Sunday, November 18

California's wildfires are a drag-friction problem. So plant lots of bamboo there..

A quick and dirty fix but it'll work

The drag-friction of California's massive forests had always been an effective windbreak against the fierce winds coming off the Great Basin Desert. But over the course of the past century so much forest was destroyed that I think the loss reached a tipping point about a decade ago, thus greatly weakening the forest windbreak. What has followed is a nightmarish series of catastrophic wildfires driven by high-velocity winds.
The November 8 Camp fire, clocked in at 80 mph -- hurricane-force winds -- while it virtually destroyed the town of Paradise within a few hours and caused at last count 76 deaths.

So I'd say Californians need to quickly find substitutes for the weakened windbreak function of their state's forests. I doubt there's a perfect substitute but bamboo, which grows 3-5 feet per year, is an incredibly powerful windbreak when planted in sufficient amount and the right configuration. And it's able to stand up to the strongest winds and all kinds of weather -- and I do mean all kinds. 

See this article about bamboo and prepare to be amazed if you don't know anything about the plant. It even saves lives during earthquakes if people take refuge near it.

It would be a matter for wind scientists to decide exactly where large bamboo groves should be planted in California to best weaken winds from the Great Basin. Plant specialists could determine which kind of bamboo would be best for each soil, if the groves are planted in widely differing locales in California.

For those Californians who hate the thought of bamboo invading their neighborhood -- if I lived in a windy neighborhood I'd be happy to see bamboo invade but there are two types of roots; the clumping type doesn't 'travel.'

Bamboo does need a little watering during the first 3-4 years but what it takes in water it might well give back many times over if high winds cause leafy plants, including leafy crops, to require lots of water. Keep in mind that the winds from the Great Basin are blowing 10 months out of the year in California to a greater or lesser degree, at least in northern California where they're called Diablo winds.  

There could be other highly effective vegetation windbreaks and I think every bit helps when it comes to creating drag-friction. As to using manmade materials, they would have to be something Californians could live with, perhaps for a long time, until their tree forests are restored to the point where the windbreak function is strengthened.  

My allover point is that Californians are focused on fire and how to stop it. I think they'll do better if they focus more on how to slow the winds that drive the worst of the fires.


Saturday, November 17

Pundita's crash course on King Bhumibol's New Theory system of farming

The Standardized New Theory Farm

It's important to understand that Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927-2016) didn't look at subsistence farming as an end in itself. He saw it as a firmer base on which small-scale farmers could build commercial farming than the capital-intensive approach that while reasonable for setting up factories and non-farming retail businesses never did work well for small-scale commercial farmers as a group.

In essence he told the Thai small-scale commercial rice farmers, who were always suffering from food insecurity and mired in debt, 'Go back to square one. First get yourselves to the point where you can be self-sufficient in providing for your own food needs and the needs of your family. Then network with other self-sufficient farmers (easy to do in rural Thailand, which has many farming villages.)  

'Once you have a network, then the network can pool any surplus harvests and get a better price for the harvests than you can individually. Then your network can hook up with another network of self-sufficient farmers, and so on.  

'And with a portion of the profits from sales of surplus harvest, your network can branch into setting up small-scale retail businesses based on their farms' produce; for example selling herbal preparations.  

'Once you have your little retail businesses set up, THEN is when you can think about taking on debt, as a cooperative, by borrowing from banks to expand your businesses and make any capital-intensive improvements to your farms.

'This means you're taking on debt against your retail businesses, NOT against your farms.

'And you always have the fallback of food security because your farms are set up, under my farming system, to be fully self-sufficient; i.e., everything you need for a rounded diet is grown/raised right on your farm.

'Moreover, with all your food needs taken care of by your subsistence farm, you don't have to spend any of your profits from selling surplus harvest on buying food.'

That's in essence what he was advocating, although I've explained it in my own way.

