SW CASC Researchers Outline Drivers of California Wildfires in New Publication

July 5, 2023
Wildfire on road

Authors from the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center are behind a new publication in the International Journal of Wildland Fire. The synthesis article titled, “Drivers of California’s changing wildfires: a state-of-the-knowledge synthesis,” is an effort by  SW CASC principal investigators, staff, and funded researchers to assess the drivers of the 2020 California fire season. 


The synthesis considers contributing factors to wildfire prevalence in California, such as fire suppression, increasing temperatures, and human activity. Annual area burned in California has increased over the past 40 years, and is correlated with increasing temperatures and atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (the difference between how much moisture is in the air versus how much it can hold). Through a state-of-the-knowledge synthesis, the authors explore how fire management has changed in California throughout time, while making the case that historic, intersecting factors play a role in the future of wildfire in California and that anthropogenic climate change is the driver behind much of the changes we have seen in recent years. Wildfire is an inherent part of California’s landscapes and it will likely increase throughout the 21st century making fire adaptation an essential piece in sustaining human development in California, especially at the wildland-urban interface. 


Fire is essential to the ecological functioning of California’s ecosystems so, according to the authors, tackling the state’s wildfire challenges will require targeted, local management solutions that take into account building regulations, ecosystem planning that integrates urban areas, and collaboration with Tribes.

More information about this publication can be found in a press release from UCLA.