Global warming and the California wildfires — Update

The good news is my relatives’ home in Rancho Santa Fe survived — though houses as close as two miles away did not. They were delayed in returning home, however, as their doctor said the air remained unhealthy to breathe.

Lots of articles about the climate-wildfire connection have now been written:

A warming climate encourages wildfires through a longer summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread. Westerling et al. (2006) found that, in the last three decades, the wildfire season in the western U.S. has increased by 78 days, and burn durations of fires >1000 ha have increased from 7.5 to 37.1 days, in response to a spring-summer warming of 0.87°C. Earlier spring snowmelt has led to longer growing seasons and drought, especially at higher elevations, where the increase in wildfire activity has been greatest. In the south-western U.S., fire activity is correlated with ENSO positive phases, and higher Palmer Drought Severity Indices….

Insects and diseases are a natural part of ecosystems. In forests, periodic insect epidemics kill trees over large regions, providing dead, desiccated fuels for large wildfires. These epidemics are related to aspects of insect life cycles that are climate sensitive.


Climate science predicted we’d be seeing more wildfires, and more intense wildfires — and we are. Don’t worry deniers and delayers, random coincidence remains as strong an explanation for recent events as it ever was….