Climate Change and the California Wildfires


Courtesy of USDA

Climate change is increasing the intensity of California’s wildfires.

Fiona Salisbury, Photojournalist

Wildfires are a common occurrence throughout California during the autumn season. According to Cal Fire, a total of 6,190 incidents have occurred, an estimated 198,392 acres have burned, and 730 structures have been destroyed or destructed during this year. The strong winds and dry air contribute to the large sizes the fires grow to be, but climate change is causing wildfires to increase in size.


Over the last two decades, California has been the driest and hottest it’s ever been. California has warmed by approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit which has caused water to be sucked out of many plants and vegetation to dry up. The dry vegetation makes it easier for the fire to spread. Even though the amount of fires hasn’t increased due to climate change, the size and intensity of California’s fires continue to increase.


Climate change is causing higher temperatures that result in earlier snowmelt. This results in drier soil and a higher chance of drought which equals a longer fire season. The hotter it is, the more water evaporates from plants. Analise Hopper (9) says, “I believe that climate change affects the wildfires.” Because of the effects climate change has on the environment, wildfires are getting more severe.


According to AP News, the five years with the greatest amount of land burned had higher temperatures than the five years with the least amount of land burned. According to the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an increase of one degree celsius in the average annual temperature could result in the median burned area per year as much as 600 percent. Over 80 percent of wildfires in the United States are started by humans, but factors related to climate change are what allow the fires to spread at increasing rates and make them more difficult to put out.


Evidence shows that climate change and the increasing severity of California’s wildfires are related. People can try to minimize the damage done by wildfires in California by trying to lower the severity of climate change. The damage done by California wildfires is expected to increase as climate change worsens so if climate change were to become less rapid, the damage done by the fires would be less concerning.