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Ask just about any Californian and they will tell you that 2018’s massive wildfires are still fresh in their memory just as the 2019 fire season has officially arrived. Last week the National Interagency Fire Center put Californians on notice that they should expect another active fire season this year. The center said a heavy crop of grasses and fine fuels has developed across California and should elevate fire potential as it dries through the summer. AP also reported that “the Pacific Northwest has entered a period of moderate drought, which could mean an early fire season in the Cascade Range and the Okanogan region. The potential for significant wildfires is above normal west of the Cascade crest in Washington and Oregon through August.”
Jennifer Smith of the fire center explained to AP that the terms “normal” or “above normal” refer to a formula that involves drought, precipitation and fuel conditions in each region, projected on a 10-year average. Although states like California experienced record rainfall this winter and spring it’s not enough to change the overall trend toward drought in the West.
Eco Watch also explained how climate change specifically is changing vegetation and allowing wildfires to grow from bad to worse so quickly:
Drought is a natural occurrence. However, now we have a greater risk of hotter droughts. Rising temperatures dry out soils and trees. While drought means that less water is entering the ecosystem, rising temperatures mean that water is leaving more quickly. As temperatures rise, plants lose more water per unit of carbon dioxide, exacerbating the already dry and dangerous conditions produced by drought.
With less water coming into the ecosystem, plants become water stressed, which can kill huge numbers of plants if drought conditions persist. In extreme cases, drought itself can kill trees.
Dry conditions will return to California due to climate change. Wet years can serve as a bit of a reprieve but they will likely do little to prevent the prevalence of massive wildfires.
Why This Matters: There’s no such thing as a typical wildfire season anymore, although this year California and much of the West experienced an unusually wet winter and spring it’s certainly not a guarantee that a colossal fire won’t break out at some point during the 2019 wildfire season. That’s a big part of the underlying stress, Californians and residents in other Western states that experience wildfires live in fear that a ticking timebomb might go off at any time. While state officials are working through preparedness measures with the public and other mechanisms to help mitigate damage caused by wildfires, the federal government has shown very little leadership in how they might help tens of millions of Americans better prepare for and survive wildfires and how to help prevent them in the first place (it starts with bold action on climate change).
by Julia Fine Last month, we wrote about the outbreak of locust swarms traveling from East Africa to the Indian subcontinent. Now, as the New York Times reported yesterday, the locusts have made their way to New Delhi. The capital region’s fields, metro stations, suburbs, and more are now teeming with swarms. We previously noted […]
Our nation is in the midst of a moment where statues and monuments celebrating our racist past are being reevaluated and taken down. However, some on the political right have begun calling into question the validity of this conversation. Conservative media personality Meghan McCain wrote in a tweet that we’re “one week removed from entire […]
The House was set to vote to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which will provide nearly $1B annually for parks and other conservation, but a group of Western Republicans has raised procedural hurdles that will delay final passage until late July, The Hillreported yesterday. And, a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) urges the United States to launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature” — to help the nation’s agricultural producers, who are facing a bleak economic future, by increasing opportunities to pay them for their conservation efforts.
Why This Matters: As the CAP Report explains, “Family farmers and ranchers need lifelines…Bold and swift investment in nature conservation can provide one.”
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