In short, he applied capitalism and debt financing at a juncture where the farm itself was protected against being sold to pay off debts, and where the farmer didn't have to take on even more debt by turning to loan sharks.

The system sounds simple but it wasn't done on any significant scale that I know about until King Bhumibol came along. This was in part because subsistence farming was never modernized until he did it. Subsistence farming had been left to molder, continuing with traditional methods that often weren't adequate to produce a truly self-sufficient food source for the farmer. Indeed, much subsistence farming has always been supplemented with hunting, gathering, and fishing.

His majesty looked at six acres (the average size of a small farm in Thailand) and asked himself in essence, 'How would I feed myself and my family a well-rounded diet from just this amount of land?' Which also had to make room for the farm family's domicile and livestock outbuildings. Yet I think he got a lot of help in working out the NT farm from the Thai farmers themselves. He was a great listener.  

He did the seemingly impossible by plugging every cutting-edge technology he could find into his New Theory farm, and when he couldn't find a solution to a particular problem, he invented one. 

So while it might have taken him several years to refine and standardize the NT farm and its economic system, he solved the key problems with small-scale commercial farming that have bedeviled societies the world over, ever since the turn of the last century. That was when mechanized equipment made it possible for small landholders to engage in commercial farming. Since then it's been one disaster after another for such farmers.

He didn't invent cooperative farming, but he worked it into a system that provided small farmers with the financial security they had always lacked. Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Secretary-General of the Chaipattana Foundation, well-summed King Bhumibol's allover approach:
Technical experts have often found that His Majesty’s ways to solve problems are so simple that nobody has thought of them before. His Majesty prefers simplifying complex situations, making confusing issues understandable, and using common sense to solve problems. “Make it simple” is His Majesty’s frequent advice. Simplicity underlies most of his development initiatives.
For details on the New Theory Farm, see this article.  


Friday, November 16

Migrant Caravan is "Land Grabs in Honduras" spelled backward. Europeans take note

Of course -- of course -- this is farmland grabs. Democratic Party operatives who've been involved with the current Honduran migrant caravan to the U.S. can't claim ignorance. That's because The Huffington Post, a widely-read U.S. news outlet that's a bastion of Democratic politics, opened a window in January 2017 on land grabs in Honduras and their connection to the Honduran diasporas. 

Central American migrants atop "The Beast" train through Mexico


Land Grabs Are Partly To Blame For Skyrocketing Violence In Central America

Global firms and local elites are taking land from farmers, which pushes them to cities, where jobs are few.

By Saskia Sassen, PhD
January 16, 2017
The Huffington Post

In 2013, San Pedro Sula in Honduras was the world’s murder capital, with a murder rate of 187 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, driven by a surge in gang and drug trafficking violence. Nationwide, the year before, Honduras’s murder rate was 90 murders per 100,000 people ― the highest in the world.

What’s behind this ongoing surge in gang and drug trafficking violence? The answer is multi-faceted but a key element has been overlooked again and again: Local elites and foreign corporations gained control over much of the land that could grow crops, forcing smallholder farmers off their land.

After a land grab, large cities are often the only places farmers and others from rural parts of the country can go. But the cities offer few economic options for the migrants, and in response, they too often are targeted by gangs that make up a murderous urban subculture. Thus, many Central American refugees showing up at America’s door are both refugees of urban violence and, before that, of land grabs.

Honduras is a prominent example. Land grabs accelerated there in the 1990s after the government passed the Agricultural Modernization Law, which privatized collective landholdings. This favored large landholders and destroyed the claims of smallholders, who typically do not have modern-style contracts affirming their land ownership. 

According to Tanya Kersson, author of Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras, a few powerful landowners grabbed more than 21,000 hectares in a short period between 1990 and 1994. This accounted for 70 percent of peasant lands in the Lower Aguan Valley, one the most fertile areas in the country and the site for much of the land conflict in Honduras.

