Climate Change and California Fires

Aquafornia has a great compilation of reporting on the question of a climate change link with respect to the California fires. The bottom line? Yes! No! Maybe!

The most compelling research to me on this question is Westerling et al. in Science last year. Aquafornia quotes an LA Times piece with a nice summary of the result:

The study, however, found Southern California was different from the rest of the West, with no increase in the frequency of fire as temperatures rose. “In Southern California, it’s hot and dry much of the year,” said Anthony Westerling, a climate scientist at UC Merced and the study’s lead author. In other words, Southern California was already perfect for fire.


  1. I think the best work on fire starts has been done by Jon Keeley. ( In the past he found that fire starts in SoCal closely tracked population growth. More recently (“Human Influence on California Fire Regimes,” July 2007) he finds that “maximum fire frequency occurs at intermediate levels of human density” — higher or lower levels of density, and the fire frequency falls off.

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