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Unforced Variations; June 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 June 2012

This month’s open thread…


408 Responses to “Unforced Variations; June 2012”

  1. 401
    Hank Roberts says:

    > cones opening up during the fire

    We see something like that in N. California Coast Range but it’s knobcone pine, which burns explosively — very fire-adapted. It also seeds right after a fire and grows very fast, huge spans of softwood between each ring.

    Unfortunately there’s no commercial value to the wood nowadays. I gather it was last harvested when wooden kitchen matches were made from it, because it’s so light, easily split, and burns so well.

    Places that used to be thoroughly canopied tall Ponderosa pine-black oak (before the first rounds of logging and sheep herding and fire) have mostly turned into knobcone forests.

    I’ve wondered if someone could build a big truck-sized or shipping-container-sized gadget to take that kind of wood, chip it, and render it into sufficient fuel to run the chipping and rendering machine and maybe with enough extra fuel to power vehicles and chainsaws — forest cleanup might be doable if only it weren’t necessary to truck in the gasoline to fuel the work.

    Heck, volunteers could work through a forest — one person can do 40 acres over a few years, removing a circle of the dead wood, brush, fire ladders, and accumulated litter around selected trees that are likely to restore the old tall pine and oak forest, given a few hundred years to do it.

    Just keep the big trees there, that’s the hard part.

    Even removing fire ladders — taking off the ring of dead limbs that marks each growth year on a Ponderosa pine — has its downside. Once you’ve taken off the dozens of dry dead branches on a tall P-pine, the tree starts making nice clean knothole-free wood, year after year. That’s “artificial old-growth” timber — so the protected trees are more tempting to cut down than the unprotected ones.

  2. 402
    Brian Dodge says:

    http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/6376/colo-biomass-developer-awarded-access-to-national-forestland

    “The U.S. Forest Service has chosen Pagosa Land Co. to remove woody biomass from national forestland in Pagosa County. Through the Pagosa Area Biomass Long-Term Stewardship Contract, a project developed to restore the region’s forest while reducing fire risk through a 10-year contract, J.R. Ford, president of Pagosa Land Co., and his team will have access to the national forest to harvest woody biomass.”

    http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/7718/nd-research-center-demos-methanol-from-wood-for-off-grid-power/?ref=brm
    “The largely automated system uses a unique gasifier to convert the wood waste into a blended gas, which is cleaned and compressed and then passed through a gas-to-liquids reactor to convert the gas to a liquid fuel—methanol. Methanol is one of the simplest alcohol types, which even preceded ethanol for vehicle use, and is easily converted to clean hydrogen.”

    Use methanol powered chainsaws, skidders, and chippers to deliver the wood/waste to a pelletizer & methanol generator, and truck out value added pellets & methanol, in the most profitable mix depending on markets and transportation costs?

  3. 403
    Jim Larsen says:

    401 Hank said, “Even removing fire ladders — taking off the ring of dead limbs that marks each growth year on a Ponderosa pine — has its downside. Once you’ve taken off the dozens of dry dead branches on a tall P-pine, the tree starts making nice clean knothole-free wood, year after year. That’s “artificial old-growth” timber — so the protected trees are more tempting to cut down than the unprotected ones.”

    Well, that doesn’t sound so bad. Make a law that requires that any removal of wood from a forest must be accompanied by an approved fire-reduction scheme. Poof! Instantly all forests are either “natural” or “productive yet protected”.

  4. 404
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Brian Dodge … Pagosa
    Fantastic, thanks for that news. Worth watching.

    > Jim Larsen … Make a law

    This is how making law gets done; the letter would be worth re-reading:
    “The U.S. Attorney’s office describes SPI’s attempt to change the legal playing field as “cynical …”

    More on that: https://www.google.com/search?q=SPI+lawsuit+California+law+fire

  5. 405
    Alastair says:

    These wild fires only seem to become uncontrolable when the air temperature rises above 40C. Perhaps the answer to the increase in these catastrophic wild fires would be to reduce atmospheric CO2 so that these record temperatures cannot be achieved.

    [Response:Control is a function of fuel loads, wind, humidity, topography, and resources applied to the effort. T affects only one of these (humidity); the big problem is fuel load. This is Steve Pyne’s overall point in the linked article.–Jim [Edit–left out fuel moisture level, T affects that also]]

    Cheers, Alastair.

  6. 406
    John E Pearson says:

    This is 3 months old but I had missed it. To my knowledge eastern forest fires are much less common than western ones. THese apparently quadrupled the VA record for acres burnt. http://hamptonroads.com/2012/04/wildfires-burn-20000-acres-va-national-forests

    [Response:There was great variation in natural fire regimes in eastern forests, roughly following a decreasing gradient of: southeastern pine > oak-hickory > beech-maple > hemlock-hardwood (the “asbestos forest”), on a roughly SW to NE 1500 mile gradient. Now very little burns anywhere, relatively, aside from prescribed fire.–Jim]

    There are also current fires in VA:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/whats-that-smell-west-of-washington-dc-forest-fire-burning-on-skyline-drive/2012/06/28/gJQALya98V_blog.html

    Perhaps that smell is Cuccinelli fuming?

  7. 407
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Hank #401:

    I’ve wondered if someone could build a big truck-sized or shipping-container-sized gadget to

    There was one Finnish firm that built a walking forestry machine that actually walked on legs guided by computer, saving the forest floor… haven’t heard of it lately though.

  8. 408
    MapleLeaf says:

    If you have not already done so, please show your support for Dr. Phil Jones at SkepticalScience. Thanks.


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