Michael Goss, Daniel L Swain, John T Abatzoglou, Ali Sarhadi, Crystal Kolden, A Park Williams, Noah S Diffenbaugh

Environmental Research Letters

Published date March 26, 2020

Climate change is increasing the risk of extreme autumn wildfire conditions across California

  • Shows that state-wide increases in autumn temperature (~1 ˚C) and decreases in autumn precipitation (~30%) over the past four decades have contributed to increases in aggregate fire weather indices (+20%)
  • Finds, as a result, the observed frequency of autumn days with extreme (95th percentile) fire weather – which we show are preferentially associated with extreme autumn wildfires – has more than doubled in California since the early 1980s
  • Finds an increase in the climate model-estimated probability of these extreme autumn conditions since ~1950, including a long-term trend toward increased same-season co-occurrence of extreme fire weather conditions in northern and southern California
  • Climate model analyses suggest that continued climate change will further amplify the number of days with extreme fire weather by the end of this century, though a pathway consistent with the UN Paris commitments would substantially curb that increase