California’s rainy season now starts a month later than it did decades ago, prolonging the state’s destructive wildfire season, the American Geophysical Union said on Thursday, citing new research.
The peer-reviewed study by international researchers at the University of Belgrade in Serbia could not link the change directly to climate change, but said the results are consistent with scientific predictions of drier autumn months and a warming climate.
Wildfires burned more than 4 million acres in California in 2020, over twice the previous record for any year, as heat waves and dry-lightning sieges coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blame on global warming.
The rainy season in California typically starts in Dec. 27 days later than it did in the 1960s, the study found. The results suggest the state can expect to see a longer fire season with more fires in the month of November, when dry conditions are likely to coincide with the annual Santa Ana winds that blow hot, dry air from the desert.
Rainfall is becoming more concentrated in the months of January and February, the study found, suggesting more irrigation will be needed in the drought-stricken state.
The study was published in January in AGU’s journal Geophysical Research Letters.