Heat, Wildfires, Drought: The Birth of a Firestorm as California Burns

Heat, Wildfires, Drought: The Birth of a Firestorm as California Burns

Written by: Gaurav Puri on October 05, 2020

 

California wildfires have increased 8x in size since the 1970s

It is mid October and there is an extreme bout of change in weather we are facing. While the Death Valley has soaring temperatures up to a 130 F, California is engulfed by raging lightning storms, igniting over 7,500 blazes and creating the largest one of the largest “gigafire” in the history of America. Nearly 4 million acres of California has burned to date.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist, expresses his concerns to the raging fires in the state. “California burns every year, but it didn’t burn a half a century ago like it is today. The stage is evolving.” 

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research quotes "Until widespread precipitation falls on the West Coast -- of which there's currently no sign at all and in a typical year, wouldn't be expected for another one to two months -- conditions are going to continue to be really extreme. I don't see much of a let up."

Emergence of ‘precipitation whiplash’ signal

With increasing global temperatures, California is on the brink of experiencing the adversities of climate change. A study conducted by the National Integrated Drought Information System maps the intensity of drought across the country. California has presented a repetitive history of extreme dry conditions, the worst being from 204 to 2017. Droughts have become a manner of living with Californians. The hot and dry conditions are fueled by existing and new fires every year, consuming tens of thousands of acres of land. South California has been importing water to meet the consumer daily water demands. It is estimated that Los Angeles spends over $1.54 billion in bringing in fresh water into the city through the Colorado River, the California Aqueduct, Los Angeles Aqueduct and from California’s stored ground water. 

A recent study featured on Nature Climate Change studied the ongoing climate change in California. They predict that there is an increase in the volatility of periods of precipitation and droughts by ~25% in North California and ~ 100% in South California in the next 10 years. These shifted movements create a whiplash event, an unpredictable extreme climate condition , resulting in longer durations of droughts and extreme flooding conditions. “These changes in the character of California precipitation emerge in a large single-model ensemble despite only modest trends in mean precipitation— strongly suggesting that the region’s already variable year-to-year climate is likely to become even more volatile.“

The implications of climate change are an ongoing procedure and would create an unbreakable viscous cycle. Wildfires are charged by dry spells and droughts, that are a consequence of climate change fueled by human encroachment into natural reserves and habitats.

 

So, How can we make a difference?

Katharine Davis Reich, M.A., an associate director of the UCLA Center for Climate Science emphasizes that the efforts to reduce your own environmental footprint can also inspire others, increasing your impact. "With everything you do, you're a model for your family, your friends, and your neighbors," she says. "Talk about what you are doing to reduce your carbon footprint, and why, and you'll help to create a culture of change." The initiative starts to live green and clean from the household by initiating wise - energy usage to minimise energy requirements, invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels, make smart-green personal choices like green transportation, and consume less, waste less to enjoy life more.


Source: Published by Nature Climate Change on April 23, 2018.

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