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Old 06-19-2013, 08:02 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,020,776 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smdensbcs View Post
Lots and lots of relatively frequent smaller fires keep everything copacetic out there and minimize the risk of giant once-a-century monstrosities.

Unfortunately we are entering the age of the mega-wildfire, which would not occur save mankind has so badly influenced this global atmosphere.

Species such as lodgepole pine do depend upon periodic wildfires as part of their lifecycle. Other trees, at different elevations and climates, have different preferences. But the lodgepole pine, being inured to wildfire in part, serves as a good example of what is happening.

In much of north central Colorado, in such as Summit and Grand counties, and the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, there are large lodgepole pine forests. Now in many places with a current mortality of over 90% due the mountain pine beetle. This insect is native to the region, but so devastating now because these trees can no longer adequately protect themselves as before in being stressed due drought and ever warmer temperatures they are not adapted to. Other insects and diseases are involved now too, but in total resulting in literally many tens of millions of acres of forests now dead from Mexico into British Columbia.

The Big Meadows Fire in RMNP, about 4.5 miles north Grand Lake, CO, is burning in an area with a reported 80% tree mortality due the mountain pine beetle. This particular wildfire seems to have been largely contained, but in such circumstances could easily take everything out, both that alive and dead. The lodgepole forests may be adapted to wildfires, but not that.

The greatest number of large severe wildfires in the western U.S. have been since 2000; or as might be expected in a trend which will only intensify. While there have at times been large wildfires, never before at this size, intensity, and particularly number. It is not natural. Forests adapted to smaller wildfires are simply wiped out in mega-wildfires which burn so hot at times that even the soil that would otherwise regenerate new growth is scorched and cannot.

To repeat, there is nothing natural in this, and the direct result of mankind's intervention.

Colorado's landscape will likely become more as New Mexico's is today. Various species, animal and plant, will become extinct, move when able, or as case may be evolve. For all who have known and loved Colorado as she was and has been as generations past have all enjoyed, all they can do is stand witness and sadly shake their head.

This planet itself will of course survive, or at least until the sun goes supernova in some 5 billion years or so. But mankind seems intent on accelerating that, and far from taking note of what is already transpiring and mending their ways, only increasing year on year the addition of greenhouse gases. Whether we reach a projected 9 billion souls from about 7 billion currently well before the end of this century is debatable; there is at least a good chance that the number may prove far lower due famine, pestilence, wars and so forth.

But the greater pity is that all others of this Earth did not sign up for this, are not contributors to it, but will suffer the same. In fact many already have to a much greater extent, even to the brink of or actual extinction.

These are all natural forces. But there is a bad cook in the house, but one species, brewing a deadly recipe.

Last edited by Idunn; 06-19-2013 at 08:10 PM..

 
Old 06-19-2013, 08:59 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,783,192 times
Reputation: 9132
Setting aside the idea of man-caused global warming making the drought in the southern Rockies worse (and I'm not dismissing the likelihood of that), there are two major things that are leading to the current fire season being so potentially destructive--some experts predicting that this will be the worst fire season in the West in over a century:

1. Over a century of suppression of natural fires.
2. Over the past three of four decades, people stupidly--and I do mean STUPIDLY--building all kinds of man-made crap in fire prone forests. And continuing to do so, despite plenty of what now should be blatantly obvious evidence of just how stupid it really is.

Maybe a year like this, destructive as it may be, is what it takes to make people "get it."
 
Old 06-19-2013, 09:43 PM
 
811 posts, read 1,224,017 times
Reputation: 2111
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
At any rate, this is getting off topic. People come to this thread to read about fires, not ecology. If you're really interested in the subject, you can start a new thread, and I'll reply to you there.
I suppose so, but I find it hard to separate the two, fires and ecology. These fires remind me of the 2008 financial meltdown. Sort of obvious it was coming, that it HAD to come, largely caused by collective bad human decisions, but a bit shocking nonetheless when the xxxx actually hits the fan.

Your quote about longtime Colorado residents watching change they don't like with sadness reminds me of what the Native American tribes must have experienced when hordes of white folks swarmed into the region in the 1860's. Life is hard, then and now.

