climate change

Hawaii Is Losing As Much Of Its Land To Wildfires As Any Other State

Wildfire researcher Clay Trauernicht says the African grasses and shrubs that have taken over Hawaii’s ag lands need to be managed to control wildfires.

Wildfire researcher Clay Trauernicht says the African grasses and shrubs that have taken over Hawaii’s ag lands need to be managed to control wildfires.

This Honolulu Civil Beat Article does a wonderful job of describing the wildfire situation Hawaii is currently facing. With as high of a percentage of land that is burned every year as the notoriously fire-prone western United States, Hawaii has a big issue on its hands.

This Civil Beat article goes into the environmental conditions that have resulted in such a dramatic increase in wildfires throughout the state, as well as the economic and historical reasons that have helped cause these current conditions to exist. Hawaii’s past has consisted of large-scale land alterations, heavy impacts on fragile endemic and native species with the introduction of invasive competition into the ecosystem, as well as dramatic increases in human population over time. All of these factors, along with many other environmental variables currently in flux with the rapidly changing climate play a part in Hawaii’s fire situation. It is becoming increasingly imperative that fire fuel loads are managed throughout the state, and that we all share the knowledge of how to live alongside this increasing threat of wildfire.

From the article:

“University of Hawaii professor Camilo Mora recently reviewed 12,000 scientific studies and found at least 30 different types of impacts of climate change related to fires, hitting health, food, water, infrastructure, security and the economy. Wildfires affect mental health and spread disease, degrade air quality and harm coral reefs, threaten freshwater supplies and deter tourists”

-Civil Beat Author Nathan Eagle

We recommend reading the Honolulu Civil Beat Article to take a deeper dive on all of these dimensions to wildfire in Hawaiʻi.



The Amazon Wildfire Situation

As you may have heard, the Amazon is currently in the midst of multiple wildfires that has been burning for more than 2 weeks. The number of these massive trees act as a carbon “sink”, dramatically slowing global warming. The forest is the largest in the world, capturing gaseous carbon from the atmosphere, and transforming it into a solid state due to the Amazon’s amazing knack for photosynthesis.

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As CNN describes, “(The Amazon) is considered vital in slowing global warming, and it is home to uncountable species of fauna and flora. Roughly half the size of the United States, it is the largest rainforest on the planet. The Amazon is often referred to as the planet's lungs, producing 20% of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere”

The conditions there are especially fire-prone due to several environmental, and socio-political factors. According to NOAA, this July has been the hottest on record, worldwide. This, as well as the fact that during brazil’s dry season, fires are deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching - (BBC News). According to VOX News, The Amazon rainforest has experienced a record number of fires this year, with 72,843 reported so far. It’s an 84 percent increase over the number of wildfires at the same time last year.

Vox news points out that many areas across the world such as Siberia, the Canary Islands, Alaska, and Greenland have experienced a year of extreme wildfire, the most alarming are the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest. It’s an area with torrential rain that almost never burns on its own, yet the blazes have burned for more than two weeks, growing so intense that they sent smoke all the way to São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.

Read more on the wildfire situation in the Amazon Rainforest here:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49415973

https://www.vox.com/world/2019/8/20/20813786/wildfire-amazon-rainforest-brazil-siberia

https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/21/americas/amazon-rainforest-fire-intl-hnk-trnd/index.html

DLNR: Fire Season in Hawai‘i is Now Year-Round

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Wildfires are much less contained to a specific time of the year than they have been in the past. Instead fire has become a year-round occurrence that could present itself at almost anytime. Be wary of activities that could lead to sparking fire as Hawaii enters the time of year that is still more at risk for wildfires. While there have been plenty of recent rain events throughout the state, it is very likely that severe drought season is on the horizon, with fire fuel loads now in higher supply. It takes only one spark.

Ken Pimlott, retired chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spoke recently in Honolulu. He agreed that pre-fire vegetation management work is a necessary action to reducing the risks of fire as we enter this more fire-prone season.

Ken Pimlott - retired chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection speaks in Honolulu about the current fire risks we are facing.

