Fort McMurray Fire Vs Great Peshtigo Fire, 1871

When the forest fires came sweeping into Peshtigo in 1871, there was no advance warning. Winds may have been over a hundred miles an hour. The heat melted things that demonstrate the fire’s temperature was over 2000° F. The flames were over 200 feet tall.

Drought had the city fathers worried about fire, and they had even stockpiled water in tanks to fight fires, but this fire hit with speed we can hardly imagine.

Every building in town was built of wood, the bridges were wood, and the roads were paved with what?  Sawdust.

It is worth googling this fire, and reading some of the accounts. The fire came so fast that it was upon some before they knew what hit them. One report states 300 were burned in a popular tavern. For the rest, it was a race for the river.

Fire 1 WER2002-06

Fire 2 WER2002-07a

An excellent post describing the panic, (if not focused on facts and numbers), is here:   I think this is the most telling quote, from the Peshtigo Eagle, a local newspaper of that time:

“The frenzy of despair seized on all hearts, strong men bowed like reeds before the fiery blast, women and children, like frightened spectres flitting through the awful gloom, were swept like Autumn leaves. Crowds rushed for the bridge, but the bridge, like all else, was receiving its baptism of fire. Hundreds crowded into the river, cattle plunged in with them, and being huddled together in rise general confusion of the moment, many who, had taken to the water to avoid the flames were drowned. A great many were on the blazing bridge when it fell. The debris from the burning town was hurled over and on the heads of those who were in the water, killing many and maiming others so that they gave up in despair and sank to a watery grave.”

It is hard to rely on the casualty figures, but it seems over a thousand died. Nor did the survivors get much press or swift relief, for even as this fire started to die down the Great Chicago Fire was starting, and it was the front page news. Even less newsworthy was another huge fire on the other side of Green Bay. The area scorched was huge.

Fire 3 PeshtigoFireExtend

In other words, these things happen. Not only do they happen in the west of the USA, but they even happen in the east. If you don’t believe me, google “the 1947 forest fires up in Maine”.

I lived up in Maine in the 1970’s, and heard old-timers talk about what a freaky October that was, but I find few young people in New England even dream forest fires are anything but something that happens “out west”. The few who are slightly aware fires can happen in the east tend to have visited Arcadia National Park, which has a few placards that inform tourists how the flames leaped across the inlet and consumed the island before burning out with a strange fireball out over the sea (according to local fishermen.) That event is still dimly remembered, but nearly no one remembers another fire was worse in the most southern part of Maine, York County, where two towns were burned to the ground.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to downplay how awful it is for the people of Fort MacMurray to see their homes destroyed. But at least they had warning, and could hop in a car that is much faster than a horse, a car that doesn’t freak out like a horse does. The picture below is from an amazing video shot from a car fleeing Fort MacMurray, that had to drive past flames I think would have turned most horses right around in their tracks.

Fire 4 160505132021-restricted-10-ca-wildfires-0505-exlarge-169

I should also point out Fort MacMurray’s bridges are not made of wood, and are not burning and collapsing, as people flee. Furthermore, the modern highway is paved with what?  Sawdust on fire? Or concrete that doesn’t burn?

In other words, we should be thanking our lucky stars. People are not burning to death. They are escaping, thanks to modern vehicles.

Fire 5 160505131628-07-ca-wildfire-0505-exlarge-169

I know it is very hard to feel lucky when you have worked very hard, and all you have worked for winds up looking like this:

Fire 6 _89613358_2f50a65a-21dd-4489-9134-ccbd19c3fbb3

But think again. All the stuff that was destroyed was just stuff. It’s the people that matter, and they were not destroyed.

This is something people need to remember, when the horizon looks like this, (and it isn’t a pretty sunset):

Fire 7 160505131400-04-ca-wildfire-0505-exlarge-169

In such a situation what is most important is people, not stuff. If you get out with your family alive, thank your lucky stars.

