It’s always sunny in Southern California! But is it too good to be BLUE?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Do CLEAR skies have a CLEAR connection to California’s intensifying wildfire seasons?
Columbia University’s Park Williams tried to solve this MIST-ery.
Williams analyzed cloud height and coverage data from coastal southern California. Together with air temperature, amount of sunlight, and evaporation rates, Williams got close to an answer.
Urban growth since the seventies has increased local temperature, causing low-level coastal clouds to melt. Clouds tend to form HIGHER and farther away these days. That famous June Gloom burns off earlier — IF it forms at all.
Williams found that during summer, there was less cloud coverage over areas burned by wildfires. With fewer clouds and higher temperatures, nearby nature was drier. And fires LOVE dry plants!
Williams confirmed that less summer cloud cover means more wildfires in warm months. However, the cloud connection doesn’t explain fall or winter wildfires.
That’s still a hot MIST-ery! So, remember – Smokey says, only YOU can prevent wildfires!