California Fires Continue To Rage Out Of Control
Lompoc Fire Smoke 5-13-2014Credit: Karoli
May 15, 2014

Is the entire country going to have to burn before the deniers admit they were wrong? I would love for Marco Rubio to pay a visit to my area, where the average temperature is generally in the 70s. Or was in the 70s, before the last two years.

Springtime here usually means strawberries and fog. For the past two years, the beginning of May has brought hot, dry desert winds, temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, and fires. Last year we watched as our hillsides and nature preserves burned to the ground. This year we hide inside and turn off everything we possibly can that generates heat, hunkering down until the sun goes down and night drops temperatures into the 80s.


As ClimateProgress’ Joe Romm reported earlier this year, scientists have been linking hotter and drier conditions across California to climate change for over a decade. In a letter to the New York Times in March, three drought experts wrote that the California drought “has certainly been exacerbated by climate change for one simple reason:"

Temperatures in California are now higher today, as they are globally. This alone increases water demand by crops and ecosystems, accelerates snowpack loss, and worsens evaporation from reservoirs. There are other complicating effects, but the influence of higher temperatures on drought is already real and cannot be ignored.We are now unambiguously altering the climate, threatening water supplies for human and natural systems. This is but one example of how even today we are paying the cost of unavoidable climate changes.

There is little ambiguity that it will be a costly summer as California enters its official hot, dry season.

Thousands have been evacuated in San Diego County, with more to come if the winds don't begin to fade. CNN has the latest updates:

"As quickly as the sun came up, so did the smoke," and the smoke meant fire, said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler.

In addition to high temperatures, dry winds and low humidity, officials were concerned about firefighter fatigue after two days of battling the blazes.

In fact, Thursday will be the hottest day of the week, according to the National Weather Service, with forecast highs between 98 and 106.

The cause of the numerous wildfires remained under investigation Thursday, but San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore noted the tinderbox conditions of southern California. Grasses were so dry that setting a fire would take only a few hundred degrees, and a spark from a catalytic converter easily carries 2,500 to 3,000 degrees of heat, Gore said.

"The grass is nothing but kindling for these fires," he told reporters.

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