contains Copernicus Sentinel (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0 / CC BY-SA 3.0-IGO

September 7, 2020; Time, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post

“More than two million acres of land have been burned by wildfires in California as of Monday, according to the state fire agency Cal Fire, surpassing the all-time record of 1.9 million set in 2018,” reports Jasmine Aguilera for Time. And all indications are that the fires will continue for some time yet.

“This is crazy. We haven’t even got into the October and November fire season and we’ve broken the all-time record,” Cal Fire Captain Richard Cordova told Cable News Network (CNN) on Sunday.

High temperatures have certainly exacerbated matters, as Andrew Freedman reports in the Washington Post. Among new all-time-high records set are the following:

Since August 15, the state has seen eight deaths and nearly 3,300 destroyed structures due to fire. The Los Angeles Times reports that up to 115,000 southern California residents lost power at one point, although all but 32,000 had power restored by Monday. The county has also been offering “cooling centers” for those without air conditioning.

In northern California, ABC News reports that the utility Pacific Gas & Electric has informed 158,000 customers in 21 counties to expect possible power shutoffs.

Some relief, at least for a time, may be on the way: Temperatures are forecast to cool some on Tuesday but to remain above normal in most of the state for much of the week. Of course, as noted above, peak fire season typically is later in the fall.

Michael Wehner, who researches extreme weather events at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, notes that while not every year leads to mass wildfires, the global climate emergency has resulted in more severe fire waves more often, as 30-plus years of Cal Fire data make clear.

Wehner observes that “climate change has caused extreme heat waves to be three to four degrees Fahrenheit warmer in California.” These trends “will continue as the planet continues to warm,” he writes in an email to Freedman, noting the amount of warming will depend on future trends in global carbon emissions.—Steve Dubb