Thursday, October 22, 2020

Climate Change & the California Wildfires

The Washington Post has created a powerful and emotive mapped visualization of the huge devastating wildfires which have destroyed 4.1 million acres of land in California this year. In How Escalating Climate Change Fuels California's Infernos the Washington Post shows the devastation caused by wildfire in one Californian town and then zooms out to show the extent of the devastation across the whole state.

The article starts with a zoomed in satellite view of the school in Berry Creek, California. A school destroyed by the North Complex Fire. As you scroll down the page you zoom out from the school to see the devastation caused by the fire in the whole town. Continue scrolling and the satellite view continues to zoom out to show the whole massive extent of the North Complex Fire.  

Starting from one particular school and one small town and then zooming out to show the whole extent of the fire is a clever way to show how the California wildfires have destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans this year. 

After this long zoom out the WaPo then proceeds to show how California's wildfires are being intensified by global heating. Now as you scroll down the page an animated heat layer shows how August's record breaking heatwaves resulted in highly combustible vegetation and a very high vapor pressure deficit (the amount of water in the air). In August California also experienced record cold, dry air fanned by relentless winds.

The combination of record temperatures, a high vapor pressure deficit and cold, dry winds created a perfect storm for the creation and spreading of fire across California. Five of California’s six biggest recorded wildfires happened this year. As climate change accelerates in the coming decades this level of wildfire is likely to become the new normal. Well actually it won't - because of continuing global heating the wildfire levels in California will become even worse in the coming years.

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