Wildfires are expanding in northern California this morning after destroying communities nestled in the Sierras on Wednesday night and Thursday, with the Dixie Fire now the sixth-largest blaze in state history, but likely to move up the list Friday morning, Andrew writes.
Why it matters: Yet again, California is giving the country a lesson in what climate change looks like after just 1.2°C (2.16°F) of global warming.
- The West is in the midst of a brutally hot and severe drought, and fires are burning in areas where wildfire risk indices are off the charts — and peak fire season doesn't arrive for another month.
The big picture: With multiple record-shattering heat waves, the worst drought seen across the West this century, longstanding forest management practices that have loaded forests with more trees to burn, and human-caused climate change escalating things further, the West faces a calamitous end of summer into early fall.
Details: The small Sierra town of Greenville, California, located about 160 miles northeast of Sacramento, was largely destroyed on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.
Threat level: A low-pressure area in the upper atmosphere made the fire situation even more perilous Thursday into Thursday night, as towering thunderstorms formed over and downwind from the fires.
- These storms caused winds to suddenly shift, causing firefighters to repeatedly disengage from the blaze.
How it works: Human-caused climate change is driving an increase in the likelihood and severity of heatwaves and droughts, and is behind a trend toward larger wildfires in much of the West, studies show.
- Last year was California's worst wildfire season on record. So far, this season is ahead of last year's pace. The fires aren't limited to California, either, with 100 large blazes burning in 14 states.
What's new: The Biden administration, in an effort to prevent future wildfires and other climate change-related disasters, announced the largest-ever expenditure of resilience funds in a single year — $3.5 billion, including $484 million for California.
What's next: In addition to the wildfire challenges California and other western states face, drought impacts on California water and power resources are an increasingly big concern as well.