Heat Waves, Wild Fires and Climate Change

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Border Fire

June 22, 2016 (San Diego) The Border Fire is a good reminder of how bad fires can get in the back country. What few will mention is that these were a regular occurrence in September- October time frame, not May-June. Yes I have lived in San Diego almost all my adult life, and did notice this pattern.

Starting about 5 years ago, these major fires started to occur earlier in the year. Not just the Border Fire, that started in the middle of June, but the Gun Fire, on Mt Laguna in 2013 that happened in May. Did I forget the firestorm of 2014? That was also in May. Even the Chockey fire at Tierra del Sol, near Boulevard in 2012 was a June fire.

Now this is what we can surely call a pattern. This is a pattern that is shifting.

There is more. We are also seeing deeper and more frequent heat waves, and trust me, this weekend it was hot in the back country. 114 degrees Fahrenheit is not precisely cool.. But there is something missing from the conversation. Granted, in the middle of telling you where to evacuate, or where shelters are, or whether electrical services are getting reestablished, we really do not need to talk climate change.

But that is part of the problem. None is willing to say those words. So we will. We are seeing evidence of climate change in San Diego. Here are some of the things that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said we should expect:

  • –  Heat Waves that come more often and are more intense.
  • –  Increased wild fire activity (California has now what should be considered a year round wildfire season.)
  • –  Deeper droughts
  • –  Wildfires are becoming more intense and costly. This is not just observing this, but the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report in 2014 on this.
  • –  2015 was a record year for wild fire activity, and 2016 is already well on it’s way to breaking that record.
  • –  Did we mention 2015 was the hottest year on record and we are on the way to having that broken this year?
  • –  Heat Waves are known as silent disasters, and the current one has already killed at least 4 people in the Western United States.

While many of our political leaders are still in denial, we are all seeing the effects of a warming world in our county. Every year we are seeing fires that are quite intense earlier in the year, and heat waves are becoming more intense.

This is already affecting the crop cycle. It is also already affecting fisheries. So yes, we will cover the wildfires and the problems associated with them. But we will also not hide our head in the sand. Climate change is real, and it is just a matter of time before we have climate refugees, even in our own county.

Earlier in the year there was a massive fire in Alberta, Canada, It forced the evacuation of Ft. McMurray. That was a picture of our collective future, just as our back country is. It led to a political fire storm, since the Green Party President said the words, Climate Change and linked them to the fire, and she was punished for it. Well, it is time to break that social silence. It seems there is never a right moment to utter the words and link what is happening to the actual phenomena. Well, the climate is changing, and the planet is warming. We see the evidence all around us.

The IPCC expects things to get far worst, and they are a rather conservative group by the very nature of the organization, when doing estimates to begin with. Things are moving faster than they predicted.

 

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