According to a new study, climate change is responsible for making Californian wildfires burn 5 times the area since 1972. On top of this, the wildfires themselves have become 8 times as large.
In just the last year, the Camp Fire ravaged California and became the state’s deadliest claiming 85 lives and burned 153,336 acres. Forest fires are only expected to get worse as climate conditions intensify.
How Does Climate change Affect Wildfires
It is very easy to understand the effect of climate change on forest fires. As the temperatures increase, the land becomes drier. As plants and trees begin to lack moisture, they become the perfect fuel for the fire.
Thus, when a spark touches the dried out fuel, the fire spreads extremely fast. And in a dry locale, the easier it is for the fire to continue to spread and fuel itself.
Summer Time is Fire Time
As you might imagine, summer is the hottest season in California. Thus, this is when the majority of forest fires occur due to drier conditions.
In fact, 13 out of 20 of the largest fires have all occurred during summer months. While 19 out of 20 of those fires occurred during the last 5 decades.
However, while the majority of larger fires occur during the summer, they are not exclusive to the season.
Fall Winds Drive Forest Fires
These winds bring in a very dry humidity, which in turn, dries out the forests, similar to summer heat. However, on top of dry humidity, the extreme winds keep the fires alive and help them spread.
West Coast Forests Are In Danger
The increased amount of Californian wildfires over the last 5 decades stems from an increased amount of evaporation. Since the 1800s, a vapor pressure deficit has increased by 10%.
By 2060, another 10% is expected to be added to the deficit due to worsening climate conditions. Thus, forest fires will only become more common and larger if the climate is left unchecked.
However, a solution to forest fires has been suggested. By logging overcrowded forests and removing brush and other highly flammable debris in the process, the odds of a major fire occurring drop significantly.
On top of this, increased awareness will prevent more human-caused fires from occurring.