Global warming: California wildfires, Hurricane Ida are all connected, Stanford climate expert says

Luz Pena Image
Monday, August 30, 2021
CA wildfires, Hurricane Ida are all connected, expert says
A Stanford climate expert says these extreme natural events such as wildfires and hurricanes could get worse as the planet continues to warm.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In California we're experiencing extreme heat-fueled wildfires. Along the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Ida made landfall as a category 4.

A Stanford climate expert says these extreme natural events could get worse as the planet continues to warm.

RELATED: Hurricane Tracker: Ida weakens to Category 2 storm with 110 mph sustained winds

Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh says California is officially on a new climate. The proof are the heat waves, dry conditions and another record setting fire season.

"CAL FIRE and scientists who take the measurements knew that the vegetation was very dry. We started this year in terms of the summer season in very severe drought," said Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford Professor of Earth System Science.

Along the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Ida made landfall as a category 4. Louisiana's Governor is categorizing it as one of the strongest storms to make landfall in modern times. We sat down with Stanford climate expert Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh to understand how these extreme weather events affecting opposite sides of the country are ultimately connected.

"The primary way they are connected is that global warming is happening at a global scale and all parts of the world are experiencing that," said Dr. Diffenbaugh.

RELATED: Climate report details 3 factors fueling CA's wildfire crisis and increase in 'fire weather days'

A recent study highlights El Dorado and Butte counties as areas in Northern California that are seeing the biggest increases in the number of fire days.

Research shows global warming is changing the conditions in which hurricanes are happening. The Ocean is storing more heat than ever.

"It's not just how warm the surface temperatures are, but also the heat in the upper layers of the ocean is increasing and that is providing more energy for storms. We are not just seeing stronger storms but rapid intensification of storm," said Dr. Diffenbaugh.

Dr. Diffenbaugh says 90% of the heat that has been added over the last century is in the ocean. He says this is triggering what would be category 1 hurricane to intensify and grow into stronger categories.

"Decades ago you would see that 1 out of 100 storms would do that. Now we are seeing like a 5% chance of that happening," said Dr. Diffenbaugh.

As fires intensify he says the smoke from the fires will create more greenhouse gases and air quality will continue to worsen.

VIDEO: Lake Tahoe surrounded by thick, apocalyptic layer of smoke from California wildfires

Video shows the Lake Tahoe area submerged in a thick, apocalyptic layer of smoke as wildfire conditions close Highway 50 and force local resorts and beaches to shut down.

Luz Pena: "Should we expect for smoke to sit in certain area for longer periods of time because of the dry conditions?"

Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh: "There is research on these air stagnation events. There is some indication that as global warning increases we could get more frequent occurrence of these air stagnation events."

Dr. Diffenbaugh says the solution is a different energy system and to reduce greenhouse gases fast.

"Reaching net zero is really in terms of our green gas emissions the only way to stabilize the climate system," said Dr. Diffenbaugh.