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Wildfires are raging in California yet again after an insane 11,000 lightning strikes

Published Aug 20th, 2020 12:06PM EDT
california wildfires
Image: Libor/Adobe

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  • California wildfires are raging after record heat was followed by powerful storms that produced thousands of lightning strikes.
  • Residents are preparing for evacuations in some areas as over 350 fires have been spotted in the state.
  • Global warming is directly related to the prevalence of record heat as well as stronger storms and hurricanes.

California really can’t catch a break. The state has been dealing with severe wildfire outbreaks for a number of years in a row now, and a recent heatwave and subsequent storms sparked hundreds of fires across the state in the span of just a few days.

As CNN reports, the latest information from state officials puts the number of ongoing fires in the state at 367. That’s an incredibly huge number, and 26 of those fires are considered “major,” according to officials. It’s bad, and much of it appears to have been caused by storms that lit up the state with nearly 11,000 bolts of cloud-to-ground lightning over a period of just 72 hours.

The fires are serious dangers in an of themselves, but even regions where the fires aren’t an immediate threat are facing severe issues with air quality, as smoke and ash travel long distances. In fact, the situation was so dire in the city of Vacaville that a state prison had to distribute N95 masks to prevent lung damage in the inmates as well as the staff.

As the fires spread, plans for widespread evacuations are already underway. In some cases, it’s not just about the fires themselves, but the fact that fires can cause widespread power outages across huge regions, and technicians can’t get in to fix things due to the hazards. This puts residents of homes without power at even greater risk, as they may be unable to accurately track the approach of the fire or know when evacuations have been ordered.

Scientists have long warned that these kinds of things would happen if we were unable to curb climate change (global warming), and we’re now seeing just the tip of the iceberg. Widespread, record-breaking heat, stronger storms, and wildfires are just a small taste of what we’ll be dealing with in the future if we can’t get our fossil fuel burning and other detrimental habits under control.

A recent study showed that hurricanes, which as we’ve all seen can wipe out huge areas of the country and claim countless lives in the process, are getting stronger. The strength of these massive storms has a direct link to human activity and global warming. Warmer water in the ocean strengthens these storms, and once they reach land they are capable of causing unimaginable damage.

In the short term, California will now have to deal with the very serious situation it has on its hands, but as we look to the future, we need to continue to make big changes if we want to prevent similar situations from becoming the norm.