Suppose what reddened the skies at Fort McMurray was not a forest fire, but a volcano. Suppose no one got out alive, and all were buried in ash, and we could glimpse their last moments as they fled. Suppose it was Pompeii.

Fire 8 workers with casts of bodies at pompeii


Among the people frozen-in-time at Pompeii are many who obviously cared for the right things, and there is even the plaster cast of a couple kissing as they died. However a plaster cast that influenced my boyhood has apparently been lost. (Some plaster casts were exposed to the weather, if not tourists, or even to youths with a destructive sense of humor, and have crumbled away. There was no museum large enough to hold them all.)

The particular lost-cast I remember was a cast burned into my memory, which I have never been able to find on the web. The book-of-my-boyhood described the person as “The Miser”, and it was of a man laying on his stomach but with his head up, and in his right hand was a bag of money. As a boy I pitied that man, for I assumed he could have escaped the volcano, but had gone back for his coins.

Now that I am old I understand coins are not the only thing people give undue importance to, when they should be attending to what really matters. And I cannot resist stating, as a garrulous old grouch,  that I fear the mainstream media is especially guilty of running straight towards a sort of  “volcano” for things that do not matter.

It is not merely that the media attempts to sensationalize the sad happenings at Fort McMurray as being the “worst ever” when obviously things have been worse elsewhere at other times. Nor is it that the media labors to belabor that forest fires are due to “Global Warming”, which is not only scientifically absurd, but tiresome.

What really bugs me is that they fail to see how lucky we are. We are surrounded with proof we should be grateful, but they think there is no money in that. The only way to report,  (they never quite come out and state, yet epitomize), is to whine and complain things have never been worse. It infects their entire attitude towards life:  The way to get ahead is to say things have never been worse.

There have been a few times I myself have been so full of pity for myself that I have actually been inclined towards sinking to that mainstream-media attitude. Not that I ever sink so low as they live every day. Heck, my worst depression probably looks like a snow-topped mountain, to them.

But last winter I did have a major operation, and as you wake from such trauma it is hard to be an optimist. And I will confess to you that, yes, I did feel sorry for myself. However, as I wallowed in that post-operative frame of mind I was handed a book. Apparently someone I do not know, but who reads this blog and felt I deserved a tip even though I don’t have a “tip jar,” felt compelled to send me a book.

I can barely recall the book. I read it in a sedated state. But the book certainly was not a sermon. Rather it was a tale of the Galveston Hurricane, full of lurid details. And as I read how those families suffered, I stopped feeling so sorry for myself. I understood that I myself was not even close to being as bad off as those people once were. In fact I was downright lucky.

I can not do justice to how important this is. This post is but an acorn, and the idea I trace is like an oak. But, in a nutshell, it boils down to, “We are fools to feel sorry for things we should feel lucky about.”

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Comparison with 2006–

I was listening to some Bach yesterday to mellow out my temper, but unfortunately was on a PBS station which injected a bit of Climate Change hoopla into my brain before I could change the channel, the result being I was anything but mellow. The editorial was so full of incredibly distorted news that I’m surprised the speaker’s nose didn’t grow so long it poked out through the front of the radio.

Just for an example, every El Nino makes the waters warmer around Australia, which allows waters to get hot enough, in the shallowest reef-waters, to “bleach” some coral. The coral dies, and then comes back after the water cools. I’m not sure what percentage gets bleached, but it isn’t all that high. I’m not sure how long it takes for the reef to recover, but it isn’t that long. Like a forest fire in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, “bleaching” is not pretty, leaves a short-term wasteland, but is a part of the natural cycle of things.

I know all this because there was a “coral reef bleaching scare” around ten years ago, and I paid attention to a degree where I actually visited Australian websites. Some fellows at resorts were irritated that they might lose customers because people would assume the reefs were dead, while other fellows thought tourists would come if the guides played on a theme of “see the reef before it is too late.” However I soon understood the reefs were not anywhere close to dying out; bleaching had occurred before, and the reef always recovered. Some websites frequented by scuba divers were downright contemptuous of the media, and how ill-informed the reporters were, and how some scientists were pandering for funding, to study reefs the scuba divers already knew about. The divers joked the scientists were looking for a paid vacation. In the end the scare blew over and the coral recovered.

