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
Related Interactive Tools:
Local Climate Snapshots
Temperature: Monthly Averages Chart
Temperature: Decadal Averages Map
Wildfire: Fire Risk Map
Temperature: Degrees of Change Map