One record wet winter in California and other parched Western states was not enough to undo years of drought priming the land for intense wildfires. On the contrary, scientists say, that rain is part of a climate change pattern that helps wildfires and other natural disasters thrive.
Dozens of major wildfires are currently burning in six Western U.S. states amid an intense heat wave, prompting thousands of evacuations and stoking fears that these intense fire seasons are the new normal.
It’s not just par for the course in California, where 14 major wildfires have burned this week; it’s even worse than last year. While the recent wet winter offered the state some reprieve after years of record drought, blazes have still burned more than twice as many acres in California as they did the same time period last year.
So what gives? One likely factor is that the current heat wave ― which set temperature records up and down California last week ― followed heavy winter rains.
″[T]his past winter there was ample precipitation throughout the West including snow pack in the Rockies, and it has led to growth that can become fuel for wildfires later,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research,…