21 Nov 2008

Wildfires and Water Use

Over 1,000 houses have burned in Southern California, and contributing factors include an environment under stress and an uncooperative climate.

If there's less water around, vegetation will be drier and more vulnerable to fires. If weather is hotter, the fires are more likely and more likely to spread.

Despite this rather simple logic, scientists quoted here say there's not enough statistical evidence to connect fires to climate change.

That's actually bad news. If the fires are being driven by local habits, then things are really going to get worse when climate change makes things worse (more heat, less snowpack, rain shifting north, etc.)

This piece does a good job slamming Californians for making things worse in two ways -- by abusing groundwater resources and contributing to climate change. (True.)

Bottom Line: As ye sow, so shall ye reap.


  1. But if 'groundwater abuse' is responsible for SoCal's wildfire's, then wouldn't the Central Valley be a flaming inferno?

    Nearly all of SoCal's groundwater basins are adjudicated. Portions of them are polluted from industrial uses (perchlorate, mostly).

    Groundwater abuse has it's other negative effects, but I don't think Southern California's wildfires are one of them.

  2. Good question and accurate observations.

    I'd say that "natural" areas in SoCal are drier than they should be (b/c g/w is fully tapped), and those areas (hills) are where fires spread. The Valley has little natural growth left on the floors...

  3. Fire is a natural cycle in the West. Climate change will only make this worse. Why do people think they can dominate nature? All the water in the world doesn't help firefighters in hurricane force winds trying to fight urban wildfires. Even plane loads of purple retardant are useless until the wind dies down. The best strategy is to have irreplaceable stuff packed and ready, pet carriers, and plenty of insurance. Where is that LA rain?


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