Thinning forests, prescribed fire before drought reduced tree loss

Re-Blogged From WUWT

Who’d a thunk it, forest management might be a good idea?~ctm

Treatments may reduce loss in future droughts and bark beetle epidemics

University of California – Davis

Thinning forests and conducting prescribed burns may help preserve trees in future droughts and bark beetle epidemics expected under climate change, suggests a study from the University of California, Davis.

Dead and dying trees dot the landscape in the Sierra Nevada during the region's recent drought. Credit USDA Forest Service

Dead and dying trees dot the landscape in the Sierra Nevada during the region’s recent drought. Credit USDA Forest Service

The study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, found that thinning and prescribed fire treatments reduced the number of trees that died during the bark beetle epidemic and drought that killed more than 129 million trees across the Sierra Nevada between 2012-2016.

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The Golden ‘Moment Of Truth’ Is Upon Us: $1,400-Plus Or Not?

By Michael Ballanger – Re-Blogged From Gold Eagle

With gold enjoying its best week of the year, with the Daily Sentiment Index charging northward, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) pressing 72 for the GLD, with the RSI for GDX pushing 75, and finally, with the newsletter community all falling on top of themselves with self-laudatory backslaps, I think it is time to adopt the contrarian view and step back.

It was less than five weeks ago, with gold and the miners all coming off sharply oversold conditions (RSI in the mid-high 30s), that I wrote that “carpe diem” in reference to ownership of GLD calls and my two favorite leveraged miners, NUGT and JNUG. Sure enough, JNUG has moved from $6.50 to $9.50 and NUGT from $14.50 to $22.10, while the GLD July $120 calls rocketed from $2.20 to $7.60. (Note: I did not get “top tick” for any of them, but did bank yet another decent 40% return on the miners, and a double and a half on the GLD calls).

The point is that while I would love for gold to break out of this bullion bank headlock at the $1,350–$1,375 band of resistance, history has proven it to be a formidable obstacle and one that you absolutely must face.

Here are a few charts illustrating my point:

First, the GLD, hated by many, traded by most, and an excellent proxy for the “paper gold” market, the second-most corrupt market in the world and runner-up to the most corrupt market in the world, the Comex (“Crimex”) futures market in Chicago. Right up there beside it is the HUI, the unhedged gold miners index that represents the vast universe of gold mining entities around the world, and another great proxy for a vastly hated group of companies whose collective market cap losses in the past eight years has been colossal.

Many, many new millionaire investors have sprung up from owning these lifestyle-preserving dinosaurs, having been formerly billionaire investors prior to taking the gold miner plunge. The HUI has had no fewer than six rallies since the top in August 2016, but each rally was followed by new lows, with the most recent low coming last September. The RSI and moving average convergence-divergence (MACD)/histogram combo currently reside in “overbought” territory, and if history proves as reliable today as it was at every other visit to the $1,350–$1,375 resistance zone, we should don the personalities of the hideous bullion bank traders and sell that which we own in the paper markets to adopt their illicit yet enormously profitable tactics and executions.

The next two charts are my favorite vehicles for dice-rolling. . .er. . .speculation in the miners because they are extremely liquid and they report to oversold and overbought conditions appropriately to the extent that you can buy 100,000 shares with an RSI around 30, as I did in May with JNUG and NUGT, and then let it fly when the RSI exceeds 70, as I did last week. Because I subscribe to the view that most successful traders earn their stripes by always selling too soon, I was a week early in pulling the JNUG and NUGT triggers, but as I never buy 100% positions in one fell swoop, I also never sell 100% positions in the same manner. I scale in and I scale out because no one indicator is infallible. All data is freely available to literally everyone, but I have learned over the many years of trading (and losing) that it is the interpretation of the indicator, as opposed to the level, that defines the trade’s set-up. Please allow me to elaborate.


