Energy & Environment

Climate change responsible for conditions fueling wildfires in western US: study

Climate change is responsible for conditions fueling wildfires in the western U.S., according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

The study found the vapor pressure deficit — a measure for how thirsty the atmosphere is — has increased in recent years, study author and UCLA climate researcher Rong Fu said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The higher the vapor pressure deficit, the more moisture is taken out of vegetation to hydrate the atmosphere. Then, once moisture is sucked out of the plants in an area, fires start and spread there more easily. 

The study concluded that 70 percent of the change in the atmosphere is due to greenhouse gases warming the Earth. Other factors include cloud cover and vegetation. 

“It’s happened so much faster than we previously anticipated,” Fu said, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

“Prior to 2000, we can explain this fire weather pretty well just using the weather patterns,” Fu added. “But now we can only explain like 30 percent of what we see with the fire weather.”

California has been battered by wildfires this year as drought, combined with poor weather, has caused firefighters to struggle to contain the flames. Millions of acres have burned and thousands of buildings have been destroyed as a result. 

The study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences comes as world leaders are meeting at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss climate change and confer on potential strategies to combat it.

“There is something bigger, more engaged, more urgent in what is happening here than I have seen in at any other COP, and I believe we are going to come up with record levels of ambition,” climate envoy John Kerry said Tuesday.

Tags climate Climate change Drought John Kerry wildfires

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