"After Dry 'Rainy Season,' Calif. Faces High Wildfire Risks"

"In California, May typically marks the beginning of a warm and dry summer season. This year, however, things are different. Not only has it been warm and dry for the past couple weeks; it's been warm and dry for months. So dry, in fact, that officials are warning the risk of wildfires across much of the state is going to be much worse than usual, for several months to come."

"According to their most recent outlook, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts that large parts of southern and central California, along with forests throughout the Sierra Nevada, are likely to see more wildfires than normal, particularly later this summer.

'A big chunk of the state is looking at above-average wildfire risk,' said Rob Krohn, a meteorologist with the U.S. Forestry Service's Predictive Services Branch in Riverside. According to Krohn, the exceptionally dry conditions in California during most of this winter have left many areas parched and vulnerable to ignition from both human and natural causes.

This summer's increased threat of wildfires is something Californians can expect to see more often in coming decades. Climate researchers predict that over the next 75 years, a combination of warmer winters, reduced snowpack, earlier snowmelts, and hotter, drier summers will lead to more wildfires in forested parts of the state. Year-to-year variations in the weather will still heavily influence fire risk in the future, as it has this year, but just how devastating this year's wildfires are in California will be a warning of the forests' vulnerability to the developing warmer, drier climate."

Alyson Kenward reports for Climate Central May 11, 2012.

SEE ALSO:

"Arizona Wildfires Keeping Crews Busy; Smoke From 2 Blazes Visible in Phoenix" (AP)

"Global Warming Threatens Pine Forests, Forcing Federal Officials To Shift Strategy" (Washington Post)

"Wildfire Near Lodgepole Burns Out of Control, Second Fire Forces Highway 63 Closure" (Calgary Herald)

"Wildfire Wreaks Havoc Near Myrtle Beach" (Charlotte Observer)

Source: Climate Central, 05/14/2012