Ken Pimlott - retired chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection speaks in Honolulu about the current fire risks we are facing.



Check out this very informative article by Big Island Now to get the scoop on what the technical specialists have been discussing in the realm of wildfire.

From the Source at Big Island Now:

Michael Walker, state fire forester for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), repeated a common refrain, “Like everywhere else in the west, Hawai‘i does not have a specific fire season. It used to be we geared up for battling wildland fires in late summer and early fall, as those times historically were the most common times for big fires. Driven by our changing, warming climate, fire season here in the islands, like in all western states on the mainland, is now year around.”

Clay Trauernicht, a wildland fire specialist with the University of Hawai‘i’s Cooperative Extension Service traces how the potential for wildland fire has steadily grown over the years.

Trauernicht explained, “Agriculture and ranching declines have left us with about one million acres of non-native grasses and shrubs statewide. This vegetation is incredibly prone to burning during drought. Clearing and cleaning up the brush on your property is critical for the safety of your family, home, and our firefighters. On top of this, we have some of the highest frequencies of fire starts in the US. About 75% of those ignitions are accidental, which means they can be prevented. So take care with campfires, BBQs, using machinery and running cars over and around dry grass. We also see big spikes in wildfires around the holidays… ”

Climate Change is Creating Catastrophic Wildfires

“Wildfires can have detrimental impacts on entire ecosystems.” Credit: Reuters / Rafael Marchante

“Wildfires can have detrimental impacts on entire ecosystems.” Credit: Reuters / Rafael Marchante

According to a recent study from Dr. Clay Trauernicht of UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension, parts of Hawaiʻi Island are at risk of an increase in up to 375% in annual fire risk due to climate change. Global warming is contributing to worsening wildfire conditions across the globe.

From the Source:

With little fanfare and scant news coverage, fire season 2019 has arrived. Firefighters are already containing blazes in several states, including ColoradoFlorida and Oklahoma, and seasonal outlooks suggest that significant wildfires are likely in parts of Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast.

While forest management and human development have increased wildfire incidence and risk, climate change has exacerbated the trend of large fires and contributed to the lengthening of the fire season, in some cases making wildfires a year-round phenomenon. In the Western U.S., climate change is a major driver behind the near doubling in burned area that we've experienced over the past 35 years, and has contributed to an increase in the frequency and severity of fires, while lengthening the fire season in some regions.




Study Links Climate Change to Increased Risk of Hawaii Wildfires

Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

The need for more wildfire mitigation across Hawaii’s landscapes to protect natural resources and communities will only be greater with climate change. The time is now to take action!

This from our close colleague, a PFX coordinator, and a HWMO technical advisor, Dr. Clay Trauernicht, Wildfire Extension Specialist at University of Hawaii Manoa CTAHR.

From the Source:

The first study linking climate change to an increased probability of wildfires in Hawaiʻi also weighs the increased risks facing tropical regions around the world, according to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researcher Clay Trauernicht.

Based on changes in rainfall and temperature due to climate change, the annual risk of wildfire could increase up to 375 percent for parts of Hawaiʻi Island, the analysis shows.

Lead researcher Trauernicht, of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, tracked the “footprints” of historical fires on Hawaiʻi Island. His research shows how vegetation, ignition frequency and climate contribute to wildfire probability.

“The increased risk of fire stems from drought conditions due to low rainfall, as well as increased rainfall in the months prior to drought,” Trauernicht said. “This is because wet conditions mean greater growth of non-native grasses, which are the greatest fuel for wildfires in Hawaiʻi. Wet summer weather, combined with dry winter conditions, is characteristic of El Niño conditions and this winter looks likely to be another El Niño.”

Wildland Fire Danger Elevated in Hawaii with Drought in Forecast

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From the Source:

For Hawaii, El Nino often translates into summer moisture followed by winter drought.

Drought conditions will be increasingly prevalent in the coming decades, said Clay Trauernicht, UH-Manoa wildland fire specialist and author of a study that examined how climate change will affect wildfires in Hawaii and tropical areas around the world.

