Wilder Wildfires Ahead?


Research reveals the connection between climate change, El Niño and the possibility for more extreme wildfires.

At roughly 415,000 acres, Northern California’s Mendocino Complex Fire is now the state’s largest recorded wildfire, surpassing the record held by Santa Barbara and Ventura counties’ Thomas Fire, which occurred less than a year before. Roughly 10 other large-scale conflagrations are threatening the state. And California is not yet even at the height of its wildfire season.

The trend of growing intensity and extremity of recent wildfires has triggered new research by scientists at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Their question: How is one of our most significant climate patterns — the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) — being affected by a warming Earth and how, in turn, is that pattern affecting the likelihood and intensity of future wildfires? Their findings could have implications on land use and on wildfire fighting and prevention strategies at urban/wildland interfaces.

Their study, “ENSO’s Changing Influence on Temperature, Precipitation and Wildfire in a Warming Climate,” has been published in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Continue reading at University of California Santa Barbara

Image via National Wildfire Coordinating Group