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Fire Danger Again Rises Across California; Number of Structures Lost in Northern Blazes Increases to 8,400

A California still reeling from the devastating impact of wildfires worsened by human-caused climate change just can’t get a break.

An army of 5,000 firefighters presently remain engaged in attempting to contain the large wildfires that are now unarguably the most destructive in California history. As with the recently very extreme hurricanes, we are still tallying the damage estimates.  And the results are pretty stark. 100,000 of our fellow Americans have been displaced. The loss of souls has risen to 42. In total, 8,400 structures including thousands of homes, have been burned to the ground.

Already, this disaster is yet another in the billion-dollar-class of climate incidents. Now numbering 4 in just the past three months with total estimated losses from the fires ranging from 1 to 3 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this devastating toll is likely to climb as further tallies come in.

(Hottest World Series on record amid severe fire risk.)

Presently, the remaining fires still burning are between 79 and 97 percent contained — according to the most recent report from the National Interagency Fire Center. However, temperatures rising into the upper 90s and lower to middle 100s across the state coupled with strong Santa Ana winds are again increasing fire risk. An elevated fire hazard that expected to persist through Wednesday.

In Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions have been put in place to enable emergency vehicles to rapidly navigate narrow streets in the event of a new fire start requiring rapid attention. And in the south, numerous small brush fires have already been reported. Thankfully, these have not risen to the rapidly expanding extent or intensity of the northern fires over the past couple of weeks. But concerns, given recent events, remain very high.

(Very hot fall temperatures, Santa Ana winds are again predicted across southern and western sections of California today. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Warming global temperatures in the range of 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s averages are now starting to have a profound impact on the hydrological cycle, storms, and related rates of precipitation and evaporation. In California, increasingly extreme weather in the form of more intense and rapidly forming heatwaves and droughts, and precipitation coming more as heavy rainfall events increases fire risk. This, together with the general impact of warming which moves climate zones faster than trees can follow or adapt and that increases the prevalence of invasive species harmful to trees, has increased the incidence of large fires throughout the U.S. West.

We are now in a situation where fires can threaten entire cities (the devastating fire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray in Canada was finally declared extinguished during September of 2017 after burning for a year and three months) and where the total number of structures lost can rival the size of a town. This is a terrible impact and hazard for those living in the western and northwestern region. One that did not exist at the level or frequency we see today. And though other factors also contribute — such as increasing encroachment of settlements on wooded areas — the primary factor increasing fire intensity, size, and expanding the length of fire season is human-caused climate change.

The only way we can get a handle on this rising risk is to mitigate and remove the causes of climate change. And that involves working together as a nation to switch the kinds of energy we use to non carbon emitting sources like solar and wind and reducing other harmful practices that emit carbon into our atmosphere.

Links:

Red Flag Parking Restrictions in Effect in LA

Fire Loss Surges to 8,400 Structures in Northern California

California Wildfire Damage Estimates Top $3 Billion

National Interagency Fire Center

Red Flag Warning: Southland Brush Fires

GISS Temperature Data

Devastating Fort McMurray Wildfire Declared out 15 Months Later

Earth Nullschool

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8 Comments

  1. Apneaman

     /  October 24, 2017

    Fort McMurray in Canada indeed, but let’s not forget Gatlinburg
    Tennessee and Santa Olga Chile. All three burnt down within a 10 month stretch.

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  2. Jeremy in Wales

     /  October 24, 2017

    While it is far from the most important concern I was wondering whether the fires had greatly affected wine production. The answer appears to be no, the harvest was in by early September.
    http://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/article/Inside-2017-California-wine-harvest-Grapes-look-12167979.php
    However bad harvests from Portugal, Spain, France and Italy will result in the worst global harvest since 1961 (56 years!). Prices will rocket especially as new markets like China have developed a taste for wine,
    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/24/global-wine-production-predicted-to-slump-to-50-year-low

    Like

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  October 24, 2017

      Wine lovers are more likely to be deniers and this will start impacting them where it matters to them, quality, availability and price. However when a bottle sells in a restaurant for $300 + currently and they pay that, an extra 100 or so won’t matter on the expense account

      Like

      Reply
    • We’re seeing hits to certain crops at the margins. This tends to ramp up with time and temperature increase.

      Like

      Reply
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