AScribe Newswire: The catastrophic fires that are sweeping Southern California are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years, experts say, and they may be just a prelude to many more such events in the future - as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged drought periods.
"This is exactly what we've been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change," said Ronald Neilson, a professor at
"You can't look at one event such as this and say with certainty that it was caused by a changing climate," said Neilson, who was also a contributor to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a co-recipient earlier this month of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. "But things just like this are consistent with what the latest modeling shows," Neilson said, "and may be another piece of evidence that climate change is a reality, one with serious effects."
The latest models, Neilson said, suggest that parts of the
"As the planet warms, more water is getting evaporated from the oceans and all that water has to come down somewhere as precipitation," said Neilson. "That can lead, at times, to heavier vegetation loads popping up and creation of a tremendous fuel load. But the warmth and other climatic forces are also going to create periodic droughts. If you get an ignition source during these periods, the fires can just become explosive."
The problems can be compounded, Neilson said, by El Nino or La Nina events. A La Nina episode that's currently under way is probably amplifying the