Devastating California Fires Linked to Climate Change
The last few months have been marked by record-breaking hurricanes that have completely devastated parts of the US and Puerto Rico, incurring $200 billion in damage so far. Experts have confirmed that the unexpected strength of these storms is likely linked to global climate change.
However, hurricanes aren’t the only natural disaster laying siege to the US. California is currently experiencing one of the worst wildfire outbreaks in the state’s history with the death toll above 40 as of October 18.
While some argue that the fires were spurred on by direct human impacts such as urbanization, population growth, and man-made topographical changes, many experts agree that the unprecedented severity of the wildfires is due to climate change.
A statement released by UCLA researchers said that “fluctuation between La Niña and El Niño” due to global warming “causes both greater rainfall and more serious drought in the Southwest U.S. — amplifying the risk for wildfires.” These fluctuations are expected to worsen as the climate continues to grow warmer.
Warmer and wetter winters in conjunction with increasingly arid summers provide ideal conditions for wildfires. Vegetation grows abundantly during rainy winter months but dries out during the summer, turning into easily ignitable fuel.
According to UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, this past summer was the warmest “in more than 100 years of record keeping.” He added that this particular string of fires is very much “weather-driven,” alluding to California’s recent drought which helped create much of the flammable vegetation.
While the Californian fires are the result of multiple, unfortunate factors, it would still be prudent to view them as a sign that global warming is a pressing issue that deserves immediate attention.