After 16 uncontrolled wildfires this week prompted the largest evacuation in California history, the San Francisco Chronicle asks climate experts whether we'll be seeing more of them, thanks to global warming. The answer: Yes. Hotter, drier conditions in the future will lead to more fires in more places. This was the driest year in California history, a US Forest Service ecologist observes, leaving trees with less moisture than kiln-dried lumber.
"Fires are burning hotter and bigger, becoming more damaging and dangerous to people and to property," he said. "Each year the fire season comes earlier and lasts longer." But the severity of the fires themselves, he said, is due to another human factor: development in a dry, drought-prone region. "The severity of the fires is principally due to man and unrestricted urban growth policies, and not global warming."