Land grabs and violence against rural Hondurans have gotten worse since the 1990s. The 2009 military coup gave the large landholders even more flexibility in expelling small landholders from their land. The incentives for doing so also grew with the entry of rich foreign corporations and strong World Bank support. 

A prominent company called Dinant Corporation, which is owned by one of Honduras’s most powerful men, has been accused of killing over 100 peasants in recent years. Dinant is financed by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, supported by the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism and has links with global corporations like Mazola Oils.

Honduras is not the only country where this is happening. Large corporations have been taking control of rural land in many parts of the world over the last decade. That access is sometimes lawful but other times shadowy, and it is sometimes accompanied by brutal armed conflict against unarmed peasants. Globally, land grabs accelerated in the mid-2000s, putting a large number of smallholders in crisis. Large foreign corporations joined in, and there have been killings and terrorizing of smallholders who fight back.

[CHART - number of conversions of smallholder land to corporate use, shows transnational agricultural deals]

Much of what gets registered as “modernization and development” by governments and institutions like the World Bank looks very different to local peasants and local activists, journalists and scholars. They see environmental destruction and criminal activity. 

The companies do create some rural jobs but those workers are underpaid and overworked. The costs associated with some development projects have been known for years, especially in Honduras, where dozens of legal practitioners and human rights defenders, not to mention farmers and environmentalists, have been killed over the past few years. Many of these crimes remain unsolved.

The consequences of these rural expulsions are varied, and the connections with land grabs are rarely made. For instance, the U.S. Border Patrol was taken by surprise when 63,000 unaccompanied minors, most from Central America, crossed the southern border of the U.S. between Oct 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014. This was nearly twice the number of previous years. The explanation given by the children was “La Violencia,” referring to the violence in the cities. 

Fear led them to cross the whole of Mexico to get to the U.S. For most, their parents were dead or in prison. Neither the border patrol nor most analysts of this surge in unaccompanied migrant children connect La Violencia with the fact that many of their parents were forced from their land and fled to the cities.

Toward the end of 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol predicted up to 90,000 unaccompanied children would cross into the U.S. that year. The U.S. government asked Mexico to control its southern border to stem the flow of migrants from Central America. Between October 2014 and April 2015, Mexico detained almost 93,000 Central American migrants. 

Detention by Mexico’s guards at its southern frontier was brutal and put the U.S. in a dubious position. Washington eventually loosened the pressure on Mexico’s southern border detentions. So once again, the flow of Central Americans to the U.S. border, if they could make it that far, jumped sharply.

Countless individuals and families making this long trip have died, given up, stayed somewhere in Mexico or been kidnapped to work in plantations, mines or the sex economy. 

And these migrations are not likely to end. In addition to the violence, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are among the poorest nations in Latin America with 21 percent, 11 percent and 4 percent, respectively, of their people living on less than $2 a day. [Pundita note: Remember, that $2/day figure is deceptive.]

Little will be learned from all this as long as the explanation from entities, such as the World Bank, and other experts is focused on gang violence in poor areas of cities. La Violencia is out of control. But these cities were not always this way. Violence does not fall from the sky. It is made. In this case, it is made partly by large modern corporations that expel small farmers.


So, shame, shame, on Democrats who just want to herd as many Central American immigrants into the U.S. as they can in order to gin up more votes for the Democratic Party.

Shame, too, on Republicans who just want lots more cheap immigrant labor to serve America's construction and agriculture industries, both of which are already bloated to the point of danger for the U.S. economy not to mention its water supply.

Both factions in the Democratic and Republican parties are short-sighted not to mention unethical to ignore the land grabs in Honduras. As for Democratic operatives who label themselves social justice warriors just trying to help the downtrodden Hondurans -- oh please. Save it for the tourists.  

More shame goes to the Vatican if they are supporting the migrant caravans to the United States because the Catholic leadership is informed enough to be aware pf what's really been going on in Honduras. Same goes for Mexico's government.

As for the World Bank and United Nations -- no use shaking the finger of shame at them. 


