Mother Jones August, 5 2018
Fire researcher have seen this coming for years. The fires here in CA have burned an enormous area – the Carr fire has now burned over 150K acres, The Ranch fire in Mendocino, over 200K acres, the River fire over 45K, and the Western fire, now contained, over 100K acres. These fires leave canopy holes which will take years to fill.
As of July 31, more than 25,000 firefighters are committed to 140 wildfires across the United States—over a million acres aflame. Eight people are dead in California, tens of thousands evacuated, smoke and pyroclastic clouds are visible from space. And all any fire scientist knows for sure is, it only gets worse from here. How much worse? Where? For whom? Experience can’t tell them. The scientists actually are uncertain.
“We can no longer use the observed past as a guide. There’s no stable system that generates a measurable probability of events to use the past record to plan for the future,” says LeRoy Westerling, a management professor who studies wildfires at UC Merced.
“On top of that is interaction between the climate system, the ecosystem, and how we manage our land use,” Westerling says. “That intersection is very complex, and even more difficult to predict. When I say there’s no new normal, I mean it. The climate will be changing with probably an accelerating pace for the rest of the lives of everyone who is alive today.”