Giant clouds are hanging over California and blotting out the sun. Pyrocumulonimbus clouds are a type of cumulonimbus cloud that forms above a source of heat, such as a wildfire. The size and frequency of California wildfires are due to the incompetent management of California’s forests and electrical grid. The recent Creek Fire is creating massive fire clouds.
Competent Forest Manaagement
California has allowed over 150 million dead trees to accumulate in 33 million acres of forest. For the last decade, drought and bark beetle infestations have killed over 150 million trees.
Federal and state restrictions on logging caused timber harvesting in California to decline more than 70 percent between the late 1980s and 2012, according to a U.S. Forest Service report. From 1960-1990, foresters harvested 10-12 billion board feet of timber from national forests every year. By 2013, environmental policies cut that to 2.5 billion.
There is a 1990 law that prohibits logging bids from any lumber companies that export logs. Publicly traded Weyerhaeuser and Rayonier and big Canadian logging firms are blocked from bidding. Sierra Pacific is owned by billionaire Red Emmerson and his two sons and daughter. It has operating profits of about $375 million with annual sales of $1.5 billion. Emmerson has the most California timberland. He is the third-largest landowner in America. Sierra Pacific has 1.9 million acres of timberland.
There needs to be a period of minimally restricted logging and massively increased controlled burns to reduce the number of dead trees and to thin out the forests. Other big timber companies need to be allowed to operate in California.
Centuries ago Native Americans used periodic low-intensity fires to help renew forests and kept them from becoming too dense.
There was an average of 40 trees per acre in the Sierras roughly 150 years ago but there are now hundreds of trees per acre.
Over the last four years, California wildfires have cost over $200 billion, destroyed about 40,000 buildings and killed almost 200 people. The total economic cost of the 2017-2018 fires, including fire suppression, insurance, direct and indirect economic losses, and recovery expenditures was estimated at about $180 billion (2017 USD). There has been huge fires in 2020 which have destroyed over 1 million acres and there was billions in lost economic activity from 2019 power outages. The 2019 power outages were to avoid setting more fires.
The incompetence also relates to continuing to allow PGE to operate as the utility for Northern California.
There is a long history of PGE incompetence.
From 1952 to 1966, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) dumped about 370 million gallons of chromium-tainted wastewater into unlined wastewater spreading ponds around the town of Hinkley, California. The Julia Roberts movie, Erin Brokovich, detailed the lawsuit that resulted from the poisoning of a town.
In 2018, the Camp Fire was caused by PGE improperly maintaining the electrical grid. The fire killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise. It left several firefighters injured and burned more than 150,000 acres in Northern California.
Fire Created Clouds
The CbFg (cumulonimbus flammagenitus cloud) was first recorded in related to fire following the discovery in 1998 that extreme manifestations of this pyroconvection caused direct injection of large abundances of smoke from a firestorm into the lower stratosphere.The aerosol of smoke comprising CbFg clouds can persist for weeks. This can reduce ground-level sunlight in the same manner as the “nuclear winter” effect.
For decades, the plume from the bombing of Hiroshima photo was misidentified as the mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb blast on 6 August 1945. The cloud was at higher altitutde. It was identified in March 2016 as a pyrocumulonimbus cloud above the city. There was a city-wide firestorm that reached its peak intensity about three hours after the nuclear explosion.
On Friday September 4, 2020 at about 6:44 PM PDT the Creek Fire began in the Big Creek drainage area of California. A huge, dense cloud created on Sep. 05 and is visible in satellite photos.
“The pyrocumulonimbus cloud created aerosol index values indicate that this is one of the largest (if not the largest) pyroCb events seen in the United States,” according to Dr. Colin Seftor, Atmospheric Scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The fire clouds are affecting California, Oregon, Arizona and some central US states
Extremely dense & tall smoke plumes from numerous large wildfires, some of which have been generating nocturnal pyrocumulunimbus clouds (“fire thunderstorms”), are almost completely blocking out the sun across some portions of Northern California this morning. #CAwx #CAfire pic.twitter.com/y9evl4u0eq
— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) September 9, 2020
SOURCES – Wikipedia, Forbes
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com