind of tinder-dry vegetation that prescribed burns are designed to safely devour. The blaze has destroyed more than five dozen homes, killed two firefighters and forced thousands of people to flee. …

Figures from the California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District suggested even less was protectively burned. The agency said it granted six permits sought by the Forest Service to conduct prescribed burns on 1,748 acres in the forest this year. The agency reviews such requests to ensure air quality in the often-smoggy Los Angeles area will not be worsened by smoke from intentional fires.

But records show only 12.8 acres burned.

Four of the permits, totaling 1,257 acres, were granted in areas involved in the wildfire, according to the air quality agency.

But the Forest Service disputed those figures. Bear said 193 acres were cleared by intentionally set fires. …

Biologist Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization, said burn permits should be difficult to get because of the potential damage to air quality. Clearing chaparral by hand or machine must be closely scrutinized because it can hurt native species.

“Our air quality, for a variety of factors, doesn’t need to be further reduced by these controlled burns,” she said. …

The news report did not say whether the CBD biologist was cognizant of pyrocumulus clouds, or if she was choking, gasping, and flowing with tears when she made the above comments.

Other people are choking, gasping, and flowing with tears due to the smoke from a 145,000+ acre fire in Los Angeles. Note that the fire is 11,300 times larger than the paltry 12.8 acres the South Coast Air Quality Management District claims were controlled burned last year, and 750 times larger than the 193 acres the USFS claims they treated.

No word yet from the American Lung Association or local hospital districts regarding the emergency and long term respiratory health effects from the Station Fire. No doubt, hundreds of thousands of people are choking, gasping, and flowing with tears, and some of those will die soon (or have already) from respiratory distress.

The CBD obstructs tiny anthropogenic fire treatments, and that obstruction results in megafire disasters which the CBD is blind to and/or dismissive about. Maybe the smoke got in their eyes.

The CBD are dangerous crazies, IMHO, and in the opinion of many others as well. But let us not cast aspersions. The CBD have a right to their opinions, no matter how bizarre and irrational. The courts, on the other hand, have no business entertaining dangerous crazies and rewarding their madness with injunctions against beneficial stewardship actions.

Obstructing fuels management will NOT save native species from incineration. Taking all the homes off the hills will NOT prevent catastrophic fires. Cooling the planet (ha ha) with carbon taxes (a scam and a half) will NOT prevent the fires, either.

Catastrophic fires are plaguing North America from SoCal to Alaska and everywhere in between. It ain’t the climate, because the phenomenon of megafire occurs in all climates (except extreme polar ones). It’s the fuels, sports fans. No fuel management, no fire prevention.

Take a lesson from posterity, from thousands of years of on-site human experience: be good stewards of the landscape or Mother Nature will bite your backsides. Manage the fuels or suffer catastrophic fires. There are no other choices.

4 Sep 2009, 9:21am
by bear bait

So the folks in town think that industrial agriculture is a blight on the world, and we all need to eat from farmer’s markets. That would work for some in spring and summer, maybe fall. It would be a hungry winter and early spring.

The very same mindset ended logging on public lands, and tree cutting for any reason, and the very same people who bemoan the loss of lives and property still litigate at the drop of hat if cutting a tree is proposed. Or a controlled burn. After all, in Oregon, a field burn is a controlled burn. Slash burns and site prep are still burns. They are all opposed in (defective) principle by the litigation crowd of newly minted leftwing eco-lawyers and (putative) savers of the world.

So I read a comment by Valerius Geist which he attributes to French foresters. “If you want a beautiful forest, you must have a very sharp axe and a heart of stone.” The US has neither. And our forests are quickly becoming a thing of the past.



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