Gregory Copley: China and the West are in a race to the bottom

A look back to a year ago, November 15, John Batchelor Show podcast"Best of Gregory Copley: PRC depopulation and disorder and what is to be done"

If the idea of a depopulated China seems surprising -- their 'one child' policy was short-sighted. Now they're running out of productive workers to support their huge export economy. Meaning they're having to support a burdegening elderly population with labor, and food and water resources, they don't have.

As to how long they've got before it all falls apart -- maybe a decade; 15-20 years if Beijing can pull more rabbits out of the hat. Provided they don't have to eat the rabbits Pundita be nice. The point is that Beijing is well-aware of the looming crisis, which makes the government more dangerous by the year.    

I have only one quibble with Gregory's analysis, or a question. He names Iran as one of the countries that China might get food from. From what I know of the situation, Iran's water problems are if anything worse than China's. I don't see how those people can feed themselves -- unless they plan to subsist on dates -- let alone export agriculture produce in significant amounts, which I think explains the large diaspora from Iran into Iraq. That has touched off even more water problems in Iraq, which is also water challenged. And so it goes. Falling dominoes. 

In any case, the situation for China is even worse than Gregory explains in the November 2017 discussion, although it's a 'don't miss' because he and John, with Gordon Chang adding commentary, analyze the economic and political ramifications. The following March 21, 2017 Pundita post, which I based on a conversation between John and Gregory the night before, is another window on China's race to the bottom:

"Seventy to ninety percent of China's water table is polluted.  Polluted water table, polluted food."

The quote is from Gregory Copley's March 20 discussion on the John Batchelor radio show about President Xi Jinping's planned visit with President Donald Trump, to occur perhaps as early as April.

Gregory's overview of China's food security crisis is from the 7:11 to 10:09 minute mark on the podcast for the segment.  

As to what Xi is doing about the crisis, as much as possible, which isn't saying much. Cleaning up a water table for a single small region is a very lengthy and expensive process; doing the same for a nation is an almost unthinkable undertaking. There will have to be leaps in technology to pull it off; China will need to become a large importer of food in the meantime.

For a graphic introduction to China's water pollution crisis, which hasn't gotten nearly as much attention in the international press as the air pollution, see: China admits pollution brought about 'cancer villages';  RT, February 2013.


Here, taken from Google, are headlines related to the above discussion:

Jun 28, 2011 - Food must be imported and water use tightly regulated to protect ... northern plains or aquifers will diminish to a "dire" level in 30 years, ... This is increasingly made up from underground sources, which account for 70% of water supplies. .... Thousands of ships could dump pollutants at sea to avoid dirty fuel ...

Apr 11, 2016 - Over 80 percent of the water from underground wells across China's plains is unfit for drinking because of contamination, according to statistics ...

Feb 18, 2014 - China to spend $330 billion to fight water pollution -paper ... generate nearly 70 percent of its electricity while self-sufficiency in food remains a ...

Oct 10, 2013 - The water table under the capital has dropped by 300 metres ... As if that were not bad enough, China is polluting what little water it has left.

May 8, 2008 - Pollution and global warming threaten Asia's most important freshwater source ... activities are producing record levels of air and water pollution in Tibet. .... An estimated 70 percent of China's rivers are polluted, leaving an estimated 300 ... 

Thursday, November 15

Argument: Loss of forest windbreaks major cause of huge N. California wildfires

Paradise is situated in a wind tunnel that didn't exist when the town was built in the 1870s. It was this wind tunnel that within moments whipped a small brush fire into a fast-moving inferno, which all but destroyed Paradise within a few hours on November 8, 2018. Since then, discussions about the leading reasons for the "Camp" fire disaster have not gone near addressing what I'd argue is the key reason.

An established, well-acknowledged fact is that northern California has over decades lost much of its forest.(1) What is not acknowledged in discussions about California's wildfires is that forests act as a powerful windbreak -- even though this is also established fact.(2) So, no connection has been made between the loss of windbreak due to loss of forest and the high-velocity winds that fueled the Camp fire.     

