Drought and how it affects California’s wildfire Essay

This paper describes drought and how it affects California’s wildfire. It shows some wildfire impacts by referring to cases of wildfires in California. It also identifies global warming as a major influence to drought. It shows how global warming contributes to drought which in turn affects wild fires. Other factors such as wind and lightning associated to drought and contribute greatly to fire occurrence are also discussed. Finally, a conclusion is made based on the discussion in paper. Drought can be referred to as a period when a region experiences a deficiency in the supply of water mainly due to rainfall shortage.

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Drought has adverse impacts on the ecosystem of an area and also on agriculture. A wild fire is that which is uncontrolled and non-structured and usually occurs in the wilderness. In the case of California, these fires often occur in the wilderness regions that are being extensively urbanized and are often associated with home destruction and loss of property.

Drought is a major contributor in the intensity and number of wildfires. Low rainfall amounts and high temperatures allow fuels like dead leaves, branches and trees to dry.

These are very susceptible to fire especially when humidity is very low and the speed of wind is very high(Fonda 155). California has a history of recurrent wildfires associated with the dry climate, Santa -Ana winds and the increased settlement in wooded and rural areas. Frequent lightning that strikes parched hills of southern California is one of the ways through which fire starts. It is observed that over the last few years, the incidents of wildfire have increased greatly in California. Some of the worst episodes of fire in California history were experienced in 2007.

Eight deaths occurred while over 500,000 people forced to abandon homes. It is also shown that total of 2000 fires were reported between June and July 2007 across California state(Shapley par 4). Southern California and its neighboring regions of Nevada and Arizona have been experiencing extreme drought for months. This is according to statistics given by unit of monitoring drought in the U. S. From the same sources it is shown that the year 2007 was among the driest years that have been recorded in Californian history experiencing a deficit of rainfall that is a third the usual.

Some regions in California seemed to be the most affected by wildfire. This included San Diego and Malibu which were prone to wildfire because of parched conditions and the prevailing Santa- Ana winds which were hot and dry (Shapley par 6). From recent reports, 800 fires had been started by lightning just over one weekend. This shows how fires are prone to California. It is also confirmed that Big Sur has over 500 homes that are under fire threat and the quality of air is slowly deteriorating because of smoke. In United States it was established that over 50 wildfires burnt a total area of 342,332 acres.

California had most of its land affected. Recently, 52 wildfires reported in seven states of the US among these 33 were cases from California. The other cases of fire were in Arizona (6), North Carolina (1), Virginia (2), Texas (6), Florida (1) and New Mexico (4). In California, 34548 cases of wild fires in 1998 burnt acreage of 1. 94 million. This was attributed to drought accompanied by lighting and wind (Shapley par 3). Climate Change and California Fires Global warming has contributed to the California’s wildfire which has forced many people to vacate their homes and also destroyed properties.

Global warming has been the major contributor to wildfires since it affects droughts. The droughts are in turn associated with an increase in winds, heat and the snow packs melting. These contribute greatly to the occurrence of California’s wildfire. Global warming does not influence wildfire directly but favors conditions which are hot and dry. In fact it has been noted that change in climate has caused an increase wildfire’s intensity, size and frequency. Other factors that affect the incidences of wildfires are poor techniques in forest management which lead to accumulation of fuel that fire readily burns (Localizado & Smalley 310).

Climate change also influences the Santa- Ana winds. These winds are sometimes known as devil winds. Their duration is seen to have increased and prevail mostly during the drought. They are recognized to initialize most fires. The dry- hot conditions of southern California also contribute to the common incidence of wildfires. Climate change may cause early springs and if they are warm it leads to reduced snow pack and early snow melt which in turn allows regions in California to dry quickly this lengthens the drought periods in summer. Also less snow results to less runoff which contributes to drier conditions.

With these dry conditions fuel is found in plenty since moisture content is usually very low and there is plenty of litter that can be easily burnt(Fonda 157). Even though no direct link has been established between wild fires and climate change, forestry experts have noted that long drought periods and increased temperatures usually tends to increase the number of wildfire. Forests which are dry and very hot are mostly affected by invasive plants and small insects therefore weakening plants in the forest thus making it more susceptible to fire. Also poor forest management increases the chances of wild fire occurring.

Litter composed of dry fuel is often left lying and this could easily be ignited(Localized & Smalley 312). Lightning strikes contribute to some of the worst cases of in California’s wildfire. They are associated with the ignition of most fires. These are predicted to increase in about 6% if level of carbon dioxide doubles. The Santa- Ana winds which have prolonged their occurrence are also shown to fuel most of the wildfire that have occurred in different regions of California. These winds are well-known to blow up to 97 km/h and when they combine with high temperatures they can create very favorable condition for fire.

Scientists show that when the snow packs dwindle, there is less runoff thus the valleys become dry for a prolonged period and therefore more fuel accumulates that can be easily ignited . Reports show that the snow packs on the mountain can dwindle to almost two thirds of its actual size by the time the season of wild fire starts therefore causing runoff which feeds reservoirs and ponds to drop to 45% (Shapley par 5). Snow is shown to favor dry land because when the snow is lost ,the uncovered land absorbs more heat thus the area becomes warmer and inhibits further accumulation of snow.

when there is no snow on the area, there is no water for vegetation growth thus a dry land(Quin, Keeley &Wallace 272 ). Conclusion From the above discussions it can be concluded that wildfires in California are related to climate change which is manifested through drought conditions prevailing in the area. The drought is accompanied by the Santa- Ana winds and frequent lightning which are major contributors in causing wildfires. It is seen that when the snow from the mountains melt earlier it results to less runoff thus results into a dry land that is very susceptible to fire.

Drought only provides favorable conditions for California’s wildfire other factors like source of fire follow suit. It has also been established that poor management in forest contribute to many fire incidences in California.

Works cited

Fonda, Richard. Fire in the California’s Ecosystems. California: CUP, 2006. Localizado, A. , Smalley, J. , Protecting Life & Property from the Wildfire . Massachusetts: Bartlett and Jones Publishers, 2005. Shapley, Dan. Drought, Season of Intense Fire &Global Warming,. 9th Dec, 2007. 10 March, 2009. < http://www.thedailygreen. com/environmental-news/latest/wildfire-california-47061202> Shapley, Dan. Southern California Plagues by Extreme Drought. 23rd October, 2007. 10th March, 2009. <http://www. thedailygreen. com/environmental-news/latest/wildfire-california-47061202> Shapley, Dan. Study: Have we underestimated Global Warming and the Fire Risk?. 16th July,2008. 10th March,2009. <http://www. thedailygreen. com/environmentalnews/latest/wildfire-california-47061202> Quinn R, Keeley S. and Wallace M. Introduction to California chaparral California: CUP, 2006.

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