The dry, hot Santa Ana winds that spawned destructive wildfires across Southern California last month are expected to make an unwelcome return this week, between Tuesday and Friday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
"Last week, 590 new fires were reported across the United States. Fourteen new large fires started in 11 states and firefighters were able to contain 10 of the blazes," the center reported.
"Fire managers in southern California are pre-positioning resources and preparing for the return of the Santa Ana winds.
Fire potential will increase next week in southern California with a critical fire weather event. Windy and dry conditions will continue today across the central and southern Great Plains. Relative humidity will continue to drop in the Southeast with a very dry air mass in place. Next Tuesday through Thursday, a strong Santa Ana wind event is expected in southern California. Windy and dry conditions will develop across portions of the Southwest and southern Great Plains.
So far this year, 79,129 large fires have burned 9,375,530 acres, mostly in the West. That tally is approaching the record set last year. Research has attributed the increase in fire intensity, frequency, size and duration to climate change, though fire management practices (ie, allowing fuel to build up) also plays a role -- and suburban sprawl in fire-prone areas ups the ante, with the stakes set at property destruction and loss of life.
Global warming will only increase fire risk, as less snow and hotter air leads to drier conditions, and an influx of pathogens weakens trees -- leaving only the need for a spark to set off a wildfire.
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