California wildfires tore through mountains and foothills and into neighborhoods this week as record-breaking heat combined with increasingly dry conditions in the Golden State.
On Friday, fires burned out of control, stretching resources thin in areas and forcing thousands to leave their homes.
“We have a number of big destructive wildfires burning in very different parts of the state,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. “There’s a lot going on right now in a very active fire season.”
And it’s still early, and that’s nothing new.
After a yearslong drought and persistently warmer weather, the fire season has stretched in both directions, starting earlier and lasting longer. Some have dubbed it “a new normal” for California.
Together, Cranston Fire in Riverside County, Ferguson near Yosemite National Park and Carr Fire in Shasta County had burned through more than 100,000 acres.
The Carr Fire more than doubled in size between Thursday and Friday as it hopped a river and swept into the city of Redding overnight. Two people have died in the blaze and dozens of homes have been destroyed.
“That’s the type of fire behavior firefighters are used to seeing during the hottest parts of the day, not in the middle of the night,” said Crystal Kolden, a fire scientist at the University of Idaho.
“That sort of extreme, it’s something we have seen a lot in the past couple years, but it’s something we’ve been seeing more frequently and with greater magnitude for the last 20, 30 years,” she said.
Kolden disagreed with calling conditions a new normal.
“That implies that it’s not going to get that much worse,” she said. “But what our projections tell us is that it’s going to get worse.” [Continue reading…]