Jazzlover's surprisingly reasonable suggesting that this fire season might be the wake-up call we collectively need is playing out in real time here in Colorado Springs tonight. Smoke from multiple fires several counties away is forming a blanket of smoke over the city causing semi-pandemonium with apparently hundreds or thousands of calls to 911 trying to get information on what's happening. The local news stations are interrupting regular programs to plead with people to stop calling 911 that the system is innundated and that there are no new fires in El Paso county tonight. The fires have our collective attention, to say the least. Whether our "attention" will do any good short or long term remains to be seen I suppose.
 
Old 06-19-2013, 10:07 PM
 
Location: Southwestern, USA
15,143 posts, read 12,008,996 times
Reputation: 16544
My God, all my windows are closed, my eyes are burning...all over Colorado Springs!

I have never heard of this much smoke coming from hours away!
So many 911 calls, people are freaking...My Sharper Image Ionic Breeze is
working double time!!

I wish I had an oxygen tank!

509 houses gone in Black Forest, over $8 million to fight it...all contained now.
 
Old 06-20-2013, 12:20 AM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,697 posts, read 4,333,575 times
Reputation: 10278
@Idunn: "You must spread some reputation around before giving it to Idunn again."


Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post

Maybe a year like this, destructive as it may be, is what it takes to make people "get it."
I wouldn't bet on it. You'd think that after LAST summer's fire the people living in Black Forest would have woken up and smelled the coffee - or at the very least, the smoke. But apparently, most of them didn't. I could never understand why the people who lived there refused to thin their trees. Those spindly pines were crowded together and unhealthy looking for as long as I can remember.

People flip out for a while, but once there's a return to normal, they tend to have short memories and live in denial that it could ever happen to THEM.

And people in California apparently just accept that their homes will burn down every few years and when they do, the houses are rebuilt in highly flammable chaparral country just like before. My husband and I used to count on the extra wad of cash he got each year when the Forest Service here sent all their fire qualified people out to Cali to fight the fires that blew up out there every year - usually in August.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smdensbcs
I suppose so, but I find it hard to separate the two, fires and ecology. These fires remind me of the 2008 financial meltdown. Sort of obvious it was coming, that it HAD to come, largely caused by collective bad human decisions, but a bit shocking nonetheless when the xxxx actually hits the fan.
Ecology is about far more than fire, but an earlier understanding about the role fire plays in the ecology of our forests would have helped avoid the burning of many, many trees and acres of forest. This is true. Had we allowed the smaller fires to burn, our trees today would also be healthier. There would be more open spaces between trees allowing the canopy to get more sun and the roots to get more water and nutrients from the soil. Healthy trees can better withstand attack by pine beetle and other insects which can destroy trees, turning them into those sticks of dry tinder that we have all come to fear.

But even if all the trees were healthy going into this, continuing drought and warming would still have brought us to the same place we are now. Letting fires burn would have bought us a few more years, perhaps, but that's all.

Quote:
Your quote about longtime Colorado residents watching change they don't like with sadness reminds me of what the Native American tribes must have experienced when hordes of white folks swarmed into the region in the 1860's. Life is hard, then and now.
I never thought of it that way, but that's a pretty good analogy. We've seen the landscape of Colorado change irrevocably. Prairie grass used to grow where I-25 is now - part of a sea of grass that went all the way to Colorado's border with Kansas and beyond. Aspen was still an old, half deserted mining town, as was Telluride. Vail didn't exist. We had the wide open spaces to ourselves. That's gone now. I feel sorry for the younger people and coming generations who will never get to see or do the things I and other Coloradoans of my generation and the generations before had the good fortune to experience.

Hope the smoke in the Springs clears up soon - especially for you, Miss Hepborn.
 
Old 06-20-2013, 09:59 AM
 
Location: Bend, OR
3,296 posts, read 8,423,223 times
Reputation: 3321
Quote:
Originally Posted by smdensbcs View Post
Good luck with the mountain lion thing.

