Friday, amidst temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and at
a time when California is now entering its fifth year of drought in a
decade when seven out of the last ten years have been drought years,
a rapidly growing and dangerous wildfire erupted in the hills north
of Los Angeles.
Monday, the fire had exploded to 33,000 acres (51 square miles). In
total, 18 buildings are now reported to have burned and more than
10,000 others have been evacuated. A population the size of a small
city, 20,000 people, have now been displaced by this rapidly
expanding wildfire. Due to heroic efforts by firefighters, an
estimated 2,000 homes have been saved so far. Sadly, the
fire has also now claimed a life.
plumes from large wildfires burning over southern and western
California, framed by a warming Pacific Ocean, a drying Central
Valley, and what appear to be snow-free and bone-dry Sierra Nevada
Mountains in this July 24 LANCE
is widespread geological evidence of voracious fires burning through
large regions of the globe during past hothouse warming events. At
the Paleocene-Eocene boundary 56 million years ago, a warming rate
that was about ten times slower than what we are experiencing now set
off immense blazes that
ripped through the world’s peatlands and forests.
In other words, evidence points to past instances of Earth warming
into hothouse conditions generating periods of intense fires
that may well be called fire ages. Today, the Earth is about 1.2
degrees Celsius warmer than during the late 19th century. This high
temperature departure combines with a very rapid rate of continued
warming to dramatically increase wildfire risks around the globe.
related to climate change continue to increase drought frequency
across the U.S. West. For the past five years, California has seen
the brunt of this predicted increasing drought trend as a result of
human-forced warming. Image source: US