The latest U.S. winter outlook spells trouble for dry California.
For California, the first six months of 2016 have been the warmest year on record, bringing the state’s total year-to-date temperature anomalies to a record 15.7 degrees — the fourth-hottest year in recorded history. And as the El Niño weather pattern builds further in April and May, the state is already seeing a warming trend that will put it in a state of drought for this winter and into the foreseeable future.
If that weren’t enough, a new study published Monday in the journal Nature indicates that global warming in the U.S. is responsible for increasing wildfires in California, while also bringing higher temperatures as the planet warms.
The study, led by climate scientists William M. Gray and Michael E. Mann of Pennsylvania State University, focuses on wildfires in California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley areas. According to Mann, the “most important” finding from the research is that global warming “has significantly increased California wildfires by up to 1.2 times between the late 1980s and late 2000s.”
The wildfires that California is currently experiencing are “much worse” than in the 1990s, Gray and Mann added.
When talking about “California fires,” one often has to refer to fires that occur near the city of Los Angeles. But Gray and Mann were looking specifically at fires in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, which make up the state’s most populated area and home to more than 600,000 residents.
As they note in their paper, “Although the study includes fires that occur in California’s interior counties, it extends to the San Joaquin Valley, where the most intense, large, and damaging fires have occurred in the last 20 years. It also includes San Diego, the only city in California that does not have active firefighting capabilities.”
So the fires that California is currently experiencing are “much worse” than in the