Fires are bad when they destroy structures, obviously, but ultimately (and please excuse my simple-minded understanding of this) aren't fires one of the fundamental ways nature has evolved to keep itself in balance? Forests don't regenerate without fire, pine cones don't pop out their little seeds without fire triggering them, right? Lots and lots of relatively frequent smaller fires keep everything copacetic out there and minimize the risk of giant once-a-century monstrosities. Maybe I've got it all wrong, but I always thought fire was a necessary part of things, like water, and gravity. Water and gravity can also be hugely destructive, like fire, if badly managed or not respected, yes?
Some pine species do require fire to regenerate. In Colorado, this would be the lodgepole pine. Many of the ski resort towns, such as Vail & Breckenridge, are located in lodgepole pine forests. The fire cycle in this forest type is about every 50-100 years in the Rocky Mountain region. These fires are stand replacement fires, meaning they burn hot, kill off all the trees, and then the cones of the lodgepole can open and the seeds are released.

Most of the fires occurring in Colorado are in ponderosa pine forests. This forest type doesn't require fire to regenerate, but rather requires fire to thin out. The natural fire cycle in this forest type is about every 25-50 years for large fires, but as short as 5 years for small, surface fires. These trees have very thick bark that is adapted to keep fire out of the canopy of the trees. The resulting surface fires keep ponderosa pine forests open and "park-like," with many tall, large diameter trees and few small trees. Communities all along the Front Range that are in the trees, are in this forest type. You don't need me to tell you that these forests, for the most part, do not resemble this open, park-like setting. They are thick with short, stubby pine. They are being managed by fire, or by anything else.

The higher elevation forests, are compromised of a spruce-fir mix. The natural fire cycle in this forest type is much longer (up to 300 years between fires). But, once again, once it gets burning in this forest type, generally it's a stand replacement fire. However, aspen is usually the first species to regenerate after one of these fires, as the spruce-fir forest type is the climax species

(Finally, I'm using that forestry degree again, ma! )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Rambler View Post
It will be something, but it may not be something we like. One hypothesis is that flora from the Sonoran life zone will gradually move further north in latitude and higher in altitude. If we're lucky, we might get Jeffrey Pines (now usually found in southern New Mexico and Arizona). On the other hand, we may just end up with a bunch of invasive species like cheat grass, leafy spurge, scotch nettle, etc. It's quite possible that for a very long time, no trees at all will grow where the forests once were. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that new species will evolve - in fact, I'm sure they will - but that's going to take a while. It's very hard to predict what's going to happen since there are so many unknown variables.
The forest types may change, but I don't think Jeffery pine will be the species. That pine is located mostly in Oregon and California, with a small pocket in CA. Maybe you're thinking of a different species? At any rate, I don't think any of us will see this change in our lifetime. Different species have already adapted to most of these forest types. Douglas-fir is an example. Once only found on north facing slopes in the Ponderosa pine habitat, it's now found throughout because of fire suppression.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Unfortunately we are entering the age of the mega-wildfire, which would not occur save mankind has so badly influenced this global atmosphere.

Species such as lodgepole pine do depend upon periodic wildfires as part of their lifecycle. Other trees, at different elevations and climates, have different preferences. But the lodgepole pine, being inured to wildfire in part, serves as a good example of what is happening.

In much of north central Colorado, in such as Summit and Grand counties, and the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, there are large lodgepole pine forests. Now in many places with a current mortality of over 90% due the mountain pine beetle. This insect is native to the region, but so devastating now because these trees can no longer adequately protect themselves as before in being stressed due drought and ever warmer temperatures they are not adapted to. Other insects and diseases are involved now too, but in total resulting in literally many tens of millions of acres of forests now dead from Mexico into British Columbia.

The Big Meadows Fire in RMNP, about 4.5 miles north Grand Lake, CO, is burning in an area with a reported 80% tree mortality due the mountain pine beetle. This particular wildfire seems to have been largely contained, but in such circumstances could easily take everything out, both that alive and dead. The lodgepole forests may be adapted to wildfires, but not that.

The greatest number of large severe wildfires in the western U.S. have been since 2000; or as might be expected in a trend which will only intensify. While there have at times been large wildfires, never before at this size, intensity, and particularly number. It is not natural. Forests adapted to smaller wildfires are simply wiped out in mega-wildfires which burn so hot at times that even the soil that would otherwise regenerate new growth is scorched and cannot.