George Soros once wrote that he would experience back pain whenever he entered a trade that was suspect. Rather than rejecting it as a psychosomatic illusion, he learned to trust the back pain as a definable premonition of unfavorable outcome. It was his brain telling him to exit the trade by way of his body and despite the voodoo-ism in the explanation, I totally agree with him.

On Friday the 14th, I arose from slumber at roughly 5 a.m. and proceeded to check the markets while luxuriating in some lovely new 400-thread sheets recently introduced to me by my partner. As I had already started to exit my leveraged gold and gold miner positions, I was stricken with a sharp pain of panic as gold was trading in the $1,355–$1,360 range. Not only had I gone on record as a seller of the move to $1,350, I was tweeting out all week warning after warning in the $1,340–$1,350 range. So to say that the June 14 3:00 a.m. Globex print at $1,361.20 was problematic is an understatement.

Nevertheless, here is the tweet I sent out: Initiating 50% position in GLD July $127 puts @ $1.42…Lord hates a coward.

That was delivered at 11:30 a.m.. By 3:00 p.m. gold had dropped $14 per ounce and my puts traded up to $1.94, finally closing at $1.85. I am currently looking for a $40–$60 drop in gold and an RSI in the high-20s/low-30s by mid-August. If that occurs quickly, the puts will trade $4.50–$6.50 and I will be a reluctant hero. Repeat—a reluctant hero, and here is why.

If you had asked me in 2001 what I thought would drive gold to $5,000 per ounce, I would have responded with a list of economic, financial and geopolitical events such as terrorist attacks, war, debt defaults, stock market volatility, currency crises, accelerating inflation rates and fraud, all driving investors to the time-tested safe havens of precious metals. It all started with the 9/11 Twin Towers attack in NYC, and then escalated from there, taking us through nearly two decades of turmoil in all of the aforementioned areas.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have had multiple historical price drivers for precious metals during that period but what we have also seen is a massive, coordinated and fraudulent campaign to control investor appetites across a wide spectrum of asset classes, demographics and borders. The new rock stars of the 2000s are now central bankers, whose mega-maniacal actions move markets and create or destroy trillions of dollars of citizenry wealth with their utterances, written words and, more recently, social media “bulletins.” It is as if central bankers from all Western nations met in Basel in 2001 and decided where they had the greatest collateral exposure (think real estate and bonds), then proceeded to map out a plan designed to foster confidence in stocks, bonds, U.S. dollars and real estate while crushing investor demand for hard assets like silver and gold and finally cryptocurrencies, whose fate was sealed in late 2018 with its listing on the “Crimex,” fully endorsed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

I fully expected this turmoil back in 2001, after the bubble popped, sending an entire tech-loving generation to the poorhouse. But the problem was that the playbook, which had included fifty years of knowledge, omitted the new rules concerning cause and effect. By example, if you think it is going to rain, you take steps to stay dry by way of rain gear and umbrella; if you think that the U.S. banking system is going to be vaporized through greed and malfeasance, you load up on gold.

However, if it starts to rain and an invisible hand removes your rain gear and destroys the umbrella, you are suddenly drenched. You correctly predicted and prepared for the event (rain), thus identifying the cause, but despite such preparations protecting you for the past fifty years every time it rained, you got wet. The effect was distorted by forces over which you had no control. Similarly, despite correctly identifying multiple causes that should have driven gold to $5,000/ounce, forces over which I had no control conspired to distort investor demand, and instead of stocks crashing and precious metals soaring, the exact reverse occurred, beginning in 2011 and continuing to this very day.

So when I use the term “reluctant hero,” it is because I have trained myself to think and act like a bullion bank trader, complete with unregulated license and unrelenting bravado. Aligning one’s trade setups to coincide with the Commercials is by no means a guarantee of profit, but refusing to take the other side of a bullion bank trade setup does, at the very least, dramatically improve one’s probability of success.

