Experts warn of link between climate warming and more wildfires

FILE - Flames from a wildfire in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Last year was the most destructive wildfire season in California's history.

Thousands of wildfires burned more than a million acres last year, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 9,000 wildfires burned throughout the state, destroying more than 10,000 buildings and killing 46 people. The Thomas Fire, the largest fire on record in California, burned through more than 200,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Now, the question many researches have been asking: Is there a link between climate change and the number of wildfires?

Brandon Pratt, professor of biology at California State University, Bakersfield, said in addition to warming, the change in rainfall is also a direct link to wildfires.

"One of the components of climate change is warming temperatures, and we have excellent evidence that there has been warming occurring. We have had our three record droughts in the last 20 years in Southern California," said Pratt.

Brian Block, ecosystem manager, explained the effects the drought has had on the Sequoia National Forest.

"The problem we are seeing here now is that as large trees fall down, we get a lot more logs that are decaying, and they become susceptible to embers," said Block.

The change in climate has also had its effects on the bark beetle, which are contributing to tree deaths.

"With longer summers, they can have multiple life cycles," said Block. "They can hatch two sets of eggs in a year, or three sets of eggs, so three generations a year as oppose to one generations year."

These growing number of wildfires have left researchers with many questions.

"Without aggressive action, we are looking at more," said Block. "The factors that are driving this are continuing, and so there is no reason to not think that we are not going to see more warming."

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