In a typical year, early September is one of the best times for riding. The heat of summer is behind us, the cold of winter is yet to come. Cycle Oregon usually holds their annual “Classic” ride the second week of this month precisely for this reason. (The ride was cancelled this year due to Covid-19 and it’s crazy to think it would have been cancelled due to the fires even if the virus didn’t exist.)
But obviously this is no typical year.
First the pandemic squashed group riding completely. And now the smoke from dozens of fires throughout our state has pushed air quality into unhealthy levels. Nearly all the great places just beyond Portland city limits where we love to ride are either closed or have been burned. That makes me incredibly sad. But if you only ride bikes for fun consider yourself very lucky. Some don’t have a choice. Their bike is the only way to get around.
We know some of you who read this have lost your homes and/or businesses. Others have had to flee fast-moving flames. My heart goes out to everyone struggling in this moment. Hang in there. Things will get better. I hear there’s rain in the forecast for early next week.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Things did feel really hard today. Thank you for this post, Jonathan!
What mask were you wearing? I went out and wore my usual cloth mask for the first time, but it is meant to trap moist exhalation with possible viruses, not to catch smoke and particulate from fires.
N95 or a chemical respirator with filter cartridges are the best bet right now. Cloth doesn’t do much with these small particles.
“cloth doesn’t do much with these small particles”
are we fat-shaming viruses now?
I’ve been getting crazy headaches from the smoke in my rather derelict apartment that lacks proper insulation or any HVAC system. But I’m lucky that I can work from home! I really feel for those who don’t have a choice whether to spend time outside, where I’m sure the smoke is much worse.
Commiserating with others makes this time less difficult! Thanks for sharing your perspective here. And I know it’s toxic, but the hazy smoke lends a really cool aesthetic to the photographs that accompany this article.
If you have a box fan and a furnace filter, you can make a DIY room filter:
Habitat ReStore at Mall 205 had a ton of surplus filters earlier this week. Unfortunately, they are closed today, but they may open again this weekend.
If you have a heat exchange (external A/C), I’d recommend taping filters over the indoor forced-air vents too – it not only removes the dust and smoke, but also much of the mold during the rainy season.
I was camping at Breitenbush Campground when we got the order from the Sheriff to evacuate at 930 on Monday night. The drive out of there through Detroit, Gates and Mill City was harrowing.
We are going to have a lot less wilderness to play in.
Inserts stick in bicycle wheel.
Crashes and blames people who warned that putting stick in wheel would cause crashes.
Oh heaven forbid people should actually drive to the mountains to enjoy the outdoors.
Sure would be a lot more mountains left to enjoy if people didn’t drive to them. This is a direct result of climate change, perpetuated by people who can’t fathom life without their cars.
Speaking for myself, I have a car solely for the purposes of outdoor recreation. I basically never use it on weekdays. The problem is people who use their cars for everything, not those who use them responsibly to travel to places that are inaccessible with public transit or other means.
Sure would a better city to enjoy if the last 250,000 people did not move to Portland. Too many people, that’s the problem. You can’t fathom life without the internet, so which finger am I holding up?
Ah yes, ignoring the 80+ years of fire suppression helps with the identity politics, but certainly not with reality.
The absolute horror of acknowledging our mistakes.
There isn’t much debate in the scientific literature about the overall cause of the massive increase in summer forest fire severity on the West Coast. Years of climate modeling essentially predicted this outcome and many scientists are understandably in despair at seeing the results of their models come true: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/peteraldhous/california-fires-record-burn-fire-apocalypse.
“Since the early 1970s, warm‐season days warmed by approximately 1.4 °C as part of a centennial warming trend, significantly increasing the atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD). These trends are consistent with anthropogenic trends simulated by climate models. The response of summer forest‐fire area to VPD is exponential, meaning that warming has grown increasingly impactful. Robust interannual relationships between VPD and summer forest‐fire area strongly suggest that nearly all of the increase in summer forest‐fire area during 1972–2018 was driven by increased VPD.”