The PBS editorial I accidentally listened to was replaying all the exaggerations of the old scare, based around this latest El Nino. For example, in an area of sun-baked shallow water up to 99% of the coral can die. That is a true fact. However it is a gross distortion to use the “up to 99%” figure for the entire barrier reef. Yet the editorial said something along the lines of, “A professor and his students were reduced to weeping because up to 99% of the Great Barrier Reef had died.” That may not be an out and out lie, if you parse the sentence with a lawyer, but it gives a false impression, and therefore PBS seemingly is misusing its funding. It is suppose to educate the public, not bleat propaganda. (The (unnamed) professor is suppose to do the same.) (Weeping isn’t scientific, and weeping is known to, in fact, cloud scientific objectivity. A bunch of bawling students is therefore not a sign of a good teacher.)

The editorial went on to do the same with other facts regarding sea-ice. My favorite involved blithely explaining away the cold hitting Europe as “cold displaced by the heat at the Pole.”

Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell site  posted a Dr. Ryan Maue forecast map of snow in Germany this week.

Germany April snow 2 gfs_tot_snow_eur_29(1)

I was curious as to whether the forecast had verified, so I checked back to the Weatherbell site, and Joseph D’Aleo was (as usual) right on the ball. I learned temperatures over Germany were ten degrees below normal.

Germany April snow 3 ncep_cfsv2_4_t2anom_europe(2)

And Pierre Gosselin reported to Joseph,

“Winter transforms Germany’s Thuringia Forest into a winter wonderland today. Massberg webcam photo 11.07 a.m.

Newsite Thuringia Antenne here writes that winter has returned and will stick around for awhile, reporting of icy roads, accidents and cold. Meteorologist Dominik Jung of forecasts 5 to 10 cm of snow across wide regions of Germany, especially Bavaria and Thuringia.

The Rheinbrecke at Rees had to be closed for over an hour and a half early this morning due to accidents from icy conditions, the RP Online reports here.”

Germany April snow. Winter_massberg_April_26_2016

While it is true Europe is smaller than the Arctic Ocean, (3.931 million square miles versus 5.427 million square miles), when you include the area of Atlantic Ocean covered by the cold hitting Europe you wind up with an area larger than the Arctic Ocean. Nor is the entire Arctic Ocean above normal. Slightly less than half of it is, in fact, below normal.

Germany April snow 4 gfs_t2m_anomf_arctic_1

None of this was mentioned in the editorial, of course.  In the end it basically dissolved into a diatribe against people who vote out Alarmists, such as Australians. What was most nauseating to me was its “science-is-settled” attitude, which accepted guff as gospel.

I have my doubts about recent record-keeping, due to some being polluted by  “adjustments”, but, using those records, we are indeed feeling the effects of a large El Nino, and the air temperatures of the world are at “record highs” as the sea-ice-extent is brushing “record-lows.” I don’t find this particularly alarming, as records are set all the time, when the period when the records have been kept is relatively short.  The last El Nino did indeed set a recent record, for the central Pacific, but didn’t for the waters just off Peru. Off Peru the 1998 and 1982 El Ninos were “the worst ever”.  In any case, I’ve been expecting a lot of hubbub to be made about this El Nino’s mildness, and the word “unprecedented” to be used a lot, and the PBS editorial didn’t disappoint me.

What is always interesting to do is to search the historical records we have from the period before modern records were kept.  They are full of surprises, and in fact it was my study of the conditions the Vikings in Greenland lived under that first alerted me to the fact that the word “unprecedented” didn’t include a huge swath of history.