Yet it was the forest windbreaks that had kept fierce winds, which routinely arise from the Great Basin, at a more docile pace in the region. Then destruction of the north's forests reached a tipping point, perhaps as late as the turn of this century, and so they can no longer adequately protect the region from the Diablo winds, as they're called in the state's north (Santa Ana in the south). 

These winds are not really seasonable, or they're no longer seasonable, because they are blowing for 10 months out of the year to a greater or lessor degree:

So with greatly reduced windbreaks, northern California's climate would have to turn tropical to offset the nearly year-round drying effect of the Diablo winds! I think this shows the flaw in explanations that California's heavy rainfall earlier in the year, followed by six months without rain, created huge amounts of bone-dry tinder that fueled the Camp fire. With the Diablo winds blowing, I'd think it would take only a couple weeks, if that, after the rains ended to turn damp vegetation into tinder.

Californians don't have to wait for scientific studies to confirm my argument. They can just ask themselves whether people would build a town in a wind tunnel situated in Forest Fire Alley. 

Paradise was established on a ridge in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the 1870s along a railway that served mining and sawmills. The region was so heavily forested that the town seal shows a big tree and the city flag features a dense treeline. Forest fires, usually due to dry lighting strikes, were common. But there is no way they traveled at 70 mph, as winds were clocked shortly before the Camp fire broke out. If that had been the case Paradise could easily have burned down several times over since it was established.

If you entertain my argument for the sake of discussion, what about solutions? I doubt the massive forests could be restored in our lifetimes. So what Californians would be left with is a search for offsets; that's first a job for mathematicians, engineers and researchers working on wind-related problems, and plant specialists.  

The idea is to learn what kind of fast-growing vegetation can produce enough drag friction to slow winds that are often near Category 1 hurricane force. Then identify where the vegetation should be planted for best effect against the winds. Then plant the vegetation in whatever amount and configuration the specialists advise. As to getting the water for the plantings -- I see no offsets that do not involve financial pain for Californians.   

As to building completely artificial windbreaks in large enough number to slow the winds without making the region unlivable, that's also a question for specialists.

But you can't start working on offsets until you narrow the field. Californians seem to be more focused on climate as a monolithic, global phenomenon than on microclimates. Yet California has several widely varying microclimates. Until the voters there think first in terms of microclimates -- their own -- I don't see how they can move off the dime of their present assessments of the state's wildfire disasters, which have not led to viable offsets.

A big question for me is whether the loss and attendant increase in the velocity of Diablo winds are altering the microclimate in the state's north -- changing it from very moist to drier. I believe there's a case to be made for this although we must wait on more data, which might mean waiting for more years to pass. 

Another question is whether massive loss of forest in the north is affecting climates in the more southern areas of the state and even in other U.S. states. I know that some research has already been done on the latter aspect. See California Tree Loss Could Have Implications for Forests Nationwide, which includes this sobering claim:
"Forest loss [on the West Coast] is disrupting or changing the flow patterns in the atmosphere that is leading to a slightly different summertime climate in the eastern part of the country." 
In summary, I'd say to focus more on the Diablo/Santa Ana winds when devising responses to California's wind-driven wildfires. Don't accept the winds' high velocity as an unavoidable permanent fixture of California life that has always been the case. Common sense alone tells this has not always been the case, at least not in the state's north.

