Daily Kos Fail on Linking Washington State Fire to Climate Change

My column from last week calling Obama to task for incorrectly blaming the wildfires burning in north-central Washington State on anthropogenic climate change caught the attention of the Daily Kos, appearing under this outlet's section on “Climate Denier Roundup for Climate Hawks.” What a tragedy. I've been officially labelled a climate denier. Of course I deny there is a climate, and I deny weather, too. No term greater exemplifies the intellectual void on the activist left than “climate denier.”

But even more egregious is that the Daily Kos thinks there is evidence that the Carlton Complex of fires in Washington is the result of anthropogenic climate change. There is no such evidence at all. The Kos said I failed to cite the sources for my data. I guess the radical left suffers from an absence of basic reading comprehension skills. In last week's article, I specifically made mention of “NOAA's National Weather Service database” and the “NOAA-NCDC database,” which is where my data came from. But don't let reality get in the way of this journalistic incompetence at the Daily Kos.

The Kos goes babbling on about how I “failed to check the facts.” Wrong. I challenge the Daily Kos to find one incorrect scientific statement in my article. They can't, or they would have, so they just smear. It is the modus operandi of the left today. Keep tossing you know what at the wall in the hopes something will stick.

The best the Daily Kos could do is write the following:

“According to both the National Climate Assessment and Washington's own Impacts Assessment, temperatures have increased across the region by 1.5°F since 1920. Perhaps Rayne should also check out this article published in the American Meteorological Society journal about the unusual number of droughts in the Pacific Northwest, in part due to warm temperatures.”

Here is a climate education for the Kos on what is going on in Washington. Have average annual temperatures in Washington State increased since 1920? Yes, at a rate of about 1.4°F per century using data up to 2013 (and with the Mann-Kendall trend analysis method -- which I'll use throughout). This rate of increase is lower than Washington State's own “Impacts Assessment” because the assessment was completed in 2009, meaning the analysts only had data up to 2008 at the latest for the study. The years since 2008 have been generally cooler than what was seen from the late 1980s through the early 2000s, so the trend since 1920 has been dampened if we use the most recent data.

But here is the kicker: Obama is talking about anthropogenic climate change, and for there to be a direct mechanistic causal link between Washington State's annual temperatures and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, there must be a significant correlation between the two. Causation requires correlation, but correlation does not necessarily mean causation. And over the past 30 years -- which climate scientists tell us over and over should yield a climate change signature, there is no sign of a significant trend in Washington State's annual temperatures (p=0.84). The correlation is actually negative (cooling), not positive (warming). How does the Daily Kos reconcile that with greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere?

I provided a host of other information in my prior article disproving any linkages between anthropogenic climate change and the Washington State wildfire, which I will summarize once again for the Daily Kos here:

“there is not a single significant trend towards increasing drought conditions in any of Washington State's 10 climate divisions -- including and especially those in and around the wildfire -- since records began in 1895 ... not a single one of Washington's climate divisions has a significant decreasing trend in annual precipitation since 1895. Similarly, none of the state's climate divisions has a declining trend in precipitation during the first six months of the year. In the two climate divisions around the fire, neither the spring nor summertime precipitation amounts are declining since records began ... neither summertime average nor maximum temperatures around the fire have an increasing trend since 1970.”

All of this information is crystal clear. There is no evidence that the wildfires in north-central Washington are due to anthropogenic climate change. None. Unless you somehow view an absence of climate change in this region over the past number of decades as evidence for climate change induced wildfires.

Add to that the fact that this wasn't even a particularly hot year in Washington near the fires up to the end of June (the latest data available via the NOAA-NCDC database). In the climate divisions around the fire, the average temperature for the first six months of 2014 was nowhere near a record high, and was barely above the 20th century average. Average maximum temperatures were essentially at 20th century averages for the first half of this year, as were average maximum temperatures over the past three months, and two months, and in June itself.

For the month of June 2014 itself, perhaps the Daily Kos would be interested to know that average maximum temperatures in and around the fire region of north-central Washington were generally at or below normal. Yes, at or below normal! And average temperatures were normal. Precipitation during June in the region this year was also generally normal, as it was for the last two, three, and six months. So near-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation in the months preceding the fire, within the context of a generally unchanging climate over the past several decades, leads to anthropogenic climate change induced wildfires? Ridiculous.

A wildfire in a specific area during one short, hot dry spell in a naturally dry, hot region with highly problematic long-term forest management activities (aka, lots of fuel buildup was allowed over time) does not make for climate change causation. July may come in very hot and dry for the area, but one month does not make a trend, nor a climate change signature.

I should mention another interesting tidbit. The NOAA National Weather Service database already has the temperature data for the month of July in its system for this region --- as they do for what appears to be the rest of the United States. How is this possible? July isn't over yet. Have a look yourself.

I'm not sure how the National Weather Service calculated a mean monthly temperature for a region before the month is even over. And if the NWS is reporting the average to date (i.e., up to the day you log on and look at it), by definition this isn't the “monthly mean,” it is instead the average for some unknown sub-monthly period. There is no way out of this one for the NWS. An “M” for missing should always appear in the temperature records for each and every station until the full data for that month has been collected. Since July is still going, it is impossible for the NWS to have the full July dataset, meaning their July data is currently junk.

Finally, thinking it had me proven wrong, the Daily Kos cited this paper from Karin Bumbaco at the University of Washington and Philip Mote from Oregon State University. So I took the Kos up on their offer to “check out this article published in the American Meteorological Society journal about the unusual number of droughts in the Pacific Northwest, in part due to warm temperatures.” The authors of this paper that Daily Kos trots out as evidence the current fires in north-central Washington are due to anthropogenic climate change are clear in their statement to the complete opposite that “we stress that none of these recent droughts can yet be attributed to rising greenhouse gases.” Oops, that's not convenient for the Kos, is it?

The Daily Kos needs to stop its war on science and just accept that there is no clear evidence whatsoever to support Obama's public statement that the wildfires in north-central Washington State are due to anthropogenic climate change.