The paper, published in Science of the Total Environment, not only discusses the effects of climate change on fire, but demonstrates how tracking rainfall patterns year to year can help better forecast near-term wildfire risk, including the danger that excess rainfall in advance of drought can pose to Hawaii’s vulnerable grasslands.

As for the current fire danger, Trauernicht said environmental conditions are quite similar right now to the period right before August, when a string of storms built up the fuel load and the drying islands were struck by a rash of wildland fires that burned nearly 30,000 acres.



Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said most people don’t realize the scale of Hawaii’s wildfire problem. Each year about 0.5 percent of Hawaii’s total land area burns, which is equal to or greater than the proportion burned of any other U.S. state, she said.

Pickett said 98 percent of wildfires are started by humans, most of them accidentally. People have to accept that we live in a fire-prone state and be extra careful to prevent fires, she said.

One common way to start a wildfire is from a spark or hot components of a motor vehicle. It’s the primary reason why Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park closed Mauna Loa Road.

“By reducing the number of vehicles in high-risk areas, the park can mitigate the potential for a catastrophic event,” the park said.

Pickett said there are a number of simple things folks can do: Park cars on pavement and never on dry grass. Keep yards maintained and free of debris. Be careful with equipment that could spark. Practice family emergency plans.

More tips can be found at HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout.

In California Wildfires, Disabled People May Be Left Behind

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

The voices of those with disabilities need to be heard and included in all disaster preparedness planning. Here is a powerful article written by a wheelchair user who uses a ventilator on ways you can support people with disabilities as frequent natural disasters have become the worsening normal with climate change.

From the Source:

Climate change is real. Frequent natural disasters are the new normal. Right now, disabled advocates are working with communities all over the state connecting them to the help they need. Community organizations and informal networks need support coordinating services and providing direct assistance. Our lives are at stake and thoughts and prayers are not enough. Below are some ways you can support people with disabilities and the general population during these wildfires and the ones to come in the near future.


1. Ability Tools is a program of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, providing medical equipment, daily living aids, and technology to people in shelters who need them. They are currently taking donations, and you can contact them via Facebook or by calling 1-800-390-2699 (1-800-900-0706 TTY). Support them by donating money or equipment in good condition.

2. Donate to the Portlight Strategies/Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a national organization on disability rights, accessibility and inclusion related to disaster operations. It manages a 24-hour disaster hotline for for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs (1-800-626-4959 or info@disasterstrategy.org)

3. Give money to Mask Oakland, a volunteer group of queer disabled people delivering free N95 respirator masks to Oakland’s most vulnerable. They use donations to buy more masks and post receipts of all their purchases. Twitter: @MaskOakland; Venmo: @maskoakland.

4. Donate to the Northern California Fire Relief Fund by the North Valley Community Foundation to raise money to support the operations of organizations sheltering evacuees of the Camp Fire.

5. Give to Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program from the California Fire Foundation, which gives $100 gift cards to people impacted by wildfires including firefighters and civilians.

Fueling the Fire: Trump Thinks Logging Will Stop the Burning in California. It won't.

“On the left is the Camp Fire in Big Bend, California, and on the right the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.” - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and David McNew/Getty Images

“On the left is the Camp Fire in Big Bend, California, and on the right the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.” - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and David McNew/Getty Images

One of the most renowned wildland fire experts, Stephen J. Pyne, offers more than his two cents of why the California fires are as extreme as they are…and it is not because California has not removed enough trees.

From the Source:

Where fires are crashing into towns, the real fuel is the built environment. Aerial photos of savaged suburbs tend to show incinerated structures and still-standing trees. The vegetation is adapted to fire; the houses aren’t. Once multiple structures begin to burn, the local fire services are overwhelmed and the fire spreads from building to building. This is the kind of urban conflagration Americans thought they had banished in the early 20th century. It’s like watching measles or polio return. Clearly, the critical reforms must target our houses and towns and revaccinate them against today’s fire threats. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise program shows how to harden houses and create defensible space without nuking the scene into asphalt or dirt.

