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Climate change may be causing an early start to fire season in the West, experts say

Climate change may be causing an early start to fire season in the West, experts say

Severe drought during the winter is leading to matchbox conditions in the West.

A wildfire is currently blazing through the mountains of Southern California ahead of the area's typical fire season. While authorities suspect the Pacific Palisades Fire may have been ignited by an arsonist, the fire, which has currently spread to over 1,300 acres, offers more evidence that climate change is affecting the behavior of fires in the West, experts say.

Now that fire season has extended to at least 84 days since the 1970s -- beginning in May and lasting through September -- the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has declared that the dry season essentially lasts all year.

While the warm, dry climate that serves as fuel for wildfires has always been the norm for much of the West, hotter overall temperatures on Earth are exacerbating typical environmental conditions all over the world. And the drought isn't going anywhere, according to the Climate Prediction Center's forecast for the summer, which shows much of the U.S. suffering from drought through July 31.

The dry season on the West Coast is getting hotter and longer, leading to less snowfall during the wet season and later, less moisture on the ground to detract wildfires when the dry season is back again.

The hot, dry air also absorbs water from everything, including plants, soil, lakes and rivers. As it gets hotter, the amount of moisture the atmosphere can absorb increases exponentially. California has warmed 3 degrees since the 19th century, which results in a massive difference in the way soil and vegetation dries out and can help explain the record-breaking wildfires year after year.

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