Drought, Fire, and the New Normal in the American West
Early-season blazes reflect a drier landscape, but fall rains could bring hope.
The wildfire season arrived early this week in southern California, at a time of the year when skies usually are covered in cooling clouds of gray.
At the root of the problem is the deep, three-year drought that continues to plague California, and warmer winter weather that shrinks the snowpack in the Cascade and Sierra Mountains—a recipe that increases likelihood of wildfires. Studies indicate that the number and size of Western fires is up, and scientists say this drought may be the start of a long-term trend, noting that other Western droughts during the past 1,000 years have been more severe and could repeat.
California's water supplies are short, many rivers are low, and forests are