The downside is that acting and behaving like a bullion bank thief is an unhealthy and unrewarding exercise. You run the risk of assuming that 5,000 years of history confirming the wondrous utility of gold ownership will never return, and that the only history that matters is that which began on December 23, 1913, on Jekyll Island. The financial risk is borne out the moment you wake up and gold is at $1,450, and there are no offers and your trade alignment with the bullion banks have suddenly and viciously bankrupted you. And with what is happening today around the world, it is a serious risk.

This chart is an illustration of the massive response by gold to the subprime bailout in 2009, and the subsequent smothering of any type of response whatsoever from 2011 until today. As of the close of business on Friday, June 14, gold went out just below that formidable band of resistance at $1,350–$1,375, and I expect it will be a battle for the ages as pro-gold forces wage war with the bullion bank behemoths. Judging from the open interest surge late last week, it appears as though it is more than likely a repeat of past interventions, with downside risk to $1,315–$1,320. However, gold is going higher over the longer term and that’s why I maintain positions in the portfolio shown below.

The cash position currently at around 27% is the total profits from trades made in 2019 less two hedges put on last week, the most impactive to date being the purchase of 100 Goldman Sachs July $180 puts in May for $2.20, and then sold in June at $6.60 for a 200% return or $44,000 (U.S.) in profits. You will note that I do not trade physical gold and silver, and I rarely trade the unleveraged ETFs (GDX and GDXJ), while using the leveraged ETFs (JNUG and NUGT) as trading vehicles and the DUST as a hedge. The remaining cash will be deployed on a correction in gold, which I expect next week, or in the event that the bullion banks get caught short and we scream through $1,375.

As can be seen from the GGMA portfolio, I stand to benefit far more on a gold breakout that lasts rather than from a corrective move favoring the bullion banks.

Damn the torpedoes and pass the tequila. Let’s see what this week brings.


Can Western Central Banks Continue Capping Gold At $1350?

By Dave Kranzler Re-Blogged From Gold Eagle

“Shanghai Gold will change the current gold market with its ‘consumed in the East but priced in the West’ arrangement. When China has the right to speak in the international gold market, the true price of gold will be revealed.” – Xu Luode, Chairman, Shanghai Gold Exchange, 15 May 2014

The price of gold has jumped 5.8% in a little over 3 weeks. This is a big move in a short period of time for any asset. Two factors fueled the move. The first is the expectation that Central Banks globally will revert back to money printing and negative interest rate policies to address a collapsing global economy. The second factor, more technical in nature, pushing gold higher is hedge funds chasing the upward price-momentum in the Comex and LBMA paper gold markets.

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Socialism Is Bad for the Environment

By Shawn Regan – Re-Blogged From National Review

And markets are much better

As the Soviet Union began to collapse, the socialist economist Robert Heilbroner admitted that central planning had failed economically but said we needed “to rethink the meaning of socialism.” Now it was the thing that had to emerge if humanity was to cope with “the one transcendent challenge that faces it within a thinkable timespan.” Heilbroner considered this one thing to be “the ecological burden that economic growth is placing on the environment.” Markets may be better at allocating resources, Heilbroner thought, but only socialism could avoid ecological disaster.

A metalworking plant in Chelyabinsk, USSR, 1991 (Peter Turnley/Contributor/Getty Images)

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Palm Oil – A Gift or a Curse?

Re-Blogged From WUWT

Oil palm is alternatively seen as a gift from god or a crime against humanity; according to science, it is neither

Norwegian University of Life Sciences

IMAGE: The view of an oil palm plantation in Indonesia. Credit: Douglas Sheil

IMAGE: The view of an oil palm plantation in Indonesia. Credit: Douglas Sheil

Oil palm is neither the devil’s work, nor a godsend to humanity. Its effects on its surroundings largely depends on case-specific circumstances. Those who ask to boycott all palm oil due to its contribution to deforestation should also consider boycotting coffee, chocolate and coconut if they wish to be consistent.

Are you for or against palm oil?