1) Pot Growers Destroying National Forests (2011, Live Science)

26 Million Trees Died in California Forests in Just One Year (2016, TakePart)

2) "The severe drag-friction over forests absorbs energy and slows down winds."
-- Douglas Sheil, "Forests Versus Hurricanes"

"Windbreaks are barriers used to reduce and redirect wind. They usually consist of trees and shrubs but also may be perennial or annual crops and grasses, fences, or other materials. The reduction in wind speed behind a windbreak modifies the environmental conditions or microclimate in this sheltered zone."
-- University of Nebraska, Lincoln Extension, "How Windbreaks Work"

Wednesday, November 14

AccuWeather president's statement about economic impact of California wildfires

The number of confirmed dead from the Camp fire in California's north has risen to 48 in the last few hours, with 3 confirmed dead in Southern California. Fires are still burning in the north and south, with the current worst threat from the Woolsey fires burning in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Now to the economics of the wildfires, then on to the weather forecast.

From AccuWeather, 3:10 PM ET today:
Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, said, “This is a serious humanitarian as well as economic disaster for the state of California, possibly rivaling the negative impacts of the great earthquakes there. 
"At this point AccuWeather estimates that the total damage and economic impact of the California wildfires has already exceeded $80 billion, and will likely exceed $150 billion. The impact will possibly reach $200 billion by next week based on AccuWeather forecast conditions of strong winds and very little rain combined with very dry grounds and vegetation aggravated by lack of rain and strong [parching] winds.
"If these conditions and the resulting damage persist, at least partially into December, this could well turn out to be one of the costliest weather and climate disasters in the U.S., exceeding the damage caused by major hurricanes such as Katrina, Sandy and Harvey.
"This dramatic economic loss will cause substantial damage to California’s economy with repercussions to its annual budget, potentially resulting ultimately in increased taxes. 
"Deteriorating economic conditions brought on by the negative economic impact of the fires, coming on the heels of last year's [fire-related] losses, will stress the state’s budget, possibly causing the state’s credit to deteriorate which, if it occurs, will result in lower bond ratings and higher interest rates with the snowball effect to greater deficits and more expenses."
From the same report:

8,345 structures destroyed
Over 237,000 acres burned
Includes Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire [135,00 acres Camp Fire, 97,620 Woolsey Fire, and 4, 531 Hill Fire]
Area burned is larger than each of these U.S. cities 
  • New York City
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Baltimore
  • Washington, D.C.
From an updated Independent report published about an hour ago the estimated number of destroyed structures now stands at 8,800, with surely the bulk of that number from the Camp fire in Paradise. 

The AccWeather forecast from the 3:10 PM report:
Although winds in the vicinity of the Camp Fire [Northern California] are forecast to be significantly less during Thursday and Friday compared to that of early this week, an ongoing breeze will keep the threat for wildfire development and spread elevated in Southern California into Friday.
A major change in the weather pattern that is forecast to bring much-needed moisture [higher humidity] and the potential for rainfall to the state starting this weekend and continuing into next week.
“While there is a chance for some meaningful rainfall next week, it is unlikely that we will see enough precipitation to end the fires across Southern California. There is a somewhat better chance for enough rainfall to diminish the fires in Northern California," Myers said.
Meanwhile, the decrease in winds will make fire behavior less erratic and prevent fires from spreading as rapidly as they have been over the past week, which should give residents facing future evacuations more time to reach safety.
In addition, moisture from the Pacific Ocean should be channeled back into the state early next week, and a storm system is forecast to bring wet weather back to parts of the state by the middle of next week.
The exact track and intensity of the storm system will determine how much of the state receives rain and how much rain falls, respectively.

Tuesday, November 13

What destroyed Paradise was basically a high wind event. But how, in a heavily forested area?

With reports I'd posted years ago about destruction to California's forests kicking around in the back of my brain, it wasn't long before I began to sense there was something odd about the tragedy in Paradise. Yes, the town was virtually destroyed by wildfire but one pushed along by sustained "howling winds" as AccuWeather put it -- the infamous Diablo winds, called Santa Ana winds farther to California's south. 

