Study Bolsters Case That Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires - Center for Climate and Life

Study Bolsters Case That Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires - Center for Climate and Life

A satellite image, August 6, 2018, shows smoke from multiple large California wildfires. The fires themselves, detected by thermal imagery, are in red. (NASA)

A new study combs through the factors that can promote wildfires in California, and concludes that in many cases, warming climate is the decisive driver.

“It’s not a surprise to see that climate has this effect in forests, but California is so big and so variable, there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for how climate might affect wildfires across the board,” said the study’s lead author, Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a 2016 Center for Climate and Life Fellow.

“We have tried to provide one-stop shopping to show people how climate has or, in some cases, hasn’t affected fire activity.” Williams and his colleagues have already shown in a 2016 study that heightened temperatures and resulting aridity on the ground has doubled the area burned in forest fires over wider areas of the U.S. West in past decades. The new study appears in the journal Earth’s Future.

Read the full story on the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog and check out this July 16 article from The Atlantic about the study.