• Joseph Serna

Southern California burning explained by the climate scientist.


The flames raced across brittle hillsides like advancing armies. Up and down Southern California’s canyons and coastlines, they stormed into neighborhoods and engulfed homes where people were using sprinklers and garden hoses as a last, desperate defense against the wind-driven wildfires.

These series of fires has scorched these days thousands of acres and destroyed more than 100 homes along the coastal mountains of southern California where the air is the driest it’s been here in recorded history.

Southern California may get the Santa Ana winds every year, but — according to recorded history — they’ve never been like this.

The UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain explains the climate change: “The [relative] humidity right now along the coast is much drier than what you’d normally see in the interior desert in the summertime. Once you get down to 1% or 2%, this is almost as low as is physically possible.”

It’s just a pile-on of bad news for firefighters and residents on the edge of the urban-wildland interface who are the first to get hit by wind-driven brush fires.

A layer of bone-dry, dead or dying vegetation has blanketed the Southern California landscape after a historically wet winter sprouted up green shoots that were summarily killed by the hottest summer on record. Then we went through October and November, which also were the hottest on record for Southern California, according to the UCLA climate statistics.

Two months into California’s water year, rainfall is below historical averages for the season.

“Normally if we had a little bit of rain, there’s some moisture in the soil to recover. But there is no rain in sight, about as far as I can possibly say about weather. At least the strong winds will diminish.” Daniel Swain explained.

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2017 Elira Bregu Los Angeles CA USA