I started poking around in the past, looking at low sea-ice extent, and I didn’t need to go far to find an example that surprised me. It was the year 2006, which most think of as a year with higher ice-extent, because most focus on September and not late April. I found a good site for making such comparisons, where you can erase all the years you don’t want charted, and avoid facing a hopeless tangle of graphed squiggles. I thought it would be interesting to compare 2006 with 2012, (2012 being the year with the lowest extent on record). Here’s the site, so you can do your own comparing:

What is interesting is that 2012 was above normal, while 2006 was at record-setting lows, at the start of May. By September 2006’s extent was barely below 6 million km2, while 2012 was well below 4 million km2. In other words, all the hubbub about how low levels now are might actually mean we are in for a year like 2006, rather than 2012.

At this point one runs into a lot of talk about how much more solid the ice was back in 2006, versus how flimsy it is now. So I did a bit of checking. People have been skiing from 89 degrees north to the Pole for over ten years, so I went and looked at the “final degree” diary for 2006. Temperatures were milder that year than this year, and April  17 had this intriguing headline.


Reading a little discovered this:

We have crossed difficult leads of open water today, where we also had to use our two large sleds as bridge to get across. This we can do on two-three meter wide leads. We lash the two sleds together to make a catamaran, and push them out in the water. This raft floats well and becomes a stable platform; we then crawl across to the other side one after another. This system works on small leads, but on wider leads we need to find a crossing point.

We did 15.5 kilometre on our ten hour long day. It’s now 46 kilometres left to the Pole, and it looks like we will make it with good margin. At the end of the day however, we came to an enormous lead, 3-400 metre wide. We made camp nearby this lead, and Thomas and I went out to look for a crossing point for tomorrow. Pressure ridges and large leads have one thing in common; they don’t last forever. When we meet such leads there is just one thing to do and that is to walk along it until we find a crossing point. They can be several kilometres long but sooner or later the lead will close. The good thing about such leads is that they take up a lot of the movement in the ice and we hope conditions are more stable on the other side.

OK, that is 2006, when the ice was “thicker”.

Now let’s evesdrop on 2016

From April 14

A long and hard day. Lots of snow on the ice, and a lot of rubble. Not extreme, but it’s there all the time…

Final Degree 1 in-the-ice

From April 16

Beautiful day, sunny but cold. Also today heavy walking, but nothing so bad that we have to turn back. The drift has changed direction and has almost stopped up.

Final Degree 2 ice-2

Now, if I was like PBS I would never mention that they later came across open leads. I’ve made my point: The ice was thick and piled up this year. However, because I am in love with truth, I’ll mention the leads.

From April 17

Just slightly some wind, and it was in our back. Temperature probably around minus 30-35.

And drift was almost zero. We got into better ice, less bulky and with hard snow. We followed a new lead that went straight north for almost an hour.

From April 18

We skied 18 Km, same as the day before. Lots of snow in the ice, but good conditions. A lot of large pans.

From April 19

Sunny, a bit wind from the back, warmer aprox 25 under.

We met an open lead right away in the morning. Struggled there for a bit, but came over. After that we had to jump several cracks, and did a couple more leads…

We then meet the mother of all leads just before camp time! Luckily it had one point that was possible to cross. We went over and came into camp at 20:15.

There. That is what real reporting looks like. You report truth, not just what supports your theory.

The “Race Against Time” expedition experienced the same arctic landscape. They started further south, experiencing some leads at the start, but then fought through a great deal of pressure ridging, which they described as “boulder fields”. Later they too came across the leads close to the Pole, and displayed their unabashed bias (apparent throughout the trip) by stating, “Strangely warm day around -10C. 8 hours trekking today. Reached a huge expanse of water, which is bizarre so close to the North Pole.”

They should have read up on 2006, for then they would have seen that the temperatures they experienced were colder than 2006 through much of their trip. Rather than “strangely warm” they should have stated 10ºC  was”temperatures like 2006″. Also if they had researched they would have known that the adventurers in 2006 also found leads near the Pole. Maybe they would have even researched to a point they would have known there were leads near the Pole in 1987.  It’s not so “bizarre” after all.

