West Coast Weakened by Wildfires
Clouds of dust and orange skies have become a reality for the state of California as the wildfires continue to progress. The fires have gravely impacted Californians, as thirty-one fatalities have occurred and over four million acres of land have been decimated by this natural disaster. Efforts to understand and control the wildfires are still in progress.
Due to rising temperatures and a changing climate, California has experienced longer fire seasons and summers in recent years. High winds have caused low humidity and dry vegetation, a perfect combination to produce the largest fire in the history of California. According to theatlantic.com, California wildfires are 500% larger due to climate change.
Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University, has written multiple research papers on the effects of climate change.
“Each degree of warming causes way more fire than the previous degree of warming did. And that’s a really big deal,” Williams said.
Human actions are also to blame for the raging wildfires, as 95% of California wildfires are caused by humans, according to pbs.com. Human causes, such as electrical failures, campfires and debris burning contribute to the formation of wildfires in California. The El Dorado fire of early September was caused by fireworks device at a gender reveal party.
Sean Abbott (12) is a member of the Envirothon club and is interested in the origin of wildfires.
“It seems like fires are always being reported as starting from people, burning because of drought and being spread by the winds,” Abbot said. “Clearly, we cannot change people or the winds, but I am a firm believer that in one of the leading states in environmental policy we can change the drought.”
Many Californians have evacuated due to property destruction and poor air quality. According to cbsnews.com, nearly 80,000 people have been ordered to evacuate and 8,500 buildings are threatened. California residents are advised to stay up to date on their local air pollution levels and threat of approaching wildfires in order to monitor whether their local area will become a mandatory evacuation site.
Living in an area with high levels of wildfire smoke can cause respiratory problems, stinging eyes and tight throats. By using air monitoring, it is shown that 90% of Californians breathe unhealthy levels of one or more air pollutants during some part of the year. Skies above Southern California have appeared orange because the smoke particles are removing the visible blue light, causing red and yellow light to appear more prominent.