Climate change causes massive wildfires in California

Climate change causes massive wildfires in California

The McKinney Fire breaks out in Klamath National Forest on July 31, 2022.

David McNew | AFP | Getty Images

The area burned by wildfires in northern and central California forests increased five-fold between 1971 and 2021. The main cause of this increase is anthropogenic climate change. According to new research Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 10 largest wildfires in California have occurred in the last 20 years, with five occurring in 2020 and eight occurring since 2017. Scientists estimate that the average summer area burned could increase by as much as 50% by mid-century as hotter, drier conditions intensify fires. .

This analysis shows that wildfire smoke from Canada traveled to the East Coast of the United States, produce dangerous air quality levels Major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia. Washington DC; and New York City.

The researchers conducted a statistical analysis of California summer temperature and wildfire data from 1971 to 2021 to see what the last few decades would have looked like without man-made greenhouse gas emissions. We evaluated models that showed They found that the area burned was 172% more than it would have been without climate change.

“It turns out that human-made climate change is a major factor in the increase in wildfire damage,” said study co-author Amir Agakouchak, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Irvine. said inside. release.

The researchers identified below-average rainfall, hot summers, less mountain snow cover in springs, and more frequent extreme weather events as factors linking climate change to wildfire risk.

Studies have shown that climate change and variability produce drier air and cause a greater vapor pressure deficit, the difference between the amount of water in the air and the amount of water it can hold when saturated. increase. Another factor that causes fires is improper forest management that leaves dead trees and undergrowth that cause fires.

“Our paper makes it clear that the problem is for us to solve and that we can take steps to solve it,” Agakouchak said. “By taking action now to reduce our carbon footprint and pursue more sustainable transport, energy production and agricultural practices, we can mitigate the negative impacts of global climate change.” Climate change causes massive wildfires in California

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