25 Sep How Climate Change is Shaping California Wildfires
By Avril Saunders
Environmental Consultant, CvCC
If it seems like California is in a continual blaze – that’s because it is. In 2020 alone, the state has endured almost 8,000 wildfires that have burned over 3 million acres of land, destroyed thousands of homes, and caused several fatalities.
As 2020 becomes the record year for most damaged land in California, it is no coincidence that the state is also experiencing extreme weather. In August, the temperature in Death Valley reached 130 degrees – arguably the hottest ever measured on Earth. Prolonged heat spells and low precipitation has reduced moisture levels in plants, soil, and the air. Speed and pattern changes in jet streams due to warming temperatures in the Arctic have also been linked to extreme storms in several states including California.
As these conditions and high wind thunderstorms are expected to continue, fires in California and the Pacific Northwest show no signs of tapering off. The millions of tons of carbon dioxide that were once sequestered are now being emitted into the atmosphere as trees continue to burn – extending the cycle of intensified warming followed by its effects.
Wildfires are not uncommon and can promote forest growth and fire resilience. However, this season is an example how climate change can transform necessary weather events into natural disasters. Forest protection and wildfire management efforts must quickly evolve to consider the direct and indirect impacts of climate change to reduce future damage.