Red Flag

On our way out for a hike we drove by a small grass fire on 280, maybe a harbinger of the season ahead. I had just read Bill Tweed’s article about the potential for a particularly bad fire year and just like that we see something burning. CalFire was on top of things, as expected, but still. We have midsummer conditions, and it’s only the first week of June. Mr. Tweed always has something insightful to say, and the enlightening takeaway here was that it’s not just that we might have a lot of fires. We’ve had bad fire years before. It’s what happens after the forest burns. Will it be replaced by new lodgepole pine saplings, or will the warming climate promote the growth of oak grasslands or chaparral? He tells it better, but the short version is that the huge swaths of forest in the Sierra Nevada shade the winter snow so that it doesn’t melt too fast, and the layers of forest duff act like a giant sponge, releasing the water over the course of the summer. Oak grassland and chaparral won’t do that; any snow that falls would melt right away and run off the hillsides. We don’t have water storage capacity to compensate for the giant sponge effect of the forest. So, best case scenario is that we don’t have huge forest fires. Next best is that the burnt over lands regenerate as forest, instead of some new climate-change style of landscape. We shall see.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s