As you probably have heard…
… California is suffering from an especially dramatic, draining, and difficult wildfire season.
There’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not this is more fire than usual, or if it’s part of a longer trend. As you might expect, there has been a lot of debate about whether this fire season is due to global warming, or if it’s just “forest mismanagement.”
Regular Reader Ramón asked this question of me, and I thought it would be a superb Challenge for the week.
Here’s this week’s Challenge, based on Ramón’s original question…
1. How has the number of wildfires changed over the years in California? Where there more (or fewer) in the past than is taking place now?
I suspect that the only way to answer this is to find an authoritative data base of California wildfires. (Note: I haven’t solved this Challenge yet, so I’m open to being surprised.) Once we find that database, we might be able to easily create a plot of the number over the years and discover if there's any particular trend.
For the sake of consistency and simplicity, let’s assume that any fire that’s larger than 10 acres in size is a “wildfire.”
Can you answer the Challenge for this week?
Let us know how you go about solving this one.
P.S. For people worried about how close I am to the wildfires, they’re nowhere close. On the other hand, we ARE getting a lot of smoke from the Camp Fire near Chico (up in the northeast part of the state). The breathing has been hazardous at times, so I can only imagine how bad it is up there, near the fires.
This is a composite image from NASA showing the size of the Camp Fire (Paradise, CA). The white rectangle on the right is about 20 miles high (32 km) and 10 miles wide (16 km).
Just to show it up close:
This NASA image is from the Operational Land Imager aboard the NASA-USGS Landsat 8 satellite. California's Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018, around 10:45 a.m. local time (1845 GMT).
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from USGS