Ask anyone who has kept half an eye on the news the last couple of years, and they will most likely say “Against, obviously. The plantations destroy orangutan habitats, right? We’ve all seen the videos.”

The environmental impacts of the palm oil industry are widely recognised. Unsurprisingly, many people, including many conservation pundits, consider oil palm a major evil. What is less widely recognized is the extent to which this industry has benefited people. Oil palm development, if well-planned and managed, can provide improved incomes and employment and generate investments in services and infrastructure. These alternative viewpoints fuel a polarised debate in which oil palm is alternatively seen as a gift from god or a crime against humanity.

According to science, it is neither.

Flawed debate

Two leading scientists on forest conservation and management call for a more nuanced debate when it comes to palm oil and their plantations.

“Our key message is the following: The effects of oil palm, on the environment and on human society, are case-specific and largely dependent on circumstances. This must be recognised when conducting debate, and making management and consumer decisions,” professor Douglas Sheil from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) says.

In a new scientific article, he and collaborator, professor Erik Meijaard from the University of Queensland, Australia and University of Kent, UK, explore questions related to the production and use of palm oil and other vegetable oils. Between them, they have more than 50 years of research experience on tropical forest conservation.

The only cause of deforestation?

Oil palm is widely reviled for causing large-scale deforestation in the species-rich tropics. With 18.7 million hectares of industrial-scale oil palm plantations in 2017, it is ranked 4th in terms of planted area for an oil crop, behind soy, rapeseed (or canola) and maize.

“Currently oil palm produces about 35% of global vegetable oils on less than 10% of the total land under oil crops,” Sheil says.

“Overall, conversion to industrial scale oil palm development appears associated with less than 0.5% of global deforestation but surpasses 50% in specific regions such as Malaysian Borneo.”

Locally, it can be environmentally devastating, but on a global scale, it is just one of many crops that should receive attention from environmentalists and government.

“Bananas, beef, cane sugar, chocolate, coconuts, coffee, pineapples, soybeans, tea and vanilla, to name a few, are all produced in previously forested tropical areas,” he comments.

“But the attention these receive is hardly comparable to the scrutiny that is directed towards palm oil.”

A wider perspective

“There is no doubt that the impacts from oil palm plantings on the environment and biodiversity at local scales can be summed up as highly negative,” Sheil says.

“But in terms of global outcomes, the debate changes.”

It is imperative to assess to what extent the negative impacts can be reduced or avoided.

“For example, by planting palm oil, or other crops for that matter, in areas that are deforested already. It is better to utilise already degraded areas, than cutting down new ones.”

This is already being done; it is just not widely acknowledged but needs to be encouraged.

“Another element that is insufficiently recognised, is that the negative consequences of the expansion of palm oil plantations in one location are potentially offset by, for example, reduced expansion of other oil crops elsewhere.”

Poverty alleviator

Who would deny a parent the opportunity of feeding their starving children? For some, palm oil is a way out of poverty when few other options exist. And economically, it is often a sensible option. Oil palms will grow in conditions that would defeat most other crops, and decades of successful breeding has increased yields dramatically.

“Regardless of measure, land, labour or inputs invested, oil palm is an exceptionally profitable crop,” Meijaard says.

Scams and broken promises

However, palm oil is tainted with stories of corruption and disreputable practices. Its ability to produce considerable profits, even from areas where comparable options were absent, has fuelled a boom in speculation, opportunism and dubious practices. In locations with weak or corrupt institutions, this has parallels to the resource curse seen in some other high value commodities, such as mineral oil.

The immediate benefits of land clearance to develop oil palm can also be highly profitable encouraging some unscrupulous investors to access and clear large areas for the timber value on the promise of longer-term oil palm developments that never appear.

“Such scams have been common across Indonesia in recent decades, with both officials and communities duped into giving away their forest and timber for a broken promise,” Meijaard says.

The authors emphasise that benefits from oil palm development likely depend much on the local context, such as variation between companies in how they engage with communities.

