Climate change and B.C.'s wildfires

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      Scientists are quick to caution that no single extreme weather event can necessarily be linked to global warming.

      However, it's hard not to conclude that something is awry with the arrival of an early B.C. forest-fire season.

      B.C. government statistics show that in 2014, there were 369,169 hectares on fire. This exceeded the amount burned in each of the previous nine years.

      This year, there are already 221,455 hectares burned, exceeding all but two years from 2004 to 2014.

      Last year was the second-most expensive B.C. forest-fire season in a decade at $297.9 million. The average for the previous nine years was $177.9 million.

      In 2014 the average hectares per fire (248.8) were far above the norm. Only once in the previous decade (2010) did the average exceed 100 hectares per fire—that year, it was 201.6.

      This year, the average hectares per B.C. wildfire have reached 256. 

      Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists states on its website that the average length of the wildfire season in the Western United States rose from five months in the early 1970s to more than seven months now.

      There was an average of 140 fires per year larger than 405 hectares (1,000 acres) in the Western U.S. from 1980 to 1989. Between 2000 to 2012, the average increased to 250 fires per year.

      The UCS forecasts that every ecosystem type "is projected to experience an increase in average annual burn area".

      It cites an earlier spring snowmelt—triggered by warmer temperatures—causing soil to remain dryer for a longer period of time.

      "These hot, dry conditions also increase the likelihood that, once wildfires are started by lightning strikes or human error, they will be more intense and long-burning," the UCS states.

      A week ago, the Vancouver Sun reported that 64 temperature records were shattered across B.C. in a weekend heat wave.

      Yesterday and this morning, the Lower Mainland has been shrouded in a smoky haze from wildfires, causing coughing fits around the region and prompting an air-quality advisory.

      Yet amid the massive media coverage of B.C.'s forest fires, climate change has rarely been mentioned.

      Let's hope that this changes in the coming week.



      new to bc

      Jul 6, 2015 at 11:10am

      How confident are we that fire fighting efforts are effectual? It amazes me that so many fires burn out of control, all over the province.

      Richard S.

      Jul 6, 2015 at 12:55pm

      We were warned.

      miss leei

      Jul 6, 2015 at 1:31pm

      .yes p

      Charlie sez...

      Jul 6, 2015 at 2:04pm

      "However, it's hard not to conclude that something is awry with the arrival of an early B.C. forest-fire season."

      Hard for YOU maybe... . someone who finds concluding the meme as second nature.
      The rest of us however, note that its an El Nino year.

      Oh Well

      Jul 6, 2015 at 10:04pm

      Until every tree is gone and we've all died of cancer from the emissions of cars and cargo ships we'll go blithely along blaming campers and smokers for the fires. Oh wait. We'll be dead so it's all good. Keep buying and driving.


      Jul 6, 2015 at 10:33pm

      It depends what scientists experts you talk too? What snow melt? Ask all the local ski hills just in the lower mainland area how much snow they received last winter? Snow melt gimme a break!

      Reasonable Head

      Jul 7, 2015 at 11:34am

      As soon as the sky was blotted out, I decided it was time to leave, so I did. The smoke was pretty much pervasive all of the way to Cache Creek. By Williams Lake it thinned a bit and in Quesnel, where I am now, it is now rolling in from some other fire, so it is time to leave. That our population is too large to do what I am doing simply means that our population is too large. A system that caters to people who don't know to flee from smoke is a ridiculous system.

      I question the efficacy of a political system that allows people who will tolerate such amounts of smoke to vote and have a say in matters of environmental regulation; I don't think we can rely on "science" to solve problems that "science" created. Only a moron would need a peer-reviewed study to tell him that breathing smoke is bad for his body.

      Climate Change is really very little more than a proxy issue for overpopulation; the problem isn't really CO2 use per individual; if we had radically fewer individuals, we could produce more CO2 per individual and still come out OK. The problem is too many individuals, and most of that problem is in Asia, not Canada. Unfortunately, absent some sort of military intervention that is not likely to succeed, Canada can do nothing about Asia's overpopulation. So, I think the prevailing view here is "whatever we do will do almost nothing, so let's just let it ride and make as much money as possible while Asia slowly poisons us all!" After all, at least some people can then buy HEPA filters and ventilation, etc.

      out at night

      Jul 7, 2015 at 11:42am

      When you go to the polls in the fall to vote in our next federal election, take a moment to consider what the Liberal Party of Canada did after signing the Kyoto Accord: NOTHING. I mean, never mind the Conservatives, but if Justin and the remnants of his do-good posse want us to think they'll ride to the rescue, well, don't think that. They wouldn't. Vote for the people you think might actually get off their asses and do something. So far the two political parties who've been running this country since its confederation have done nothing but harm.