Wildfire warming effects

Wildfire warming effects

23 March 2008

published by http://washingtontimes.com

USA — California has gained an international reputation for its efforts to fight global warming — but the progress the state makes is often undone right here at home.

The catastrophic and unnatural forest fires that ravage California each year don’t resemble the historic fires that took place in these forests for millennia. Frequent lightning and Indian-set fires that burned along the ground, igniting only scattered small groups of trees, kept forests open and healthy, and resistant to catastrophic fires.

Some people argue we have to live with fire. On the contrary, an industrialized world can’t live with fire. We would have to move out of our forests to be safe and get out of our cars to eliminate tailpipe emissions to make up for the greenhouse gases that wildfires emit into the atmosphere.

That isn’t realistic, so the only solution is to fight global warming and protect our communities and forests by reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires.

In an extensive study I authored for the Forest Foundation, the findings show four notable California fires — Angora, Fountain, Star and Moonlight — have or will spew an estimated 38 million tons of greenhouse gases into the air, equivalent of adding 7 million cars to our roads for a year.

The study utilizes a new computer model developed specifically to quantify the impact of fires and insect infestations on global warming.

Why do many forests burn? They have too many trees.

The four fires analyzed averaged 350 trees per acre where 50 trees per acre would be natural. Some California forests have over 1,000 trees per acre. These dense forests, especially with small trees growing under larger trees as ladder fuel, and woody debris on the ground, are the two most important contributors to the size and severity of wildfires.

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