But did idiots build Paradise? Else why locate a town on a ridge in a wind tunnel? The answer is that a wind tunnel didn't run through Paradise back in the 1800s. The massive forests in the Sierra Nevada foothills would have braked the Diablo winds back then. Here:

Windbreaks are barriers used to reduce and redirect wind. They usually consist of trees and shrubs but also may be perennial or annual crops and grasses, fences, or other materials. The reduction in wind speed behind a windbreak modifies the environmental conditions or microclimate in this sheltered zone.
-- University of Nebraska, "How Windbreaks Work"

The severe drag-friction over forests absorbs energy and slows down winds.
-- Douglas Sheil, "Forests Versus Hurricanes"

Okay, there were wind driven wildfire in the region but because of the massive forests I don't think these could have been sustained at high velocity. One doesn't have to search more than a minute on the internet to get on the path of learning what happened to those massive forests. Here are three reports out of a large number:

26 Million Trees Died in California Forests in Just One Year(2016, TakePart)

Nobody contests that huge swaths of forest in the Sierra Nevada and other regions in the USA have been destroyed although agreement pretty much ends there, as people line up to argue over reasons for the destruction and what to do about it.  

Some arguments are quite precious. One report says that lack of water caused by climate change contributes to forest destruction in many cases. Take a look at this photo from the Live Science report. Does it look like climate change to you? 

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

That's a California National Guardsmen and volunteers  preparing "some of the 300 miles of irrigation line removed from marijuana-growing gardens to be airlifted out" of the forest after a marijuana grow operation was busted.

You read that right; 300 miles, not 3 or 30. 

Diversion of water, draining streams and creeks dry, and poisoning of water sources had been going on a long time in pot agriculture. But after 2008 these were no longer Mom& Pop pot growers; these were industrial-scale grows in California forests overseen by Mexican drug cartels. They ran the grow sites like a military operation using virtual slave labor from Mexico and Central American countries. As soon as the Forest Service found one grow, a cartel set up in another part of a national forest. As to how much forest they destroyed -- I've never seen a statistic but the destruction was "massive" according to one report I saw in 2012.

If you want to know more about the situation you can start by reading my 2015 post Dope, Deforestation, and Desertification but to cut a long story, although there are several reasons for water droughts and other factors that have led to deforestation in California's north, the punchline is the Diablo winds no longer have a big opponent. This has set up a vicious cycle in which the more strongly the winds blow, the more forests dry out, leading to more deforestation, leading to even less windbreaks, leading to even more drying of the forest and surrounding areas. 

And so it goes in a steadily worsening cycle until an entire microclimate has been radically altered, as happened in northern California -- and surely at points farther south in the state. Take a look at this chart from the Fire Weather Research Laboratory, which shows by month the frequency of the Diablo winds. Notice anything a little startling about the chart?

That's right; the only time the winds die down is during July and August. So why do we keep hearing, every time there's a big wildfire in California, 'This happened during the annual Diablo [or Santa Ana] winds.' Annual? Maybe at one time, but they're a near-constant feature of California weather. And the more those winds blow the drier it gets, and they can turn dank vegetation from heavy rainfall into tinder faster than you can say hiss cat. 

As to what all this has to do with climate change -- well it is climate change, just not the type California's Governor Jerry Brown had in mind when he as much accused the entire human race of contributing to California's killer wildfire seasons. Not to dismiss the idea that excess manmade greenhouse gases are harmful, but I look at it this way: Because the United States can't conquer China and India to make them shut down their coal-fired plants, the idea is to develop offsets. 

There is plenty that Californians can do to improve their microclimates, and it starts with repairing the severely damaged microclimate in the state's north. This is doable; yes, even given much loss of the best windbreaks -- large numbers of big trees. Granted it's not doable without financial pain because man-made windbreaks on a large scale don't come cheap. But it's less pain than living in cities where officials have to pass out smoke masks every time high winds take wildfires on a joyride during a dry season. It's less pain than what happened to the people in Paradise.

Californians among Pundita readers could also study the article by Douglas Sheil that I linked to above. It discusses a model of how the climate works that differs considerably from the one accepted by the majority of climate scientists -- and by Governor Brown.