The August Complex Fire started when a series of dramatic lightning strikes caused several small fires that were increased by strong winds. The small fires joined together to form the gigafire that is still burning today, lightning strikes were followed by intense heat waves and high winds ushered in dry winds. That combination allowed some fires to double overnight.
California's first gigafire is actually not the first one the world has seen this year. In January, Australia's saw a gigafire when lightning strikes caused a series of fires that, like the August Complex Fire, morphed into one in on the border of Victoria and New South Wales. That fire covered nearly 1.5 million acres. Historically, the U.S. has seen several gigafires, too. The most recent was the Taylor Complex Fire in Alaska in 2004, which covered roughly 1.3 million acres. In 1988, the Yellowstone Fire in Montana and Idaho burned over 1.5 million acres. Experts say the increased frequency and intensity of the fires will be the new normal in the West as the climate crisis intensifies. According to an analysis by Climate Central, the increased heat coupled with prolonged drought have made today's wildfire seasons three months longer than it was in the 70s, wildfires are three times more common and the amount of land burned every year has increased by 500%.
The good news for Northern California in the immediate future is that temperatures are supposed to drop 15 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of the week and rain will move in to help the firefighting efforts. (source: ecowatch.com)
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