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New data completely destroys media claims of ‘Climate change is causing more wildfires’ – Do you stand out for that?


Originally posted at ClimateREALITY

The media, politicians and climate activists love to claim that climate change is making wildfires more frequent and larger. The link is thought to be one with increasing global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) due to the burning of fossil fuels and the belief that we will suffer increased impacts; hotter temperatures, more drought and increased wildfires as those two factors increase.

Here are some examples of media promoting this:

UN says climate change is causing more wildfires and governments are not prepared (PBS)

As the climate changes, the world grapples with the wildfire crisis (UNEP)

Climate scientists warn of ‘global wildfire crisis’ (NYT)

In the New York Times article, the subtitle revealed the alleged cause:

“According to a United Nations report, worsening heat and dryness could lead to a 50% increase in fires off the graph.”

Of course, the United Nations doesn’t do science, they do policy and politics, so treat their statements like salt in the water.

Fortunately, looking at real-world data can easily destroy such politically-based claims. The European Space Agency (ESA) maintains a database of forest fires burned, generated from Earth observation satellite data. Last year, the ESA announced an update to the dataset to bring it back to 1982:

Decade global fire data set placed to support trend analysis

“CCI Fire Brigade Extends Burn Area Record Back to 1982”

And here’s the fun part, when you use the ESA satellite data to actually analyze the trend as they suggest, there’s a surprise; there aren’t any.

Recent statistician Zoe Phin used that ESA satellite data for trend analysisand have this to say:

In a previous post, Global fire trends, I have shown the global fire trend of the past 21 years. I found a source with more data, going back to 1982. It came from a project funded by the European Space Agency. Right here. Actual data downloaded from UK server, here.

Phin created this graph (Figure 1) from that ESA satellite data:

Figure 1: ESA satellite data showing the Global Wildfire Area burned, in millions of square kilometers, between 1982 and 2018. Graph by Zoe Phin.

Phin adds something obvious, at least to trained eyes:

“The year 1994 is missing from their data, but that’s okay. It is clear that carbon dioxide has no effect on the fire. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar, a fool, or simply ignorant. Then it can be cured”.

While many people who follow the climate debate will be able to see a lack of correlation, it’s important to visualize data from different sources on the same chart so there’s no question of interpretation. . Here are two charts, Figure 2 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Monitoring Laboratory Website / Earth System Research Laboratory website where they show CO2 . Trend:

Figure 2: Graph showing the average monthly carbon dioxide measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. The carbon dioxide data on Mauna Loa constitutes the longest record for direct measurements of atmospheric CO2. The red line represents the monthly averages, centered between each month. The black line represents the same, after correction for the mean season cycle. Source: https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/

And in Figure 3 below, this is combined using the Figure 1 and Figure 2 graphs to create a new graph, Figure 3, set up to match the x and y scales, as well as the time scale of ESA satellite data is available from 1982 to 2018. Unfortunately, ESA did not provide data after 2018.

Figure 3: Graphical combination of Figures 1 and 2, with the numeric values ​​of the annual CO2 concentrations for 1982 and 2018 added for those years. Mix and match ratios by Anthony Watts, source of CO2 data here: https://gml.noaa.gov/webdata/ccgg/trends/co2/co2_annmean_mlo.txt

Apparently, there isn’t any correlation between increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and the amount of global wildfire burned. From 1982 to 1983 while CO2 levels increased, forest fires were less. Then from 1993 to 2012, forest fires increased due to increased CO2. Between 2012 and 2018, while CO2 increased steadily, the area of ​​wildfires globally decreased significantly, and the 2018 end point was actually lower than when the data began in 1982.

The lack of any sustainable correlation would undermine the statements of the United Nations and the media. If CO2 were in fact the knob to make wildfires worse, then wildfires would increase from 2012 to 2018 rather than drop dramatically.

This data has no agenda, it simply tells the story. But the media, politicians and climate activists don’t like contradictory data, because it spoils their stories.

Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at the Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front and behind the camera as a meteorologist on online television since 1978, and now does daily radio forecasts. He has created graphical weather display systems for television, specialized weather instruments, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed articles on climate issues. He runs the world’s most viewed climate website, the award-winning website wattsupwiththat.com.


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