Statement on the current California forest fires

12.11.2018 - The California forest fires are currently burning across the State having forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee their homes, among them also stars like Miley Cyrus, Gerard Butler, Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga. These are probably the worst forest fires in California's history.
Statement on the current California forest fires
Forest fires in the county of Los Angeles (Credit: iStock)

On this issue Kirsten Thonicke, Deputy Co-Chair of Research Domain Earth System Analysis and expert for wildfires at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

"The current blaze in California is sadly reaching a whole new level of extreme forest fires in an already extreme fire year in the state fueled by climate change. Already now, the wildfires have destroyed an area of more than 6500 square kilometers, and more than 6000 buildings.

There are several factors forcing up one another: Due to a lack of rain over the past few years in California the region is already extremely dry. The situation is worsened by the unusually high amount of 129 million dead trees, also a result of the California megadrought over the past years. The extreme drought across the whole Northern hemisphere this summer also adds up to this. The wildfires are further fueled by the extreme winds and the geographical conditions of high mountains and deep valleys which are like chimneys fortifying the fires. Hence, natural factors and human-caused global warming effects fatally collude.

It is unfortunately totally clear that such events will likely increase with unabated climate change. Global warming and therewith rising temperatures will increase the risks of droughts causing more severe forest fires with unprecedented impacts. This is and will be a completely new challenge for firefighters, policymakers and citizens in California - and many other regions in the world."