California rains starting later, extending fire season: study

FILE PHOTO: Downtown Los Angeles is seen behind a tree burned by wildfire before expected heavy rains, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo


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(Reuters) - California's rainy season now starts a month later than it did decades ago, prolonging the state's destructive wildfire season into November, the American Geophysical Union said on Thursday, citing new research.

The study by researchers at the University of Belgrade in Serbia could not link the change directly to climate change, but said the results are consistent with scientific predictions of drier autumn months and a warming climate.

Wildfires burned more than 4 million acres in California in 2020, over twice the previous record for any year, as heat waves and dry-lightning sieges coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blame on global warming.

The rainy season in California typically starts in December, 27 days later than it did in the 1960s, the study found. The results suggest the state can expect to see a longer fire season with more fires in the month of November, when dry conditions are likely to coincide with the annual Santa Ana winds that blow hot, dry air from the desert.

Rainfall is becoming more concentrated in the months of January and February, the study found, suggesting more irrigation will be needed in the drought-stricken state.

The study was published last month in AGU's journal Geophysical Research Letters.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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