A federal agency has been caught tampering with historical wildfire data in an obvious effort to make wildfire prevalence and severity appear to be correlated with alleged global warming.
Created in 1965, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) maintains statistics on annual wildfire counts and the number of acres burned in those fires. Until recently, the NIFC posted on its website wildfire statistics for every year since 1926, as evidenced by this Internet Archive screen capture. However, the agency now only posts statistics from 1983 to the present. Why?
“The answer,” asserts climate realist Anthony Watts, “is simple; data prior to 1983 shows that U.S. wildfires were far worse both in frequency and total acreage burned. By disappearing all data prior to 1983, which just happens to be the lowest point in the dataset, now all of the sudden we get a positive slope of worsening wildfire aligning with increased global temperature, which is perfect for claiming ‘climate change is making wildfire[s] worse.’”
To prove his point, Watts created graphs from both the original data and the now-scrubbed data. The graph of the complete dataset shows that from the 1920s to the early 1980s, there were far more wildfires covering far more acreage than there have been since. The graph of the current NIFC dataset, on the other hand, suggests an increase in both statistics over time.
Another graph generated by Watts sheds further light on the complete dataset. The worst of the wildfires occurred during the 1930–1941 “Dust Bowl” era and again during the 1976–1978 drought in the West. Meanwhile, 1982–1983 saw a “super El Nino” that soaked the western states, causing 1983 to have the fewest and least-destructive wildfires on record. After that, wildfire and acreage counts naturally increased, but thus far they have seldom approached most of the pre-1983 counts and have been far below the counts from the peak years of that era.
Watts traces the history of the NIFC’s public statements on the pre-1983 data and finds a curious pattern: Since Watts’ publicization of the data’s death blow to the claim that “global warming” causes wildfires, the NIFC has cast increasing doubt on the reliability of the older data to the point that it now claims said data is so bad it cannot be posted publicly.