Wednesday, July 27, 2016

California Is Burning And It's Only Going To Get Worse

Smoke from wildfires looms over downtown
Los Angeles. Photo by Yang Lei/Xinhua  
Fires are raging in California, as you might have seen on the news, and there's no sign the fires will stop destroying things out there for the next several months.

Yes, I said months.

At last check one wild fire north of Los Angeles has burned 37,000 acres and another around Big Sur has taken out another 23,000 or more acres.

No surprise that California has a state of emergency in effect in the fire zones as they keep burning through the drought stricken, torridly hot landscape.

We know of at least one death caused by the fires, and about 40 homes destroyed between those two biggest fires in California. At some points this week, 10,000 people or more have been evacuated.

There's always been a fire season in California, of course. In the summer and autumn, it rarely rains in much of the state, so things dry out, brush and timberland burn.

Now, there seems to be a new normal out there.

As noted in the Desert Sun:

"'Technically, in the state of California, there is no wildland fire season anymore,' said Battalion Chief Mark Lamont of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District. 'We are in a perpetual state of fire season 365 days a year. Now, the heightened portion of that season begins June 1, can start as early as mid-May and runs into October."

The obvious problem here is that California's drought is still grinding on. Sure, there was some beneficial rains last winter, but it wasn't enought.

Those rains might have actually made things worse, in that there were enough to grow small things like grasses and weeds, but not enough to make the trees and bigger things take a big drink.

Now the grass and weeds have dried out, and can catch fire easily.  From there, we go on to big gigantic forest fires.

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains disappeared earlier than usual, too. Snow actually accumulated to a decent level in the high elevations last winter, but a very hot spring and early summer made the snow melt earlier than usual.

An earlier snow melt means things dried up in the mountains earlier than it normally does, intensifying the dryness and increasing the potential for more fires.

Meanwhile, 26 million  trees in the Sierra Nevada range have died since October due to a combination of heat, drought and bark beetles, says the Los Angeles Times. That brings the total number of dead trees to 66 million since 2010.

As you may well know, dead trees are terrible fire hazards and go up like crazy.

Bottom line: Expect a lot more people to lose their houses to wildfires over the next few months in California.

Very, very sad.

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