WeatherBell's Bastardi: Western Blazes Due to Pacific Cooling

Friday, 16 May 2014 05:33 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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California's latest wildfire plague, as bad as it is, isn't doing as much damage as blazes there did in 2007, but the fires will keep happening out west while the Pacific Ocean is in its latest cooling-down period, the chief forecaster for WeatherBell Analytics told Newsmax TV on Friday.

Joe Bastardi warned against linking the wildfires and other attention-getting weather events to claims of man-made global warming. Bastardi told "America's Forum" hosts J.D. Hayworth and Morgan Thompson that there's "all sorts of media hype going on over every small situation."

Droughts in the South and the West are a product of the Pacific Ocean cooling down after being "warmer than normal" in recent decades, he said.

"We've been warning people for the last 10 years that the South and West is going to get very dry overall because the Pacific is flipping into its dry pattern," he said.

Story continues below video.

That could change if the warm-water current known as El Niño develops in the Pacific. NASA scientists say its latest satellite images suggest conditions there are ripe for a return of El Niño, which tends to produce wetter weather in the West.

But according to Bastardi, the prevailing Pacific cool-off and regional population growth since the last Pacific cool-down have combined to make recent western wildfires more devastating.

"The last time we went into a cycle like this was back in the '50s and '60s, but there weren't as many people living in the southern United States, or in harm's way for wildfires, as there are now," said Bastardi.

With the annual Western fire season just underway, Bastardi said it's difficult to know how bad or mild it will be overall based on the wildfires burning right now. He pointed to last year's tornado season: It began with two mammoth twisters in Oklahoma that had forecasters fearing the worst — and then petered out to a "record low" in recorded tornado activity.

Bastardi expressed concern for people in the paths of wildfires and tornadoes, but lamented the "hyperbole" surrounding information about these weather events.

He said some of the damage wrought by fires might also be traced to homebuilding in heavily forested areas that aren't cleared once the housing goes up.

"I met a lot of forestry people at Penn State," said Bastardi. "They believe some of our conservation methods are fueling this. We're building houses in places and not chopping down trees, and not letting nature take its course the correct way. So what do you think is going to happen?"

The heated discussion of climate change, he said, overlooks the fact that the climate is always in flux. "The atmosphere is never stable," said Bastardi. "It's in constant search of a balance it cannot attain."

As a result, "There are going to be times when there's conflict in the atmosphere causing one type of weather in one place, and compensating weather the other way in another place," he said. "This has happened all the time. Believe me, if you go back and look at the '30s, '40s and '50s in this country, you'll find out what extreme weather was."

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