Energy & Environment

Union of Concerned Scientists See Global Warming Fueling Wildfire Risk

0 147

Several media outlets in the United States have run headlines in the last two days linking the outbreak of wildfires in Southern California to climate change. In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times the headline read, “Why is Southern California burning in December?” The Santa Ana winds which annually appear in the late fall and early winter are described as being much stronger than normal and UCLA climate scientist, Daniel Swain, believes he knows why. The answer is relative humidity which is down to single digits in the Greater Los Angeles area, the driest it has been since climate records were first taken.

How dry? Swain notes that coastal humidity is down to 1 to 2%. That’s drier than California’s interior deserts in the summertime. Imagine, drier than Death Valley? Just when Southern California had finally seen the end of a more than 10-year megadrought, it experienced heavy winter rains in late 2016 and early 2017. That encouraged new growth. But then summer and fall came along with record heat and dryness.

At the World Series played in the Dodger’s home park of Chavez Ravine, temperatures were in the mid-to-high 30s Celsius (in the mid to high 90s Fahrenheit), and that was at game time in the late afternoon and early evening. The heat baked the life out of all that new growth which when combined with the Santa Ana winds created ideal tinder conditions for wildfires. They are burning with ferocious intensity fed by Santa Ana wind gusts that at times approach hurricane strength. Fires are raging from the northern suburbs of Los Angeles to the city of San Diego. Containment without nature assisting with rain is next to impossible. So they may only run out of combustible material when they finally reach the Pacific coastline.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has chimed in on what is happening in California and in many other parts of the U.S. West where wildfires are increasing in frequency and duration since the mid-1980s. How much is the increase in wildfire outbreaks? They are happening four times more, are lasting five times longer, and burning six times more land area.

The scientists note that although human land use and behaviour can influence wildfire outbreaks, many affected areas are places where there isn’t much human activity going on. For example Yosemite National Park. As a result, the scientists are correlating the increase in frequency, duration, and extent is being linked to global warming. A warmer world will see fluctuations in precipitation to create the kind of extremes Southern California has experienced. Already drier than most areas of the United States, the conditions for severe wildfire outbreaks are ripe.

But of more concern are the forested areas of much of the western United States where the scientists’ climate models indicate wildfire seasons will grow from the current seven months of the year to become year round. Why are forests seen as more at risk? Because they have the fuel to burn, whereas, dried out grasslands, a common sight in much of the U.S. Southwest, provide little in the way of wildfire fodder and are generally good fire breaks.

In Southern California, the tragedy lies in the urban-forest interface with millions of homes built adjacent to dry forest and scrubland found in the canyons and valleys of the state. Whether from San Francisco Bay and Napa Valley in Northern California to San Diego, forests abutt homes and communities with barely a fire break between them.

To make matters worse, as the fires destroy forested areas, the barren hills become a potential threat of a different kind when it rains. With the soils so dry from low humidity conditions, and with the loss of vegetation including root systems to hold the soil in place, absorbing any rainfall is next to impossible. The result, flash floods, and mudslides.

The scientists believe that warming for the moment is unstoppable because of increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we humans are pumping into the atmosphere. But they do believe, however, that through mitigation efforts, Californians can be spared in the future the unspeakable tragedies that are happening today.

What is needed is buffer zones between forests and homes. That means zoning laws in California cities have to consider wildfire risk and plan accordingly. And when these current wildfires finally stop their destructive drive to the ocean, people have to consider the risk of rebuilding where susceptibility is greatest.


First published at www.21stcentech.com

About the author / 

CESRAN Int.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

CESRAN Blog

  • 24th Issue is Online Now!

    Vol. VI | No. III – July-August-September 2020 To Download the Magazine Click Here… CONTENTS 05-14….. World News by Ebru Birinci 17-24….. Preparedness for an Uncertain Future “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” by Professor Mark Meirowitz 25-39….. EU LAW vs UK LAW The Primacy of EU Law over National Law:…

  • IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual!

    Dear Friends and Colleagues, IEPAS2020 is Going Virtual! Due to the COVID19 pandemic, we are holding our entire conference virtually by streaming all of the live sessions. You may participate in all of our virtual networking events. In case of missing a session, you may get full access to the replays of every session since all…

  • The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now…

    The 13th issue of JCTS (Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security) is out now… Vol. 8 | No. 1 | 2020 Click here to Download the Entire Issue   TABLE OF CONTENTS Editor’s Note By David Curran Introduction By Nergis Canefe Research Articles Statelessness as a Permanent State: Challenges to the Human Security Paradigm By…

  • The 19th Issue of The Rest: Journal of Politics and Development is Out Now!

    The 19th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles Turkish AK Parti’s Posture towards the 2003 War in Iraq: The Impact of Religion amid Security Concerns By Alberto Gasparetto Nigeria and the Great Powers: The Impacts of the Boko Haram Terrorism on…

  • CESRAN International Named again amongst the Top Think Tanks in the World

    CESRAN International is pleased to announce that it has been named again amongst the world’s best think tanks. The 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index ranked CESRAN International 141st among the World’s “Top Think Tanks in Western Europe” 75th among the World’s “Top Environment Policy Think Tanks” 153rd among the World’s “Top Foreign Policy…

  • THE 18TH ISSUE OF THE REST: JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT IS OUT NOW.

    The 18th issue of the rest: journal of politics and development is out now. Download the issue here… TABLE OF CONTENTS Research Articles The Foreign Policy Decision Making Approaches and Their Applications Case Study: Bush, Obama and Trump’s Decision Making towards Afghanistan and the Region By Sharifullah Dorani Evaluating the Explanatory Power of Social Identity Theory,…

Newsletter