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Wild Fire

From: Our Changing Climate: Assessing the Risks to California (pdf)

Approximately 1/3 of the state’s 100 million acres is forest. The November, 2008 fires in Southern California burned over 40,000 acres and destroyed over 1000 dwellings. This recent flare up, along with the conflagrations of 2003 and 2007, is a reminder that Southern California has some of the riskiest wildfire conditions in the United States. As climate changes, it appears that summer dryness will begin earlier, last longer and become more intense. These changes may exacerbate fire occurrences, which have historically peaked in late summer and early fall.  If temperatures rise into the medium warming range, the risk of large wildfires in California could increase by as much as 55 percent, which is almost twice the increase expected if temperatures stay in the lower warming range.

Because  wildfire  risk  is  determined  by  a  combination  of factors including precipitation, winds, temperature, and landscape  and  vegetation  conditions,  future  risks  will  not  be uniform throughout the state. In years with wet winters, annual vegetation growth is plentiful. But accentuated dryness during summer would produce a hazardous fuel load that worsens the wildfire problem in some of Southern California wildlands. With expanding development into the urban/wildland interface, threats to human safety and property are even greater. The spread of invasive species that are more fire-prone, coupled with more frequent and prolonged periods of drought, all increase the risk of fires, and reduce the capacity of native species to recover. Wildfires are also bad news for the region in terms of air quality, human health, soil erosion and stress on watersheds.

Post last edited on: 2011 April 12


Tags: fire, temperature


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