“Annual statewide burned area increased significantly during 1972–2018, largely due to an eightfold increase in annual summer forest‐fire extent, most of which occurred in the heavily forested North Coast and Sierra Nevada regions. Summer forest‐fire extent is strongly dictated by heat and atmospheric aridity, which reduce snowpack and dry out fuels. Warm‐season atmospheric aridity (vapor‐pressure deficit) increased significantly across California since the late 1800s, driven largely by daytime warming of approximately 1.8 °C (1.4 °C since the early 1970s). Based on a regression analysis, the vast majority of the observed increase in summer forest‐fire extent since 1972 is accounted for by observed significant increases in warm‐season vapor‐pressure deficit (caused by warming). Importantly, the sensitivity of burned area to aridity is modulated by background conditions such as fuel abundance and connectivity, ignition frequency, and resources dedicated toward suppression, all of which changed over the past century. However, the statistical relationship between vapor‐pressure deficit and forest fire area remained stable during 1972–2018, supporting the interpretation that increased aridity was the primary driver of the increase in summer forest‐fire area during this time. The observed rates of warming and increasing vapor‐pressure deficit are consistent with those simulated by climate models when forced by anthropogenic emissions, indicating that these trends are extremely likely to continue for decades to come.”
Sadly, one of the primary adaptations to climate fires will likely be massive prescribed burns that gradually convert swathes of our forests into fire-resistant shrub land. Smoke and toxic PM2.5 will likely be part of our future regardless of whether we begin to mitigate or adapt to the climate crisis.
“Identity politics” has nothing to do with acknowledging error — it is just a way of dividing people into groups and appealing to each differently. From an electoral theory standpoint, it may seem like common sense, but the generalization that people within any particular racial group think alike strikes me as offensive.
I put “identity politics” in scare quotes because, IMO, “identity politics”, as it is commonly use, is more of an epithet than a word that has any specific meaning.
It should be an epithet, in the same way it’s cousin “stereotyping” is.
Says the white guy with all the privilege…
Ummm…I was criticizing the way conservative white dudes use “identity politics” to dismiss any more progressive/moral policy, not its use in academic critical theory.
Fire is part of the natural cycle of forest land. If prescribed burns are done right they burn off the debris that has collected over the last 50 years of trying to stop all fires. Ideally, with prescribed burns, future fires won’t burn as hot and will be less likely to jump into the forest canopy.
The journal articles I linked to discuss this and argued that the magnitude of prescribed burns now necessary will cause large amounts of seasonal smoke pollution in urban areas.
I also suspect that Oregonians will be loathe to implement the adaptations needed because USAnians are uniquely incapable of short-term sacrifice (muh recreational forest areas, and muh forest vacation home) for the long-term common good.
While I think it’s good and necessary to draw a line between the consequences we are all suffering now and choices we’ve made (with regards to development patterns, consumption, transportation, recreation, and forest management practices) to compel climate action, it’s also good and necessary in this moment to grieve the degradation of what so many of us love the PNW for and be thankful for the lives saved.
I’ve been grieving for many years. It’s also hard for me to feel thankful because I fear for OUR future.
Thank you, Mother Teresa.
anything trying to explain climate change and framing it since 2015 is just absurd and completely disingenuous.
fun fact: the past 2019/2020 Australian wildfire season was apocalyptic by most accounts and something “we’ve never seen before” according to the NYTIMES…18mm hectares burned roughly.
18mm hectares is an astounding number, and sounds cataclysmic until u realize that on average 50mm hectares burn annually in Aussie wildfires.
Square that circle and maybe humanity can have a real conversation about climate change, forestry practices, and encroaching populations
Anyone who examines the dates on the figures in the Union of Concerned Scientists thread or in the source journal article PDF will see through your lie.
It would make a bigger difference if people didn’t do most of their other daily driving, and saved motor vehicles for the occasional trip out of town that you can’t do on a bus. (Yes, I know you could get partway up the Santiam valley on Cherriots, but pretty sure it didn’t go all the way up to Detroit or Breitenbush). If we did that we actually would NOT be dealing with this crisis.
Put more simply, reducing your carbon footprint is not binary.
I don’t recall blaming anyone, Soren and I certainly did not start this fire. You also have no idea of my driving habits, whether I have been telecommuting for the last 8 years, etc. But if you want to use a forest fire to grandstand on your Climate Change bona-fides, please proceed.