Barneo 6C 3-subs-north-pole-1987

I always admire the people who ski to the Pole. The oldest has been 69 and the youngest has been, I think, 10. However the “Race Against Time” crew got a bit too maudlin for me.  On one hand they had to promote how “delicate and fragile” the arctic was, but on the other hand they had to make it sound like they were up against hardships only supermen could endure, and this made them describe the pressure ridges they had to haul heavy sleds over as being like the Himalayas. Wrong.  Making pressure ridges sound huge is politically incorrect, if you want to promote the idea all the ice is melting.  They forgot the political cause, in their lust for self-aggrandizement.

Fool Ranulph

All I can say is, “Put on a hat, you fool!”

To return to more mundane matters, the last “whirl” faded away from the Pole, pumping a high behind it. This has cut off the export of cold down into the North Atlantic, but not before the trough mentioned at the start of the post was filled to the brim with cold. That trough will slowly drift across Europe to the east, and some milder temperatures will finally return to Europe from west to east as that trough moves to Russia.

It looks to me like Pacific air may try to generate the next “swirl” at the Pole, but the models suggest that low north of Iceland will be the next low at the Pole, splitting the high pressure in Frem Strait in half. Hmm. I guess we’ll see what we see.

O-buoy 13 has been experiencing dull weather, cloudy but with little snow, and steady temperatures at -10ºC.Obuoy 13 0429 webcam

O-buoy 14 has been producing the better pictures, and reminding me of what originally attracted me to these cameras. (Beauty). Temperatures have been going through a diurnal swing between -7ºC and -15ºC. It’s gradually clouding up.

Obuoy 14 0427 webcam

Obuoy 14 0429 webcam

Things remain fairly dull, usually, until the thaw starts, but perhaps the Alarmists will give me more to write about.



Bill 1 Screen_shot_2015_06_17_at_7_15_36_AM Forgive me. I’m just practicing distorting truth, just in case I want to try to get a job in the mainstream media.

The above picture is actually a graphic created by Joseph D’Aleo at his excellent Weatherbell Blog to show how small tropical storm Bill was, as it came ashore; IE: Twelve Bills could fit in the state of Texas.  One of the larger Pacific super typhoons could cover the entire state. I’ve seen complexes of summer thunderstorms bigger than Bill.

Of course, a small storm doesn’t sell papers, or get you hits on your blog, and therefore some feel it is acceptable to hurl around superlatives like children whipping pillows about a bedroom. Perhaps too many young reporters watched too many commercials when young, and feel dishonesty is the American way.

It isn’t. Falsehood leads to confusion, and bad engineering. Just as an engineer would not want to build a bridge with false figures, any sort of “social engineer” should understand that “social engineering” will fall down in a heap if it is built upon falsehood, (especially the falsehood “the ends justify the means”).

For this reason reporters are under an unwritten obligation to sift through falsehood and seek truth. They are not suppose to be the dispensers of bogus news, mere sock puppets of editors who are themselves puppets. When even an infallible Pope comes out with a statement about Global Warming, reporters are suppose to do some fact-checking.

Reporters, and also scientists, need to have some pride. Truth is is worth the battle.

Nor is reality boring, if you do the work and leave the virtual world of your computer to gather facts. Even a small tropical storm like Bill will have an area of heavy rain, and ten inches of rain is a royal pain for those upon whom it falls. There is a story there, if you go and dig for it, (or slosh about for it). It is sheer laziness when reporters can’t be bothered, or only drive to a local beach and pretend to struggle against a howling wind on camera, when it is in fact merely a breeze. (One of my favorite bloopers shows a reporter reporting from a “flooded parking lot”, and as he exclaims with hyperbolic eyebrows an elderly lady calmly strolls across the parking lot behind him, and the water isn’t even up to her ankles.)

In any case, perhaps I am no one to talk, considering I used such an absurd headline to get your attention. And perhaps that is what the Pope is doing today: Getting some attention.

In truth, Bill is merely a tropical rainstorm this morning, moving up through Oklahoma, heading towards Ohio, where they can use the rain.

Bill 2 rad_c_640x480 This is not to say Bill isn’t still very dangerous