More fire weather days coming

It’s been smoky this season. Based on research from Michael Goss et al., Al Shaw and Elizabeth Weil for ProPublica look at the current fire situation in California and what that might mean for the future and the rest of the country.

In wildfires, as with flooding and heat, climate change doesn’t create novel problems; it exacerbates existing problems and compounds risks. So there is no precise way to measure how much of all this increased wildfire activity is due to climate change. An educated guess is about half, experts say. Its role, however, is growing fast. Within 20 years, climate change promises to be the dominant factor driving larger and more frequent megafires — not only in California, but across the country.

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Smoke from the U.S. West Coast travels east and overseas

Smoke from the wildfires made its way to the other side of the country and over the ocean. Using data from NOAA, Reuters animated the smoke clouds over time:

With climate change expected to exacerbate fires in the future, by worsening droughts and warming surface ocean temperatures, wildfire research is becoming especially important. Over the last year, the world has seen record fires in Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Siberia and now the U.S. West.

“I’m concerned that we are starting to see these phenomena more often … everywhere in the world,” Gassó said. “If it’s one year like this, it’s fine, as long as it doesn’t keep repeating itself like this.”

Uh oh.

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California wildfires map

Los Angeles Times provides a California-specific map of the current wildfires to stay updated on what’s happening right now.

In the zoomed out view, hexagons bin the individual fires and color by number of hotspots. Wavy hatching indicates levels of air pollution. In the zoomed in view, see the individual fires and click for current status.

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More wildfires than ever

Peter Aldhous for BuzzFeed News delves into the increasing number of wildfires in California:

Most of California’s rain and snow falls in between October and March, which means that fire season peaks in the summer, as vegetation dies and dries out. In Southern California, the season extends into the fall, when Santa Ana winds, which blow from the dry interior toward the coast, whip up small fires into major conflagrations.

As the state has dried and warmed, the fire season has started earlier and larger areas have burned. Similar changes have occurred across the western US.

Grab the data and code to look for yourself.

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Scale of the California wildfires

The Mendocino Complex Fire, now the largest in California ever, continues to burn. I live a couple of hundred miles away, but the sky is yellow and orange at times, and it was smokey a few days ago. It’s a bit crazy. Lazaro Gamio for Axios provides a quick view to show scale with an animated graphic compared against Washington, D.C. and Manhattan.

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Scale comparison of wildfires

The past few days in California has been non-stop rain, but the months before that, there was unprecedented wildfires in the state. Lauren Tierney, reporting for The Washington Post, provides an overview along with a scale comparison of 2017’s biggest fire against anywhere on the globe.

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Drought report cards for California water districts

Water Report Card

Thomas Suh Lauder for the Los Angeles Times provides you with a way to see how the water district near you is doing relative to the rest of the state. Look up a location. Get a report card.

It's still not looking good for California's drought situation. Lots of brown yards, parks with dying grass, and barren farm lands up for sale. It depends where you are though. For example, the park near where I live is almost completely brown, but in the city next to mine, the parks are oddly lush green.

Makes this local view all the more important.

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