Publication Date December 1, 2017

It's official: this was California's worst fire season ever

United States
A firefighter watches smoke billow as flames approach a residential area in Sonoma in California in October. Photo: Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images

California’s ongoing wildfire season is now the worst ever for the state.

As of November 26, fire officials tallied 6,719 fires that burned through 505,287 acres and killed 43 people throughout the state.

These raging infernos torched shrubland and neighborhoods and inched perilously close to San Francisco and Los Angeles, shrouding them in record air pollution. And the fires are still going, as you can see in this map of current wildfires in California below:

We keep changing the climate, which makes fires more likely

There are some unique weather conditions that are driving the exceptionally swift California fires, like strong winds and high temperatures. But long-term trends linked to global warming also exacerbated this year’s fire season, not just in California but in other states too.

“Fuel, wind, and long-term dry conditions: Those are the three facts that are really what’s causing this right now,” said the National Weather Service’s Hockenberry.

After years of drought that left behind ample dry vegetation, California saw intense rainfall last year and then a cool, wet winter. The increased precipitation led to a sudden growth spurt in combustible grasses, shrubs, and trees.

What followed during the summer was a period of intense, dry heat throughout the state, including the highest temperatures ever recorded in the Bay Area.