Global warming contributes to natural disasters

New global warming reports point to human activity, and the cause is natural disasters.

By Jessica Ava Lange, Online Editor

Two recent reports, one by the UN Panel on Climate Change and one by the United States government, discovered that human activity is contributing to global warming, and as a result, natural disasters are the biggest issue facing society.

“Increased forest fire activity across the western United States in recent decades has contributed to widespread forest mortality, carbon emissions, periods of degraded air quality and substantial fire suppression expenditures,” according to a report released by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The top five largest blazes have occurred within the last five years according to California fire records stretching back to 1932. Deadly wildfires scorching through southern California are undeniably linked to climate change.  This year, wildfires in California broke records becoming the largest in state history, killing 79, destroying more than 9,800 homes and scorching 151,000 acres statewide.

California continues to remain in a drought due to climate change, and that has enhanced a fuel for fires to spread faster and further. When the atmosphere warms, it holds moister which leads to floods and more rainfall.  The rising temperatures drive intense heat waves that warm the soil and suck water out of plants.  Because of this, the state is in a severe drought.  When all of these factors are combined, it is a recipe for wildfires.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said the severe fires were the “new normal” and added that years of drought and rising temperatures from climate change contributed to the worsening fire season.

As California copes with the aftermath of disastrous wildfires, massive rainfall potentially poses the next major threat to areas that have been victims of the blazing fires due to lack of vegetation.  Water will roll off the soil instead of being absorbed into the ground.

Areas scorched by the Paradise Fire and Southern California’s Woolsey Fire are at risk for mudslides, flash flooding and debris flow.  The absences of shrubbery and plant life leave the hillsides exposed, and the steep geography in the Malibu area increase the possibility of the landslides similar to those impacted in Santa Barbara County following the Thomas Fire in 2017. Extreme rainfall will carry ash with contaminants and toxins into streams and rivers.

“We just can’t catch a break with it right now in the county,” Cal Fire battalion chief Patrick Purvis told CNN affiliate KOVR on Thursday. “I mean, we just go from fire season straight into floods, landslides.”

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