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Climate change driving California’s wildfires to worse levels

California wildfires: Climate change driving ‘horror and the terror’ of devastating blazes, say scientists

Fires are not new, but their severity is, The Independent, Andrew Buncombe, Seattle @AndrewBuncombe 3 Nov 19,

The words from California’s former governor could barely have been more stark.

“I said it was the new normal a few years ago,’’ says Jerry Brown. “This is serious, but this is only the beginning. This is only a taste of the horror and the terror that will occur in decades.”

As firefighters in California continue to confront a three-week spate of blazes that has reached across the state, attention has also turned to why this year’s wildfires have been so severe. The reason, according to scientists, is climate change.

“It’s warmer weather, more evaporation, and drier conditions. They just burn more,” says Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University.   The words from California’s former governor could barely have been more stark.

“I said it was the new normal a few years ago,’’ says Jerry Brown. “This is serious, but this is only the beginning. This is only a taste of the horror and the terror that will occur in decades.”

As firefighters in California continue to confront a three-week spate of blazes that has reached across the state, attention has also turned to why this year’s wildfires have been so severe. The reason, according to scientists, is climate change.

“It’s warmer weather, more evaporation, and drier conditions. They just burn more,” says Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University. “And we expect this trend to continue. We can’t say if it will happen every year – there are natural variations as well. But we know that when things are drier, a larger area burns.”

Speaking from New York, Williams adds: “We’ve always had the fires. But things are now two or three degrees hotter. That’s enough to make a major difference.”

As Donald Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change, and as Jay Inslee, the only Democrat running for president on a ticket to address climate change, dropped out of the race this autumn, residents of California and other western states are trying to figure out how to confront the challenge, not just this year but in the years and decades ahead.

The editorial writers at the Los Angeles Times have echoed the words of the former governor, who spoke to Politico, by declaring: “Climate change has set California on fire. Are you paying attention?”

“Nobody can honestly say this is a surprise, given the devastating fires of recent years. Yet it feels surprising all the same. How did things get so bad in California, so quickly,” they write. “The answer is climate change. It is here and our communities are not ready for it.”……..

Michael Mann, a climate expert and professor of Earth sciences at Penn State University, says in the American west climate change has increased the risk of fire weather fivefold and doubled how much land has burned. Wildfire frequency, he says, has quadrupled since the 1980s……..

Asked how such fires could be countered, he replies: “As long as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere, and create warmer, drier conditions in California, there is little question that we’ll see a worsening of wildfires.

“The only true solution is to stop burning fossil fuels, generating greenhouse gases, and warming the planet.”

Last year, the world’s leading climate scientists said the world had barely a dozen years to act to make massive changes to global energy infrastructure to limit global warming to moderate levels. “There is no documented historic precedent,” said the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change……. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/california-wildfire-climate-change-evacuation-santa-ana-winds-devil-diablo-a9181886.html

November 4, 2019 - Posted by | climate change, USA

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