WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The California fires prompted thousands of residents to evacuate, burned thousands of homes and business establishments, and killed at least 21 people.
- The reason of the firestorms that caused deaths and loss of properties of California communities might be determined in weeks to come.
- The consensus however from the scientific community is that the situations that triggered the waves of flame were created by humans.
The California fires drove thousands of Northern California residents to flee their homes on Tuesday. Aside from the evacuation orders, the thick smoke from the flames coming from the north end of San Francisco Bay reached communities 50 miles away.
Since more and more homes were being built in hilly communities and near brush and woodlands, many lives and properties were affected by the wind-driven flames.
Reasons that may cause the California fires were too much fuel left on the ground caused by years of previous aggressive firefighting. Moreover, carbon emissions worsened by drought and the record high California temperatures that dried brush and timber may have triggered the fire tsunami.
“It’s very clear that the increasingly hot summers are the product of climate change. And it’s clear that human influence has an impact on the climate system in the American West and more broadly. That increases the risk of fire and the overall acreage burned when we get these conditions,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
According to a paper written by John T. Abatzoglou and A. Park Williams of the University of Idaho, man-made “climate change has emerged as a driver of increased forest fire activity and should continue to do so.”
Carbon dioxide caused heat in the earth’s atmosphere to be trapped leading to higher temperatures. California is experiencing this phenomenon making droughts worse.
Carbon dioxide is also substantial in increasing vegetation. 2016’s wetter weather produced grass and brush growth. But last year’s winter’s vegetation was greatly affected by summer’s unbearable heat reaching up to 106-degree temperatures. That’s an all-time high record in modern times.
The University of Idaho researchers said that increases in temperature and vapor pressure from 2000 to 2015 “significantly enhanced fuel aridity across western US forests [and] … contributed to 75 percent more forested area experiencing high fire-season fuel aridity,” found. That induced nine additional days of “high fire potential” per year.
Given the level of drought and warming alone, the enormity of the firestorms engulfing the western U.S. is out of proportion to what would be expected, according to a paper by the National Academy of Sciences.
The United States Forest Service was founded in 1905 with a mission to suppress fire on public lands. Under Trump’s government, the proposed 2018 budget for the U.S. Forest Service decreases by $118 million.