Southern California is on fire. Wildfires ravage North Los Angeles, destroying entire communities just a short drive from downtown Los Angeles. Consuming everything in their path, fires are only extinguished when they reach the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Commuters accustomed to massive traffic jams on Highway 101 are now forced to have a glove of flames.
Climate scientists warn that the rains that could calm hell are at least 6 weeks away, and may never return. Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, tells The Verge: “At this time of year, it has usually rained a bit which has clouded things. It is as dry as in the summer months ”. His latest Tweet says it all.
The dry weather is attributable to high pressure hot air bubbles in the jet stream over the west coast of the United States. They lead to what is known as an "atmospheric ridge" that prevents moisture-laden storms from reaching the area. They were responsible for California's epic five-year drought that recently ended in Northern California, but still persists in the southern part of the state. Now a new atmospheric ridge is forming over the west coast, and Swaim says it's impossible to predict how long it will last. "We were dry before and now the prospects for rain seem even less likely due to the size of this thing," Sweet says.
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory led by Ivana Cvijanovic are studying how melting ice in the Arctic Ocean may affect weather patterns in the US The news is not good. They say that as the Arctic warms, a chain reaction begins that leads to more frequent atmospheric ridges along the west coast. That means less rain and longer fire seasons. The findings were published this week in the journal Nature Communications.
Cvijanovic is quick to point out that other factors may come into play that alter the research findings, including changes in air pollution and greenhouse gases, or volcanic activity in the coming decades. There is even a study that suggests California may get wetter.
"The fire season in Southern California stops when it gets enough rain to make everything wet and green and plump," says Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at the University of Berkeley. "That is the only thing that is going to change the system." The possibility of that happening in the short term is practically non-existent.
Reactionaries will instantly claim that all scientists are simply self-aggrandizing fools throwing up ridiculous findings to boost their own egos and keep the flow of research grants flowing. Fires are as normal as a full moon or tides. Nothing to do with human activity. Nothing to see here, move along. If watching entire communities bursting into flames will divert attention from any of the tax cuts for the wealthy, it seems unlikely.
But for the rest of us who are not on the Koch Brothers payroll, Elie Wiesel's words seem appropriate: “There may be times when we are powerless to avoid injustice, but there should never be a time when we cannot protest. ”. Destroying the land to preserve individual fortunes seems more like a criminal enterprise than a viable economic system.
Original article (in English)