The Weather Channel's blazing-hot wildfire simulation clearly explains why wildfires are getting so much worse in California and the western US
- California is enduring another grueling wildfire season.
- But California fire experts say that wildfire season is a near-outdated term, and dangerous fires can happen anytime now.
- A Weather Channel simulation shows how a warmer planet is fueling the aggressive, persistent flames.
It's shaping up to be another record-breaking year of wildfires in California. As of October 20, more than 7,100 fires have burned a combined total of more than 1.5 million acres across the state, the National Interagency Fire Center reports. The state also set a new record for its largest single wildfire to date when the Ranch Fire burned through 410,203 acres this fall.
This is not an anomaly. In recent years, warmer temperatures across the western US have fueled more destructive flames than the region has ever seen. The 2017 fire season, which scorched vines across California wine country, was the costliest to date, triggering over $9.4 billion in losses in that state.The flames aren't even limited to a special season these days.
"We're responding to wildland fires year round now," Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean recently told the Sacramento Bee.
A breathtaking video featuring Weather Channel Meteorologist Stephanie Abrams shows us why that's the case: it's all about heat.
"Over the past few decades the climate over the western US has become more conducive for wildfires with overall warmer, drier weather," Abrams said, as a simulation of dry, hot, overgrown brush heated up behind her, providing the perfect tinder for explosive and deadly flames.
In a warmer world, there's "plenty of available fuel to burn," she added.
Take a look at how the flames develop more quickly and spread with vigor in warmer, drier weather:Large wildfires burn twice the area now that they did in 1970, as Abrams noted in the clip.
This is not a trend that's expected to get any better if we continue with business as usual.
California's 2018 Climate Change Assessment report estimates that the average area that wildfires burn will increase 77% by 2100, if we continue burning emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil that warm the atmosphere.
Temperatures across the western US are expected to remain above average through November, according to the latest federal climate reports. Large swaths of California are also looking really dry right now, providing the perfect kindling for sparking tough-to-contain fires.
"We're in uncharted territory," California Governor Jerry Brown said earlier this year. "Since civilization emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven't had this kind of heat condition, and it's going to continue getting worse. That's the way it is."
As many as 90% of wildfires in the US are caused by humans, per the @NatlParkService . Here's how/why they can spread so quickly! #IMR #Wildfires #Weather Full video on my instagram and FB pages pic.twitter.com/EB3nUAzZOi- Stephanie Abrams (@StephanieAbrams) October 18, 2018