The catastrophic fires in California are not a new phenomenon in that state, but what sets this particular burn apart from those in the past is the intensity and the vast area of land that the fires have covered. While arson and downed power lines are blamed as the perpetrators, their willing accomplices are associated with climate change.
According to Ronald Neilson, a professor at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the USDA Forest Service, the fires are in line with what climate change models have been predicting for a long time – both in short term forecasts and long term patterns. Studies from five years ago that Neilson was involved with, predicted that the American west would become both warmer and wetter, creating a landscape ripe for catastrophe.
Global warming is said to have contributed to the heat of the region with Southwestern California fresh off of a record breaking heat wave, only slightly less devastating than the year before, where 140 people died, because of the new emergency measures that were put into effect after 2006. As well, according to the Globe and Mail, “Rainfall across the region this past six months was just one-fifth of average levels.”Additionally, the Globe reports that this year’s Santa Ana winds have been gusting at nearly hurricane force and have been blowing considerably longer than the typical 24 hours, instead lasting days.