A new study is suggesting that wet winters are no longer a guide to predicting the severity of wildfires in California. Recent research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is highlighting two main reasons for this unpredictability.
Climate change and human intervention with fire suppression are cited as the most important factors. Examining this research, BBC News reported yesterday that, “Increased temperatures due to global warming and more effective efforts to contain fires mean there’s now more dry wood to burn.”
The researchers looked at fire and moisture patterns and the position of the jet stream over the past 400 years. The usual pattern of, wet winters having less intense wildfire seasons and dry winters followed by more intense fires, notably, changes after 1904. It is suggested that this coincides with the beginning of a fire suppression policy on US federal lands. The connection then disappears again after 1977.
Eduardo Zorita, a researcher on the paper, told BBC News, “Fire is a natural phenomenon that’s very important for forest dynamics on longer timescales: for the way that forests renew themselves and grow and incorporate new species, human societies interrupt these forest and fire dynamics.”
Fire control measures and climate change it seems, have a lot to answer for. The report continued, “this means that large wildfires of the kind seen in 2018 can now happen in any year, regardless of how wet the previous winter was.” With last year being California’s most destructive and deadly wildfire season on record, this is not good news, as these huge blazes become more common and more unpredictable.