It should come as no surprise that California is burning.
On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that July was California’s hottest month since record keeping began in 1895.
Those scorching temperatures withered the land, creating profoundly parched forests primed to catch fire with just a spark.
Major wildfires are propelled by weather, notably strong winds, but they’re also enhanced by overall rising global temperatures due to human-caused climate change, say scientists. This is a particularly stark reality in California, where even in early July, fire scientists noted that the state’s vegetation reached near-record dryness.
Nearly the entire Golden State experienced either record heat or temperatures “much above average” in July, said NOAA.
However, California wasn’t alone in experiencing scorching temperatures and multiple heat waves.
Most of the West was abnormally warm, and in the contiguous U.S., May through July temperatures were also the warmest on record, eclipsing the previous record set in 1934.
As climate and environmental scientists are quick to point out, individual temperature records are not too meaningful — it’s the long-term trends that matter.
And California’s summer heat is certainly a continuation of accelerating warming trends in both the U.S. and around the globe.
Heat waves and longer warming spells will certainly happen, regardless of what the climate is doing, as big blobs of warm air can settle over areas, like California or Europe, for extended periods of time.
But the climate is simply warmer that it was a half century ago, giving hot temperatures an extra boost — which can mean vast swathes of land are turned to fire-ready tinder.
Yet another heat wave continues this week in portions of California, like Los Angeles. As might be expected, this doesn’t bode well for the already dry vegetation in the region. Southern California’s Holly Fire is now actively growing near suburban neighborhoods.
Relieving rains aren’t expected in much of the state for months.
California, like recently scorched Greece, experiences the dry, warm summers defined by the Mediterranean climate. Historically, fires happen during this time of year.