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RE: Colorado/western US fires
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6/28/2012 at 4:20:39 PM GMT
Posts: 5
RE: Colorado/western US fires
R. Isaac said:

On behalf of all ASA'ers, I'd like to express our deep concern and our prayers for the safety of our members and their families in Colorado and other affected states with these unprecedented fires. The threat is not only physical life and possessions but psychological, emotional, and spiritual trauma. As scientists, we are concerned about the factors causing so many intense fires and, after these fires are contained, we need to work to reduce the potential for any recurrence. As Christians, we seek to care for one another and reach out with a loving and helping hand.

If any of you are directly affected, please share your experiences in this forum.

 

A good friend of mine lost his home to the High Park Fire. He won't be rebuilding. He mentioned how in the past decade the mountains are radically different place. Every fire season you are now on pins and needles when before it was an afterthought. The Pine Bark beetle has become an epidemic in the Rocky Mountains making a part of the one two punch with the heat and dryness. When I purchased my home in 1989 I was told by realtor that in Colorado AC was unnecessary. You just opened your windows at night. Now we had a record-breaking five consecutive days of over 100. Four times Denver hit an all time record of 105 degrees. Two of those days were this week and one was in 2005 and one was in the 19th Century.

 

This is not merely anecdotal. Note these two studies.

 

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/316/5828/1181.abstract

 

<blockquote>How anthropogenic climate change will affect hydroclimate in the arid regions of southwestern North America has implications for the allocation of water resources and the course of regional development. Here we show that there is a broad consensus among climate models that this region will dry in the 21st century and that the transition to a more arid climate should already be under way. If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought or the Dust Bowl and the 1950s droughts will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.</blockquote>

 

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/50/21277.short

 

<blockquote>Climate models robustly predict that the climate of southwestern North America, defined as the area from the western Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean and from the Oregon border to southern Mexico, will dry throughout the current century as a consequence of rising greenhouse gases. This regional drying is part of a general drying of the subtropics and poleward expansion of the subtropical dry zones. Through an analysis of 15 coupled climate models it is shown here that the drying is driven by a reduction of winter season precipitation associated with increased moisture divergence by the mean flow and reduced moisture convergence by transient eddies. Due to the presence of large amplitude decadal variations of presumed natural origin, observations to date cannot confirm that this transition to a drier climate is already underway, but it is anticipated that the anthropogenic drying will reach the amplitude of natural decadal variability by midcentury. In addition to this drop in total precipitation, warming is already causing a decline in mountain snow mass and an advance in the timing of spring snow melt disrupting the natural water storage systems that are part of the region’s water supply system. Uncertainties in how radiative forcing will impact the tropical Pacific climate system create uncertainties in the amplitude of drying in southwest North America with a La Niña-like response creating a worst case scenario of greater drying.</blockquote>

When you look in the details of the papers it gets even scarier. This is climate change in its more radical form. The mechanisms of our climate are changing. Drought will no longer be something that comes and goes with La Ninas  but will be a permanent fixture of the climate. This Spring and Summer will become the "new normal". We may also be witnessing the mass extinction of our forests in the mountains. The natures of the wildfires is different. Instead of clearing out the underbrush these are crown fires. So, even the normal positive aspects of Western fires will be gone. While Rio+20 fiddled Colorado burned.