To repeat, there is nothing natural in this, and the direct result of mankind's intervention.

Colorado's landscape will likely become more as New Mexico's is today. Various species, animal and plant, will become extinct, move when able, or as case may be evolve. For all who have known and loved Colorado as she was and has been as generations past have all enjoyed, all they can do is stand witness and sadly shake their head.

This planet itself will of course survive, or at least until the sun goes supernova in some 5 billion years or so. But mankind seems intent on accelerating that, and far from taking note of what is already transpiring and mending their ways, only increasing year on year the addition of greenhouse gases. Whether we reach a projected 9 billion souls from about 7 billion currently well before the end of this century is debatable; there is at least a good chance that the number may prove far lower due famine, pestilence, wars and so forth.

But the greater pity is that all others of this Earth did not sign up for this, are not contributors to it, but will suffer the same. In fact many already have to a much greater extent, even to the brink of or actual extinction.

These are all natural forces. But there is a bad cook in the house, but one species, brewing a deadly recipe.
A good synopsis of the situation, whether you believe in climate change or not (still have no idea why this is even a debate, but I'll leave that one out of this). Even if this is a natural warming cycle, it's allowing insects and diseases to kill off the forests at an epidemic rate. Perhaps it needed to happen, as we've suppressed fire for so long. However, more than likely, that policy is backfiring on us, as we are now creating prime conditions for these mega fires.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Setting aside the idea of man-caused global warming making the drought in the southern Rockies worse (and I'm not dismissing the likelihood of that), there are two major things that are leading to the current fire season being so potentially destructive--some experts predicting that this will be the worst fire season in the West in over a century:

1. Over a century of suppression of natural fires.
2. Over the past three of four decades, people stupidly--and I do mean STUPIDLY--building all kinds of man-made crap in fire prone forests. And continuing to do so, despite plenty of what now should be blatantly obvious evidence of just how stupid it really is.

Maybe a year like this, destructive as it may be, is what it takes to make people "get it."
Couldn't agree with you more on #1 and #2. Not sure sure people will ever get it though. If you build in the forest, especially where fire is required to keep it healthy, then you will eventually burn. It's unfortunate for people who lost homes, but it's the reality and the risk of living in such a place.
 
Old 06-20-2013, 12:12 PM
 
2,514 posts, read 3,487,858 times
Reputation: 5069
Has anyone found a good up to date wildfire map? I did a google search and each map I found was different and none seemed to have all 12 CO wildfires that the news was reporting. I wanted to see where all 12 fires were.

Thanks!
 
Old 06-20-2013, 12:12 PM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,697 posts, read 4,333,575 times
Reputation: 10278
delta07 wrote: The forest types may change, but I don't think Jeffery pine will be the species. That pine is located mostly in Oregon and California, with a small pocket in CA. Maybe you're thinking of a different species?

This is the best joke of the day! Years ago, when I was still married to my ex who worked for the Forest Service, we took a trip down to southern New Mexico and Arizona. I didn't recognize one of the trees growing in a National Forest down there, and I asked my then husband what it was. "Jeffrey Pine," he said with no hesitation. "You can tell because the bark smells like vanilla." I never questioned his identification since he was the big shot forestry guy. I bet it was actually a yellow pine.

Anyhow, I should send him an e-mail calling him out on that one and have another good laugh at his expense! Thank you!
 
Old 06-20-2013, 02:17 PM
 
Location: Black Forest, CO
1,510 posts, read 2,225,246 times
Reputation: 1480
Quote:
Originally Posted by mic111 View Post
Has anyone found a good up to date wildfire map? I did a google search and each map I found was different and none seemed to have all 12 CO wildfires that the news was reporting. I wanted to see where all 12 fires were.

Thanks!
Just ran across this one:
https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid...6253230a&msa=0
 
Old 06-20-2013, 02:50 PM
 
1,423 posts, read 2,534,466 times
Reputation: 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Unfortunately we are entering the age of the mega-wildfire, which would not occur save mankind has so badly influenced this global atmosphere.
I'm going to remain skeptical on that. After hurricane Katrina all the climate change folks were saying that this would be the new norm for hurricanes. It wasn't.

Like most natural disasters, you have bad years and not so bad years.
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