Too often, whether we’re talking about politics or fire management, the discussion ends up in absolutes. We leave the land to nature, we strip it, or we convert it to built landscapes. We have either the wild or the wrecked. In fact, there are lots of options available, and they will work best as cocktails. There is a place for prescribed burning, for prescribed grazing, for prescribed thinning (a kind of woody weeding), for prescribed chipping and masticating by machines, for greenbelting—crafting swathes of low-fuel land use like recreational parks or even golf courses—and, in select sites, for prescribed logging. Most treatments should concentrate where people and high-value assets are at risk—exurbs, suburbs, municipal watersheds. Elsewhere, in wildlands, some kind of managed fire will likely prove the most usable means, and in the West, hybrid practices—half suppression, half prescribed burn—are becoming common.

A Warming Planet Could Trigger More Intense Wildfire Season in Hawaii

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Over the last several years, HWMO has prioritized adaptive measures such as Firewise Communities and strategic, cross-boundary vegetation management planning to ready areas for the rapidly changing conditions causing more and larger wildfires in Hawaii. The gravity of the situation is real with climate change, but there is so much we can do in our own communities to prepare for wildfires and other climate hazards. Learn how by visiting our Take Action page and the Wildfire Lookout! page.

Check out this excellent article with some of our close partners, including Dr. Clay Trauernicht and Michael Walker, who were interviewed and data that HWMO was instrumental in laying the groundwork for — the statewide wildfire history database we produced with our fire agency partners. Although sobering, it is great to see this data put to use for a better understanding of how climate change affects Hawaii locally.


From the Source:

In Hawaii, wildfires generally ignite during the dry season, typically between May and November, when it's hotter, drier and windier outside.

But models show that the drier leeward areas, where fires are more frequent, will see even less rainfall as a result of climate change, exacerbating drought conditions and expanding the length of Hawaii's dry season.

That means more favorable conditions for brush fires to ignite.

And non-native grasslands and shrubs — which cover nearly a fourth of Hawaii's total land area — are highly adapted to fire, meaning they thrive when they burn and come back really quickly, researchers say. And the drier it is, the harder it is for forests to recover in those spots.

Hotter days could spell longer-lasting brush fires, meaning more hours for firefighters and greater potential for damage to infrastructure.

And it's only going to get hotter. A regional NOAA report estimates that in Hawaii, temperatures are expected to rise by 4 to 5 degrees by 2085 — under a worst case emission scenario.

"If you have hotter days, the conditions that are going to promote your most active fires — like the hottest, windiest conditions — have the potential to last longer for hours within a span of a day," Trauernicht said, pointing to the Makaha fire that continued burning in the early evening, when temperatures are normally dropping and humidity levels usually go up.

Repeated Natural Disasters Pummel Hawaii’s Farms, Affecting Macadamia Nuts, Taro, Papaya, Flower Harvests

“An image by NOAA’s GOES-15 satellite shows Hurricane Lane when it was about 300 miles south of Hawaii's Big Island on Aug. 22. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)”

“An image by NOAA’s GOES-15 satellite shows Hurricane Lane when it was about 300 miles south of Hawaii's Big Island on Aug. 22. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)”

Farmers in the Pacific on the front-lines of climate-related natural disasters such as cyclones and wildfires. We must do all we can to ensure our farmlands are protected from these growing threats to our food and people’s livelihoods.

If you are a farmer or own/operate large lands in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, check out the Pacific Fire Exchange pre-fire planning resources: http://www.pacificfireexchange.org/research-publications/category/pre-fire-planning?rq=pre-fire%20plan

From the Source:

As Hawaii begins to recover from the tropical cyclone that dumped more than three feet of rain onto the Big Island last week, farmers here are just starting to assess the damage to their crops. Lane landed yet another blow to Hawaii’s agriculture industry after an already difficult year of reckoning with Mother Nature. Flooding, excess moisture and pounding rains could hurt macadamia nut, coffee and flower harvests for farmers on the east side of the island, which bore the brunt of the storm.

Lane also impacted small farms on the island of Maui, where the storm’s winds fanned and spread wildfires across hundreds of acres in Lahaina.

