A respite of relatively cool calm weather will give way to a heat wave in the next several days, leading to worries that raging wildfires will continue to ravage the West. In Big Sur, 22 homes have been destroyed and firefighters don't expect to contain the 75,000-acre fire until the end of July, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Fire Weather Forecasts from the National Weather Service suggest that firefighters struggling to contain fires in Northern California and the California coast will face unwelcome high temperatures and wind in the coming days.
Temperatures are expected 10- to 20-degrees above normal across northern California, and gusty winds will intensify overnight and continue through Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service. The California coast will also see heat and gusty winds that will produce a "potentially dangerous fire weather situation.
AccuWeather.com predicted that "high pressure anchored over the western states will allow the heat to pump out of the Desert Southwest into much of the West. The high will erase the marine influence along the West Coast, while the extreme heat builds in inland areas."
Across the country, 70 large wildfires and wildfire complexes are burning more than 579,000 acres in nine states, according to the latest tally from the National Interagency Fire Center.
Besides the 25 large fires in California, eight other states were battling fires today:
The L.A. Times is tracking hundreds of fires of all sizes in California.
Robust just a couple of months ago, California's mountain snowpack had dwindled to just two-thirds of its normal level by the time the wildfire season started. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger warned that the era when a distinct fire season threatened the state had given way to a new era, when firefighters would be stressed by near-constant fire activity.
Drought across the nation has set the stage for a bad wildfire season. The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest weekly report showed worsening conditions across the West and South.
No weather event can be said to have been caused by global warming. There's no scientific way to prove that. But these conflagrations are consistent with what scientists have told us we should expect from climate change.
Scientists have documented an increase in wildfires attributed to climate change. They have predicted that global warming will produce more frequent and intense wildfires, in large part because mountain snowpacks are expected to dwindle. With less runoff, valley conditions will be drier throughout the season, leaving any dry wood more prone to ignition. (Certainly, forest management also plays an important role, as the buildup of dead wood over years or even decades has contributed to the conflagration.) Even the Bush Administration's science advisers recently endorsed these conclusions in a sweeping report that predicts more bouts of extreme weather in the United States and across North America.
Give that, the burning West is something we can expect more of in the years and decades to come.
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