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  October 11, 2017

'Unprecedented' California Wildfires: 21 Dead, More than 500 Missing

Despite studies linking increasing wildfires to climate change, the Trump administration scrapped an important Obama-era climate regulation this week--just as deadly wildfires spread across Northern California
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Jaisal Noor: Wildfires in California's wine country have left entire communities in rubble, at least 21 dead, with that toll expected to rise because at least 500 people remain missing and aggressive winds are causing fires to spread.

Jonathan Cox: The sheer size and scope of these fires right now is massive. To have this many fires burning in this way in such a condensed area with a big population was fairly unprecedented.

Jaisal Noor: With dry, windy conditions on Thursday, firefighters could be facing new outbreaks.

Barry Bierman: Yesterday was a very aggressive day for fire behavior with some rapid expansion of fires and unfortunately, today we're expected to go back into red flag warning for northern wind conditions. Yesterday was a southern push that pushed the fires to the north and in different directions. Today, we're expected to go back into a wind pattern from the north with low humidities and significant winds out of the north, which is definitely going to cause us challenges. We are expecting some extreme fire behavior and growth of our incidents currently and that is gonna lead us to challenges.

Rob Giordano: The wind's gonna pick up this afternoon. There's a lot of concerns of where the fire will go. We were doing evacuations all day yesterday and all through the night. So we are not switching operations to anything but life-saving right now. It's all about life-saving and evacuations. My advice to those of you who are advised is go. Traffic's bad in the county. If we have to evacuate people, it'd be better to have you out of there. If you have a place to go, go. This is still a very serious event. Life safety is what matters right now and that's where we're headed.

Jaisal Noor: This week, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama administration's clean power plan, which would limit CO2 emissions from coal power plants, a main driver of human-caused climate change. While critics said Obama's clean power plan didn't go far enough in limiting CO2 emissions, Trump's move is a handout to profit-driven polluters that sacrifices the future of the planet. What the mainstream media isn't discussing is the evidence linking the California wildfires to climate change. A 2016 study by the University of Idaho and Columbia University found human caused climate change nearly doubled the area burned in forest fires between 1984 to 2015, equivalent to 4.2 million acres. They also found climate change accounted for a 55% increase in fuel aridity from 1979 to 2015 across western US forests. This study was coauthored by Park Williams of Columbia University.

Park Williams: So when we concentrate on forests, we find there's a very strong link between drought and the amount of area that burns in any given year. One really important part of the drought link is temperature and we can actually mathematically determine the relationship between drought and fire and therefore temperature and fire. We know from climate modeling that the western US has increased in temperature by 2 to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century because of human caused climate change trends. From that value, we can back out the amount of area has burned due to human caused climate change. We find that about half of the area of forests in the western U.S. that have burned over the last 35 years is attributable to that warming trend. That half is really big. It equals the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.

Jaisal Noor: For more, go to This is Jaisal Noor.


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