Climate change tends to bring worse weather, be it extreme cold or heat, rain or fire. A warming atmosphere increases the likelihood of heavy rainfall following a wildfire in the western United States, a new study has found. Such a coincidence increases the risk of landslides and flash floods.
“Once a wildfire burns out, you’re killing all the vegetation, and you don’t have any root structures holding the soil in place, so it’s much more vulnerable,” said Samantha Stevenson, a climate scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who co-authored the study. research.
Fires don’t cause storms, but the same rising temperatures that cause more fires allow the atmosphere to carry more moisture, causing rain to quickly dump more water. “We’re talking about extreme downpours, 99.9 percentile,” Stevenson says.
This article was originally published as “Wild Weather” in Scientific American 327, 1, 80 (July 2022)