Sally Thompson

Are Wet Winters or Drought Worse for California Fires?

Disastrous wildfires are popularly associated with drought. But the North Bay fires followed one of the wettest winters in decades.

The nightly news tends to make things even more confusing. During drought, newscasters sound the alarm about dead trees and the general flammability of parched forests. After wet winters, dire warnings are issued about the abundant growth of grass and brush that will become tinder during the hot, dry days of California’s summer and fall. So are wet winters worse for fires? Or are dry winters worse?

Fried to a Crisp: Why Some Experts Say We Must Burn the Trees to Save the Forests

The recent rains have blunted the psychological impact of California’s four-year drought, washing down the streets, perking up the landscaping, and heightening anticipation for a stormy El Nino-driven winter. We know, however, that one wet year is highly unlikely to end water shortages. What we may not fully grasp is that the damage done to the state’s forests is so far reaching that it may be permanent.

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