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Report: Drought, Climate Change Fueling California Wildfires

Flames consume a structure as the Lilac fire burns in Bonsall, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.
Associated Press
Flames consume a structure as the Lilac fire burns in Bonsall, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.
A new study finds climate change has already had an impact on California wildfires.

There is growing evidence that a warming climate is fueling wildfires in California.

The new study, co-authored by a San Diego-based research meteorologist, found heat and lack of rain are creating dangerous conditions in California’s mountains.

Report: Drought, Climate Change Fueling California Wildfires
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson

Average summer temperatures are climbing and rain is falling less frequently, according to Alexander Gershunov of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Researchers say the changing climate is creating conditions that allow for larger wildfires in the state.

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The report is further evidence that wildfires are getting larger and more destructive.

“We’re also seeing a decrease in precipitation, specifically in the fall and spring so that spells a longer dry season in California,” Gershunov said.

The research meteorologist said the effects of climate change vary greatly from year to year, but it is clear the risk of large damaging fires is growing, especially in the mountains.

“Less precipitation comes down as snow. And then it also melts earlier and so that means there’s less moisture in the forests and so they are more likely to burn in the summer during the hot dry season,” said Gershunov.

The study found climate change has already had an impact on California wildfires and that impact is expected to grow as the climate warms more.

The findings are published in the journal Earth’s Future.

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