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California Wildfires and Climate Change by City Tech Blogger Ivan Nunez

California is well known for its vastly diverse landscape. Every year, millions of tourists from around the world flock to this beautiful state for endless reasons, like to get a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, to explore the magnificent landscapes, and to get lost in the boundless nature of its famous national parks.  The desirable weather and culture of the state is a huge reason why the state receives immense amounts of coverage and attention in the news around the country.  Lately, most of this coverage has been about the massive droughts and wildfires tearing through the rich forests of the state. One of the most lethal fires ever recorded recently occurred in November of 2018, where 85 people were killed and over 150,000 acres of land were burned (“Facts + Statistics: Wildfires”, iii.org).

Though fires have been wreaking havoc in the state for decades, there has been an evident increase in recent years compared to the past. Historical wildfire observations show that prior to the 1980s, the duration of a large fire was typically one week but starting in the middle of the decade the  fires started to burn for much longer (Westerling, et al. 942). Scientists speculate that this was caused by the warmer weather in recent decades, which has been lately extending well into later fall and winter months. The recent escalation of climate change has resulted in  dryer weather  conditions, which leads to  less moisture in the soil and air, further resulting in the  eventual increasing chance of a devastating wildfire.  The Californian residents near the Santa Ana and Diablo winds have been mostly affected during the fall months. As wind comes from high above the Californian mountain coast, cooling down though its narrow mountains, meeting warmer temperature and low relative humidity, wind tends to ignite dry bushes. These winds can easily start and rapidly spread fire as hot temperatures in California continue to increase, thereby creating low amount of water vapor in the air.



Although 10 percent of wildfires in California are  attributed to natural causes like the Santa Ana winds, 90 percent are tied to human activities (Wolters, “California Fires”). The main cause of the abundance of fires in California are due to  the increased amount of human activity in the area; in other words, urbanization. The population of California has nearly doubled since the 70s from approximately 20 million to almost 40 million today (“Destructive California wildfires magnified by population and shifting climate”, CBS news).  Even under controlled climate conditions, changes in California’s fire activity over the past century would be expected as populations increased, and cities are expanding into surrounding wild lands (Williams, et al., 893).

Smoking cigarettes is another example of human activity that had led to wildfires. As debris and wastes are thrown around in these Californian landscapes, they are in position to cause fires as consumers forget to put cigarettes buds away and leave unattended waste to burn. This is a major issue for state of California and there should be preemptive measures taken to avoid these wildfires from occurring. More long-term solutions need to be implemented for the  citizens in California, such as an education system to make the public more aware of their actions and adapting to life near these wild lands. The more people are aware about wildfires, the more they could act accordantly when occurrences occur or even avoid future wildfires.



“Facts + Statistics: Wildfires” Insurance Information Institute. www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-wildfires.

A.Park Williams, et al. “Observed Impact of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Wildfire in      California”. Earth’s Future, 7, 892-910. AGU Journals, 4 August. 2019, www.agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf 10.1029/2019EF001210

Westerling, A. L., et al. “Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity.” Science, vol 313, no.5789, 2006, pp.940-943. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3846972.

Wolters, Claire. “California Fires Are Raging: Get the Facts on Wildfires.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 25 Oct. 2019, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/wildfires/.

Berardelli, Jeff. “Destructive California Wildfires Magnified by Population and Shifting Climate.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 25 Mar. 2019, www.cbsnews.com/news/california-wildfires-magnified-population-shifting-climate-change/.


The links to the map and the photograph from the essay is below:











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