The fires are different this time. They are happening before the swirling, bone dry Santa Ana winds blast downslope through the canyons. They are different because the mountains of southern California are heating up and drying out in a prolonged drought that climate models forecast to get worse over time. Vegetation will likely not restore to its former state because vegetation and wildlife must adapt to rapid climate change.
By An Tran FishOutofWater
I remember hiking the trail up to Mt. Wilson Observatory when I was boy in the early '60s. It was a beautiful hike from the flatlands into the mountains, like entering a different world from the sprawl of the city. On a clear day the view was majestic, but light pollution from the vast developments in the San Gabriel Valley had reduced the optical telescope, built by Hale 100 years ago and used by Hubble to discover that the universe was vast over 10 billion years old and expanding, to an historical site.
Now, the beautiful pines and live oaks and hardy vegetation around Mt. Wilson are ashes. Firefighters have apparently saved the observatory and communications towers by setting backfires and clearing vegetation. The cable to the live cam was damaged by the crews but it looks like the worst of the fires is over for Mt Wilson.
By UCLA Cam FishOutofWater
However, climate change has warmed and dried mountains much faster than the lowlands globally. Mt. Wilson is no exception. The vegetation that replaces the burned trees will be adapted to drier and warmer conditions. The vegetation that I saw will be displaced to higher elevations.
How did we come to this place, where California, once the leading state in America is drying up, in flames and barely able to pay the firefighters?
California conservatives, who have controlled California's budget since Harold Jarvis and Ronald Reagan pushed proposition 13 into passage have been the lead lemmings in the unfolding catastrophe. Fox News, the agitprop outlet for the Republican party has blamed California's water problems on a 2 inch fish.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Farmers in California, they're losing their land, crops, and their livelihood, all because of a 2-inch fish. Ainsley Earhardt brings us this special investigation.
AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California's Central Valley is considered by many to be the richest and most productive farmland in the nation. But this land is being threatened by the small, harmless-looking minnow called the delta smelt.
Recently, it landed on the endangered species list, causing a federal court to shut down vital pumps to farmers to help preserve it.
They blame the lack of water on a 2 inch fish. Someone needs to break the news to Republicans and Fox. Fish don't cause climate change. People do.
April 1, 2008 - March 31, 2009 precipitation anomalies
Both the Pacific high and the Bermuda high have expanded, pushing the jet stream that carries storms and rain into Canada and Alaska. The pattern in winter 2008 is part of a trend over many years of the storm track moving north as the effects of anthropogenic global warming increase.
700 mb (about 10,000 ft elevation) anomalies
One of the mysteries regarding Earth’s climate system response to variations in solar output is how the relatively small fluctuations of the 11-year solar cycle can produce the magnitude of the observed climate signals in the tropical Pacific associated with such solar variability. Two mechanisms, the top-down stratospheric response of ozone to fluctuations of shortwave solar forcing and the bottom-up coupled ocean-atmosphere surface response, are included in versions of three global climate models, with either mechanism acting alone or both acting together. We show that the two mechanisms act together to enhance the climatological off-equatorial tropical precipitation maxima in the Pacific, lower the eastern equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures during peaks in the 11-year solar cycle, and reduce low-latitude clouds to amplify the solar forcing at the surface.
Offshore of California, anthropogenic global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels is amplified by reducing cloudiness, similar to the effects of increasing solar radiation in the solar cycle, but greater in magnitude.
This amplification of anthropogenic warming in the eastern Pacific will have catastrophic effects on California's agriculture and ecology.
Now, climate model calculations have been integrated with bird habitat models to evaluate the effects of changing climate on bird populations. The changes are shocking. Coastal southern California will become prime habitat for the cactus wren that presently thrives in the Mojave desert by 2070 if climate change continues unchecked. (You, too, can make a map of the projected distribution of a California bird as I did below.)
Conditions in the lowest elevations of the Mojave will be too hot and dry to support the cactus wren.
Southern California is rapidly turning into a desert that will lack the water to support most of the birds and people that live there now.
In one fell swoop, the changes in bird habitats and behavior between now and 2070 will equal the evolutionary and adaptive shifts that normally occur over tens of thousands of years, according to researchers with PRBO, also known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.
"What we found is that not only will species shift and communities change, but the composition of communities in certain places will not resemble anything we see today," said Diana Stralberg, a landscape ecologist and the lead author of the report, "Reshuffling of Species With Climate Disruption: A No-Analog Future for California Birds?"