In the days leading up to the hurricane, beekeeper Eldon Dorsett prepared his bee hives for the coming weather, putting heavy weights on the top of the boxes to keep them from blowing away.

Dorsett arrived at the farm Saturday morning and found 15 of his hives burned to a crisp — the only evidence of their existence was a few nails and screws on the still-smoldering ground.

“It was a rough day,” Dorsett said. “The farm was like the day after Armageddon.”

“No matter what happens, we need to keep moving forward,” said Haraguchi-Nakayama, whose family operates Hanalei Taro. “People in Hawaii are resilient by coming together as a community during times of crisis. Farmers are vulnerable to so many things beyond our control. Farmers need to be resilient in order to continue farming.”

Registration Open for Hawaii Wildfire Summit

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Mahalo to Big Island Now and West Hawaii Today for publishing information on our upcoming Hawaii Wildfire Summit.

From the Source:

Since wildfires are such a wide-spanning issue that affect communities, lands, and waters, the solutions require everyone playing a proactive role. The Hawai‘i Wildfire Summit is a unique opportunity to learn, share, and collaborate with others who deal with wildfire in their work and communities across Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

This year’s theme is “Collaborating Across Hawaii and the Pacific for Summit to Sea Wildfire Protection.”

Presentations and workshops that one would otherwise have to attend on the mainland U.S. will also be a highlight of the event, offering a local option to connect to national-level programs, research and trainings.

Why Some Communities Recover Better After Natural Disasters

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

HWMO believes strongly in the importance of working together as a pathway for communities to become more resilient in the face of growing wildfires in Hawaii and the Western Pacific. We use national frameworks such as Firewise Communities, Fire Adapted Communities, ReadySetGo!, and Western Cohesive Strategy and apply them at the local level to bring neighbors together.

The science is there to back this up, too! A research team from Northeastern University has found that post-disaster anxiety from recent climate-related disasters was reduced solely because of social ties. "Individuals who had more friends, neighbors, and relatives nearby did far better than more isolated people," said Dr. Daniel Aldrich, professor and director of the Security and Resilience Program at Northeastern.

From the Source:

"TG: How can people become more resilient?
DA: To become more resilient, my team and I have put together a package of policies that we're encouraging neighborhoods and communities around the world (e.g. Wellington, NZ, Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA, etc.) to try out. These include strengthening ties with neighbors, holding regular community events, engaging citizens in every planning and zoning event possible, creating local communities, and building spaces that encourage social interaction."

Family Behind Hawaiian Fire-Throwing Ritual Apologizes for Brush Fire

Makana Fire. Photo Credit: Richard Berry / KFVE

Makana Fire. Photo Credit: Richard Berry / KFVE

We commend the family who accidentally ignited the fire for taking the courage and responsibility for publically apologizing for their actions. We deeply respect that reviving ancient cultural practices is important, but it is still critical to be aware of your surroundings and dry/windy conditions whether building an imu or practicing ʻOahi O Makana. Vegetation and climate conditions have changed drastically over the centuries (even more so in the past few decades). Many wet forests were once ecosystems covered with native forests that had very few wildfire occurrences if any. However, much of these forests have been taken over by much more fire-prone, invasive species and have experienced more and more days of drier conditions than before. We must continue to adapt to these changing conditions whether it is through vegetation control methods or cultural practices, etc. This fire will hopefully continue these important conversations. We are interested to hear your thoughts. Please share your comments below.

From the Source:

"'It wasn't an intention to start anything to hurt anybody or to stop any roads. There was never that intention. If that happened on behalf of the family we apologize,' McCarthy said.

Ancient Hawaiians held the ceremony to mark great occasions and special ceremonies.

'This is something they mentally, physically have to prepare themselves for,' McCarthy said.

The pair carried Hau branches to light, twirl and throw. McCarthy thinks wind grabbed the embers and blew them back onto the mountain."

