How climate change is tied to the wildfires burning through the West Coast: Part 2

“Nightline” co-anchor Juju Chang talks to Philip Duffy, president of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, about the role of climate change on wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
4:11 | 09/15/20

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Transcript for How climate change is tied to the wildfires burning through the West Coast: Part 2
From ice to fire, to wind, a Trinity of natural disasters shaking up the planet. The alarm on clima change intensifying. Earlier today I spoke to Dr. Duffy, of the climate research center. So, tell us how does climate change, everything from to heat waves to lightning strikes lead to these kind of wildfires that are becoming more and more explosive every year? Well the basic science is very simple. And that is, that climate change means more hot, dry weather and that creates what we call fuel conditions, mainly dried out forests that are conducive to fire. And we have seen enormous increases over the last several decades in fire activity in the western U.S., the way it has manifested itself, actually, is not actually in more fires but in these very, very large fires. Fires which, if they had started 30 years ago would have been easily extinguished, but now because of the fuel conditions and the forests are so dry, rapidly grow and become impossible to control. Well, let's talk about land management then, after firing fire ravaged zones,president trump doubled down and blamed poor forest management and said that it would get cooler and when challenged said he wished science knows. It's no question that the planet is getting warmer. We know it from satellite measurements, indicators like loss of sea ice, shrinking ice caps and so forth. There's no question that the planet is warming and there's really no question that, that warming is what's driving the increasing risk that we face from wild fire and from other forms of extreme weather as well. And in terms of forest management, removing what we call fine fuel, that is dead wood and brush and so forth, near structures, it is one of several things we can do to help control the risk. But the main thing that we need to do, is to stop making the problem worse. And that is we need to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. I want to point you to another rare event happening in the atlantic now, that is five storms churching at once. Hurricane Sally is now bearing down on the gulf. Why is it that the climate change plays a roll in both of the types of phenomenon, hurricanes and wildfires? Climate change affects weather everywhere. The science of hurricanes and climate change is fairly straight forward and warmer ocean temperatures lead, not necessarily to more hurricanes but we believe to more destructive hurricanes. Well, we think also that certain other properties of hurricanes are also related to climate change. One is higher precipitation rates. Which means it just rains harder when there's a hurricane. And that's, very, very basic science of a warmer atmosphere holds more water. The other thing that we have seen, which has a lot of significance is that, her had contains tend to slow down and park and just dump and dump and dump and dump. And that results in enormous accumulations of precipitation. And we think that is a consequence of climate change as and we saw it in the case of, for example, hurricane Harvey. Right. Dumped up to 50 inches of precipitation on the city of Houston. And that happened because of the storm basically, you know, it came to a stop and just sat there and stalled over the city, fingers crossed that it will not happen to the southern U.S. This time. Thank you for being with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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