California’s wildfire season is likely to be even longer and more destructive in the future as rainfall continues to decrease, new Stanford research finds
- The team analyzed regional thermometers and rainfall gauges since the 1980s
- They found the number of extreme fire weather days has more than doubled
- Average temperatures have risen more than two degrees Fahrenheit, while rainfall has declined around 30 percent
Future wildfire seasons in California will likely become even more destructive and long-lasting, according to new research from Stanford.
Analyzing data from regional thermometers and rainfall gauges, the team found California’s wildfire season, which traditionally takes place between September and November, has seen the number of days that qualify as having extreme fire weather more than double in the last four decades.
Over that same period, rainfall has decreased more than 30 percent, while average temperatures have risen two degrees Fahrenheit.
Stanford researchers studied wildfire season in California, finding the average temperature have risen two degrees Fahrenheit over the last four decades while rainfall has declined 30 percent. The team warns these factors will make future fires even more damaging
‘It’s striking just how strong of an influence climate change has already had on extreme fire weather conditions throughout the state,’ co-author Daniel Swain told Eurekalert.
‘It represents yet another piece of evidence that climate change is already having a discernable influence on day-to-day life in California.’
Recent seasons have seen the most destructive wildfires the state has ever seen, with more than $50billion in damages and 150 deaths recorded in 2017 and 2018, and the team warns that the worst could still lie ahead.
Strong seasonal offshore winds that drive fires even further and faster, combined with aging public infrastructure have combined to make make the region more vulnerable than it has ever been.
The authors emphasized a number of tactics to minimize the growing threat, including seasonal burns to lessen the amount of available fuel to drive fires.
The team suggests revamping California’s construction and zoning codes to make new homes and offices better able to stand fire, alongside improvements to the state’s emergency communication system and seasonal burns to lessen the amount of flammable material
They also recommend updating the state’s emergency communication systems to give people in threatened areas better information about evacuations and fire spread, as well as local mitigation efforts that could help prevent fires or keep them from spreading.
Another major future line of defense would be altering California’s zoning laws and construction codes to make new home and business constructions less flammable.
‘Many factors influence wildfire risk, but this study shows that long-term warming, coupled with decreasing autumn precipitation, is already increasing the odds of the kinds of extreme fire weather conditions that have proved so destructive in both northern and southern California in recent years,’ Stanford’s Noah Diffenbaugh said. .
WHAT CAUSES WILDFIRES?
85% of wildfires in the US are caused by humans
Lightning is the second most common cause of wildfires
There were 58,083 US wildfires in 2018, down from 71,499 in 2017
California has more than 2 million homes exposed to wildfire risk, almost three times more than any other state
Texas has the highest number of wildfires per year, with 10,541 in 2018
California had the most amount of space burned by wildfire in 2018, with more than 1.8 million acres affected