A single, devastating California fire season wiped out years of efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. The fires, fueled by lightning, exploded with heat, destroying nearly a quarter of the state’s forests and other vegetation. But California is starting to rebound, and scientists say it’s likely to be the hottest year on record.
But it’s not quite the heat wave we saw in Russia this summer.
California’s fire season this year will total more than twice as much precipitation as it did in 2013, according to a record-setting El Niño year. This means more water, which is helping to put the fires out.
“The one thing you can say about the heat wave is … it didn’t get away from us completely,” said Bill Patzert, a veteran weather researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Last year was particularly difficult because of a series of late-season storms across Southern California. The storms’ arrival in October and November forced firefighters to evacuate and led to wildfires across the state.
This year’s El Niño year was an ongoing series of warmer than normal conditions through much of 2017. It is expected to continue through the end of February.
In California, the fires have destroyed more than a million acres and killed more than 100 people.
“This year, it just seems like it’s a whole lot more serious with the fires,” said David Miskiya, a research biologist at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
As of Thursday, the state has lost more than 9,000 acres of its most vital natural environment, including the Sierra Nevada in the north, redwood forests and chaparral in the state’s Central Valley, and the coastal mountains of Los Angeles and San Diego.
Wildfires have killed more than 100 people in California, destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and destroyed more than 3 million acres of land, according to the state’s Fire Department.
“This is the most tragic fire season in decades, and it’s going to be one of the most expensive,” said John Howard, a retired meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “The cost will be tens of