Wildfires Rage Out West Amid Scorching Temperatures

"A huge wildfire is seen in Los Angeles, Sept. 1, 2017." Credit: Splash News

"A huge wildfire is seen in Los Angeles, Sept. 1, 2017." Credit: Splash News

78 large wildfires (and many more smaller ones) are currently scorching eight western states that are experiencing extreme temperatures -- all of this while the Atlantic Ocean is experiencing the strongest hurricanes on record and Hawaii is facing another year of extreme droughts. These are not anomalies, but signs of a new age in which the climate is reaching new extremes. We must connect the dots. It's all related.

From the Source:

"The La Tuna fire that began last Friday in Los Angeles has scorched over 7,000 acres across Burbank and Glendale, making it the largest fire in the history of Los Angeles, fire department officials said. Firefighters have contained the flames to 80 percent and are actively investigating the cause.

This summer 7.5 million acres were torched in the U.S. from wildfires, ABC News meteorologists said."

Dry Year So Far for Big Island

"The flood channel that runs under the intersection of Kinoole and Mohouli streets in Hilo was dry Tuesday." Credit - Hollyn Johnson / Hawaii Tribune-Herald

"The flood channel that runs under the intersection of Kinoole and Mohouli streets in Hilo was dry Tuesday." Credit - Hollyn Johnson / Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Drier conditions, even on the wet side, means a higher potential for wildfire. You might live in the green, but when severe droughts occur, anywhere can be at risk for fire. Be prepared, have a plan, and stay vigilant using the Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide and Wildfire Lookout!

From the Source:

"Hilo is on pace to have one of its drier years on record, and July’s rainfall totals brought little if any relief to drought-affected areas of the Big Island, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu."

"'It’s been pretty dry up on the Hamakua Coast and down into the the leeward South Kohala district. They’re considered to be under severe drought as well as the interior section of the Big Island. The eastern side of Pohakuloa Training Area has been pretty dry. The western side has been getting some spotty rain, so some of the gauges there are pretty close to normal,' Kodama said Monday.

The most recent drought statement from the weather service said ranchers in leeward South Kohala 'have destocked pastures' due to 'very poor vegetation conditions.' It noted that pastures in Ookala, where Big Island Dairy operates, and in Paauilo were becoming dry, and a ginger farmer in Umauma reported stunted growth in his crops."

Wildfire Burns Across (Formerly) Icy Greenland

The Sentinel-2 satellite captured a wildfire burning in western Greenland.  Credit:  Pierre Markuse    Flickr   ( CC BY 2.0 )

The Sentinel-2 satellite captured a wildfire burning in western Greenland. Credit: Pierre Markuse Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It's all connected!

From the Source:

"A series of blazes is burning roughly in the vicinity of Kangerlussuaq, a small town that serves as a basecamp for researchers in the summer to access Greenland’s ice sheet and western glaciers. The largest fire has burned roughly 3,000 acres and sent smoke spiraling a mile into the sky, prompting hunting and hiking closures in the area, according to local news reports."

"The ice has been melting at a quickening pace since 2000, partly due to wildfires in other parts of the world. The uptick in boreal forest fires has kicked up more ash in the atmosphere where prevailing winds have steered it toward the ice sheet.

The dark ash traps more energy from the sun, which has warmed the ice sheet and caused more widespread melting. Soot from massive wildfires in Siberia caused 95 percent of the Greenland ice sheet surface to melt in 2012, a phenomenon that could become a yearly occurrence by 2100 as the planet warms and northern forest fires become more common."

This is How Much of the World is Currently on Fire

"September 2014 Happy Camp Complex Fire in the Klamath National Forest in California." Credit: US Forest Service

"September 2014 Happy Camp Complex Fire in the Klamath National Forest in California." Credit: US Forest Service

These interactive maps and graphics offer a grim look at what we might expect as a new normal with climate change. The world is on fire like never before this year. Hawaii is no exception.

From the Source:

"Here in the United States the Forest Service is reporting that 2017 is shaping up to be a worse than average fire year based on acres of federal, private and state land burned. So far, 5.6 million acres of land has burned this year, or 1.8 million acres more than the ten year average of 3.8 million acres burned by this time."

