Climate Change

Major US fires & climate change linkage


In California, more than 9,300 square kilometres have burned – a state record. Three of the largest Californian wildfires since 2000 have occurred in the past three weeks.
Fires are also burning huge areas of Washington and Oregon states, estimated at more than 3,500 square kilometreswith hundreds of homes already destroyed. These states are normally considered too wet to burn on such a large scale.
This is a clear signal of climate change, which has doubled the area burned in the western US and increased the fire season in the region by more than two months.  Climate change has doubled the frequency of autumn days with extreme fire weather conditions in California. Parts of the state also set temperature records over the weekend, including 121°F (49.4°C) in Los Angeles County.


On a global scale, the length of the fire weather season has increased by 18.7% since 1979, according to a study from 2015. Researchers project that over the next years, the frequency of wildfires could dramatically increase, particularly if emissions continue to rise. One projection estimated that by 2050, there will be 27% more wildfires globally than in 2000.


“Over the last 40 years, we’ve seen a significant uptake in fire activity. In California alone, we’ve seen a fivefold increase in burned area extent in forests since 1972, very much coinciding with this period of much warmer, much drier conditions that are superposed on top of a century of fire suppression.” John Abatzoglou, University of California Merced

The following scientists are available for interviews:

  • PATRICK GONZALEZ,, expert on climate change, wildfire, forest ecology, and national parks
  • MAX, expert on climate change and the different mechanisms that drive fire activity
  • JOHN ABATZOGLOU,, expert on climate variability in the western US and climate change links to worsening California wildfires
Some eye-catching videos and photos:

You can read more about the climate science on the fires on the Climate Signals website. 


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