The Link Between Climate Change and Wildfires

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A horse trailer burns on Pleasants Valley Rd outside of Vacaville, California on August 19, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Record-breaking heat, dry vegetation, and lightning each played a role in sparking wildfires that have burnt more than one million acres across California. But to what extent were these factors caused by climate change? UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, along with a team of researchers, published a study earlier this year that found that the “number of days with extreme fire weather during the autumn season has more than doubled since the late 1970s.” The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, calls climate change a key driver of the shift toward longer fire seasons. In this segment, we talk with Swain about the link between climate change and the risk of wildfires in California.


Daniel Swain, climate scientist, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA; research fellow, Capacity Center for Climate and Weather Extremes at the National Center for Atmospheric Research