"Across the border from the United States, fires are also currently scorching Canada’s British Columbia. This is the province’s second worst fire season on record and NASA satellites have identified the conflagration from space."

"On the other side of the globe, if you load up the European Commission’s fire map, it looks like the end of the world, especially in Italy and Romania. So far, an area just slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island has burned. The total is already roughly three times the normal amount of summer wildfires. Back in June, 60 people died over the course of one weekend in Portugal due to wildfires. Thirty people were killed when the fires reached roads on evacuation routes. And as the map makes clear, those fires don’t seem to be abating, in part because of the hotter, drier temperatures."

Hawaiian Birds Rapidly Colonize Young Restoration Forest

Hawai‘i ‘Elepaio. Credit: Kelly Jaenecke, USGS. Public domain.

Hawai‘i ‘Elepaio. Credit: Kelly Jaenecke, USGS. Public domain.

Restoring our forests has many positive outcomes, including bringing back rainwater to our parched landscapes and thus reducing wildfire risk. Native forests are also home to wildlife. We're excited to hear of the successful bird repopulation efforts of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge!

We will have an exciting silent auction item -- one of many -- at the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off on August 26 to go bird watching at Puʻu ʻOʻo. 

From the Source:

"Researchers used bird survey data collected over 26 years at the refuge to document how a diverse community of birds responded to the nearly 30 years of restoration efforts on the refuge. Their analysis revealed that most bird species increased in number throughout the restoration area, with the greatest increases detected in areas closest to intact forest where the density and diversity of understory shrubs was greatest."

"As temperatures rise with climate change, the area where the transmission of avian malaria is hindered by cooler temperatures will shrink, meaning the restoration of high-elevation forests may be one of the most important conservation tools to protect Hawaii’s native birds.

'We have a clearer picture of how we can facilitate expansion of particular bird species into reforestation areas by creating particular plant communities; this will help us ensure that Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge can continue to be a stronghold for Hawaiian forest birds,' said Kendall."

Wildfires Are Essential: The Forest Service Embraces a Tribal Tradition

"Rony Reed, a Karuk tribal member, participates in a burn at Bacon Flat in Orleans, California. Photo by Stormy Staats / Klamath Salmon Media Collaborativemaker."

"Rony Reed, a Karuk tribal member, participates in a burn at Bacon Flat in Orleans, California. Photo by Stormy Staats / Klamath Salmon Media Collaborativemaker."

This was a really interesting read that highlights Karuk and their use of community-based prescribed burning as part of a larger cultural and ecological renaissance and to change the narrative on certain misconceptions about their relationship to fire. The article also highlights how the merging of science and culture are essential, especially in the face of climate change.

From the Source:

"This marks the third year the Karuk have helped run and organize the community burning program, a joint venture between the tribe and several groups, including a local watershed council and the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, which uses the burn as part of its own national training program in controlled burning. For the Karuk, the program marks a historic turn from years of being labeled as arsonists for lighting the fires that belief says they are required to perform. It’s also a tribute to the fact that controlled or prescribed burning is becoming in vogue among scientific and resource management circles. The Karuk hope their young fire program will be the start of a sustainable, community-based effort leading to a cultural and ecological revival for the tribe."

What's the Leading Cause of Wildfires in the U.S.? Humans

"More than 10 wildfires burned over 200,000 acres in Southern California in October 2003, many of them started by humans. This satellite image shows strong winds carrying smoke over the Pacific." Credit: MODIS Rapid Response Team/NASA

It is no surprise, human beings are the leading cause of wildfires in the U.S. (more than 98% of fires in Hawaii are caused by people). But now, thanks to scientists, we know the extent of the issue: humans cause 84% of forest fires nationwide! Prevention education is so important - we hope that you can continue to help HWMO spread the word about preventing wildfires to protect our communities, lands, and waters. 

From the Source:

"As a result, Balch says, not only are people causing the vast majority of wildfires, they're also extending the normal fire season around the country by three months."

"I think acknowledging that fact is really important," she says, "particularly right now when we have evidence that climate is changing, and climate is warming, and that fires are increasing in size and the fire season is increasing."