Warming climate likely leading to larger California fires

The 2018 Camp Fire burned more buildings and claimed more lives than any other fire in California's history.

Enlarge / The 2018 Camp
Fire burned more buildings and claimed more lives than any other
fire in California’s history. (credit:
NASA Earth Observatory
)

The last couple years have seen devastating and record-setting
wildfires in California, leaving many in the region to wonder what
to expect in the future. Elsewhere in the US West, research has
found that fires were increasing due to a combination of climate
change and other human activities, which exacerbate both the fires
and the damage they cause. But California is a different beast from
much of the West and requires its own analysis.

A new study from a team led by Park Williams and John Abatzoglou—also the
scientists behind a
recent study
of western US fires—uses government records of
California wildfire areas going back to 1972, along with weather
data and climate model simulations. The work breaks California into
four different regions based on vegetation. The coast is split into
a forested northern section, separate central and southern
shrublands, with the forested Sierra Nevada rounding out the
list.

Big changes

Overall, the average area burned by fires each year in
California has increased by a factor of five since 1972—a
remarkable increase. However, this is mostly due to an even larger
increase in the forested parts of the state, as the central and
southern coastal regions haven’t really seen an increase.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Warming climate likely leading to larger California fires