For months, Southern California and surrounding areas of Arizona and Nevada have been experiencing "extreme drought" -- the second-worst drought designation offered by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Drought conditions are illustrated with yellow (abnormally dry), tan (moderate), brown (severe) and extreme (red). No area on this map is designated at the highest level, exceptional.
This has been one of the driest years on record in Southern California, with less than one-third the usual rainfall.
With those kind of parched conditions, coupled with the hot dry Santa Ana winds -- so-called "Devil Winds" -- the region between San Diego and Malibu was ripe for fire.
It can be seen as a lesson in climate change. It's not that global warming will produce more wildfires directly, but by increasing the likelihood of hot and dry conditions, it sets the stage for them. Scientists have already associated an increase in wildfire intensity, size and frequency in recent years with climate change, though wildfire fighting techniques in past decades also contributed to the risk because forest management led to a build-up of fuel ready to burn.
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