North or south?

The world demands vegetable oils, and if palm oil is not available, other crops will replace it.

“A call for reductions in palm oil production will require an increase in other, higher latitude, oil crops, like soy, maize, sunflower and rapeseed,” Meijaard says.

The largest areas allocated for the production of vegetable oils are in the USA, China and Brazil, although the predominant crops there, maize and soy beans, also produce non-oil products. Nevertheless, among the world’s 20 largest producers of oil crops, only the tropical countries of Indonesia, Nigeria, and Malaysia have more than 10% of their land areas allocated to oil palm. A global shift away from palm oil would require more production of other oils.

“This would most likely benefit economies in the global North, where deforestation for agriculture took place a lot earlier than in the tropics.”

The danger of extremism

“Boycotts against palm oil by consumers or consuming countries are a legitimate expression of social and environmental concerns,” Meijaard says. H

e continues with warning that they punish innocent and guilty alike.

“Banning palm oil rather than seeking improved standards risks lowering rather than raising the practices.”

If similar standards are not addressed to other crops and commodities, including those produced in consumer countries themselves, such boycotts can appear political, prejudiced and protectionist.

“We are already seeing palm oil producing countries protesting against what they see as Western double-standards.”

“If we are not careful, there is a risk of driving them even further away.”

Introducing nuance

“Stepping outside this rhetorical extremism is necessary if we seek resolution and pragmatic advances. An important question is how to plan, guide, and assess oil palm developments to foster the greatest benefits and least harm,” Meijaard comments.

The authors recommend that a more complete accounting should consider not just the environmental aspects but the influence on poverty, hunger, and all the factors considered under the 17 UN-Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“What is right and what is wrong depends on who you ask, and it is unlikely that there are clear universal answers as to how to best tackle contemporary global problems in a just and equitable manner, apart from providing informed choice.”

“We have to bring nuance back into the debate,” he concludes.


Why so many tornadoes this year?

By Dr Roy Spencer – Re-Blogged From Fox News

The simple answer is that tornado formation requires unusually cool air.


Very few thunderstorms produce tornadoes. In the hot and humid tropics, they are virtually unheard of. The reason why is that (unlike hurricanes) tornadoes require strong wind shear, which means wind speed increasing and changing direction with height in the lower atmosphere.

These conditions exist only when a cool air mass collides with a warm air mass. And the perfect conditions for this have existed this year as winter has refused to lose its grip on the western United States. So far for the month of May 2019, the average temperature across the U.S. is close to 2 degrees Fahrenheit below normal.

Every year, springtime thunderstorms in Central and Southeast U.S. have plenty of warm, moist air to draw on from the Gulf of Mexico. What they generally don’t have is a persistent cold air mass producing strong wind shear at the boundary between a warm and cold air mass.

In recent decades, slow warming in the U.S. has been accompanied by fewer of these cold springtime air masses over the West.  As a result, based upon official National Weather Service statistics the long-term trend of strong (EF3) to violent (EF5) tornadoes has been decidedly downward, with 2018 experiencing a record low in activity.

But this year, snows have extended into late May from Northern Michigan through Colorado to the Sierra of California.  As a result of this persistent cold air mass, as of May 27, we are well above normal for total U.S. tornadoes.

This is what weather does – it varies from year to year. The alarmist claims of AOC, Gore, and Sanders are not just speculative; they opposed by our observations and by meteorological theory.

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To Survive, Britain’s Conservatives Must ‘Get Rid of the Green Crap’

By James Delingpole – Re-Blogged From Breitbart

Besides the Brexit Party, one of the big winners of the European Parliament elections — in Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK — were the Greens.

There’s a lesson buried in this story — but it’s not what you might think. And it’s definitely, definitely the opposite of the conclusion being drawn by the Conservative Party.

In the Conservative mindset, green issues are one of those politically neutral, morally and socially positive causes you can embrace without betraying your principles or alienating your base.

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