Tuesday, August 3
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We Need Better Mathematics for Soil Erosion After Wild Fires and Controlled Burns

The other day, I was having a conversation with myself about the mathematics of erosion patterns. In studying the Mathematical concepts in Stephen Wolfram’s “A New Type of Science” it appeared to me that we could put together algorithms that could predict erosion patterns occurring from water runoff. In fact, from 60,000 feet most of the terrain looks like computational fractal modeling. This led me to another topic; Safe and Wise Forest Controlled Burning.

You see, managing our forests is a very important thing. If the undergrowth gets too large, and over 100 tons per acre is impenetrable, and when it dries out it is an extreme fire hazard causing the fires to burn so hot that it kills all the old-growth rather than helping to rejuvenate the forest through these mild wildfires which are expected, and the plants and shrubbery have over time evolved to deal with, adapt, and thrive under these conditions. There is a very good and interesting research paper on this topic I’d like you to read;

“Effects of Prescribed Burning on Surface Runoff and Erosion,” by Jane Greenslade Cawson prepared for her PhD and completed on December of 2012 for the Department of Forestry and Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne.

It seems we ought to only do controlled burning in the Spring Time, let me explain.

The paper noted that both low and high fire severity areas had similar results probably because the underbrush was burned, the basic ground level vegetation. Also the larger storms which are infrequent caused the most damage, historically in all the studies done. Interestingly enough, as you probably know Australia went through major flooding after their big fires about the time this paper was completed, just prior to its publication by a few months. This is why this paper is so valuable in hindsight, and turns out the author/researcher was spot on!

The controlled burning should be done as far as possible away from normal periods of stormy weather. Whenever those regions have had extreme weather events, then any controlled burning should be done as far away from those particular times as possible. Six months would be preferable, 18 months would be great, but we can’t predict the weather that far in advance. However with proper computational modeling and the right mathematics we might be able to get fairly close based on El Niño, solar maximums, Farmer’s almanac weather trends, and specific regions, etc. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

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