Are fall wildfires the new normal for California?
It’s the perfect ingredients for a disaster – a dry autumn, strong fall winds and just one simple spark. Together they can now engulf a substantial part of the state in chaos. Power is out, fires are raging and once again there will be billions in damage.
Though political debates rage – the one obvious cause is climate change.
Summertime air temperatures in California have warmed by over 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s, and that summer warming is particularly impactful, new research shows. The area burned across California during the summertime is about eight times higher today than it was only in the 1970s.
The major fires that have devastated the state in the past few years, though, have occurred in the fall, at the end of long, hot summers that sucked the wetness out of trees, shrubs, and other burnable material, but before the winter rains have kicked in.
Overall, the fire season—the time before the winter rains dampen the vegetation—has lengthened by 75 days over the past decades, according to CalFire.
Some of that happens early, in the spring. There’s less and less snow accumulating in the high mountains of California as the climate warms, and any snow that does fall is melting away earlier. As spring comes sooner, the dry season extends, leaving vegetation vulnerable to fire sooner in the season. – October 25, 2019 - National Geographic
If you are covering the fires in California and need an expert who can explain the facts for your stories – then let us help.
Dr. Neal Driscoll is a professor of geosciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. He is also the co-lead of the ALERTWildfire network. ALERTWildfire is a network of high-definition, pan-tilt-zoom cameras that have near-infrared capabilities that allow firefighters and first responders to quickly detect when fires are forming, pinpoint the location and marshal resources accordingly. In the past year the number of cameras in the network has increased significantly, and there are nearly 300 cameras throughout fire-prone areas of California. Dr. Driscoll is available to speak to media regarding wildfires, and the new technology fire officials are using as they attempt to outsmart these disasters – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.
Neal Driscoll Professor of Geosciences
Neal Driscoll co-leads the ALERTWildfire network, and also researches tectonic deformation and the evolution of landscapes and seascapes.