But I will say – the police were pretty terrific during the whole scenario. If they were not using their petro-jalopies, many people would have perished.
ACAB, except maybe the ones that helped me when I called 911.
Hi MoR, you’ve made your opinion on climate change “grandstanding” over the years very clear. A few quotes from your opus here on BP:
And the device you posted from…shipped here from China?
Picking quotes is nice, but I think you leave out some context.
All of my comments pretty much summarize my belief that Climate Change exists but we will not prevent it. If anything, I have been amazingly consistent.
This “whataboutism” is made in bad faith but I agree that the culture of consumption and wasteful planned obsolescence in the USA is one of the main reasons our houses are on fire. I hope that one day you will be able to move beyond your self-interested fear and acknowledge that this is a tragedy of the commons.
Weather happens denialism.
I drive to the forest to get away from YOU. Yeah, stick in wheel just leads to a manual if you can do it.
There are responsible and irresponsible uses for cars. I’d argue that traveling to wilderness areas to recreate where you can’t get to without a car certainly falls under responsible use.
I agree — the things I use my car for are the ok ones.
Opinions may vary on what people consider to be responsible uses. As always, I try to preface my opinions with “I think”, “I’d argue”, or something similar, while not prefacing facts with anything. Yours may vary.
That’s exactly my point, along with justifications in this situation being self-serving. It’s hard to justify adding to climate change for recreation. I do it, but I don’t defend it.
“…you can’t get to without a car…”
What places are those? If you name a place in Oregon, or W of the Continental Divide, or E of it for that matter, I expect that I could get there without a car. You’re willing to pay the cost of making the only human-habitable planet within many millions of miles less safe for the billions who live here, but not to take a week or so to ride across the state. What were you going to do with that time anyway? Oh right, work off your car payment.
Read the room, man. People are suffering- maybe just take a pause on the lecturing for a beat.
Meanwhile, Portland and Mulnomah County’s green house gas emissions estimates have increased since 2013. And even those numbers are green washing nonsense given that the single largest source of Portland’s emissions (by far) comes from exported consumption.
(See page 37)
Despite Portland’s signatory pledge to the c40 Network, it recently stopped reporting consumption-based GHG metrics in 2020. I guess if you no longer report your failures, they no longer exist.
PS: Major industrial/commercial sources of emissions began to move out of the Portland area in the late 90s and Portland used this unrelated economic transition to falsely claim that its 2001 Climate Action Plan was a success. Any USAnian city that does not focus on consumption-based emissions statistics is green washing the climate crisis.
thanks for saying this
pray for rain!
dance for rain!
But no lightning, Thor. And keep the wind to a minimum.
About 40 years ago it was obvious to anyone with a brain larger than a walnut that if humans kept making plastic, driving personal automobiles, burning oil, deforesting and driving animal species to extinction there would be heck to pay in the future. Mother nature said ( I am using my imagination here), ” you humans are slow learners so I am going to give you 40 years to get your act together, but if you have not changed your ways by then I am going to take you to the woodshed.” Many people thought that the pollution, climate change etc would be ok and it would just effect other people and a few animals and bugs. But mother nature says, ” you don’t get off that easy, I got lots of tricks in my bag.” Now we have been taken to the woodshed and the first lesson is a global pandemic that seems tailor made to cripple a modern finance/service economy. Now we get fires that are not just burning up bambi, but driving flames and smoke in to the heart of our cities. We better wise up quick and do better than hoping self driving cars and battery bikes will save us. I for one, don’t want to see what “lesson” mother nature has tee’d up next.
According the Greenland core samples, our biggest competitors on concentrated CO2 emissions have been the Romans and the 19th Century dark satanic mills (think Dickens.)
‘Greenland core samples’. Just read that exact reference yesterday. Reddit maybe?
Every single Portlander and Oregonian is looking forward to the rain. We could all use a nice big cleanse right now.
We have a surplus of nice juicy Mid-Atlantic tropical storms right now. Want us to ship one to you FedEx? https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
A properly fitted N95 respirator mask will provide SOME protection. Ultra-fine wood smoke particles are dangerous because they persist deep in the lungs. Outdoor riding is best avoided.