UCLA’s Daniel Swain explains what spring rainfall means for this year’s fire season

May 20, 2019

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist within UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, was interviewed on KCRW about Southern California’s unusual May rainfall.

In the segment, Swain explained that spring rainfall can fuel autumn wildfires: “Everywhere, there is generally more growth following wet winters… The problem is, California has naturally long dry summers…” Following a wet winter, all the grass and the brush grows a lot in the spring and “then inevitably becomes bone dry by the end of our long, dry summer. So, all of that then-extra vegetation from the wet year, just provides more fuel for the fires that happen in autumn.” This scenario illustrates the sequential impact of climate change — a disruption in one natural cycle may lead to the disruption of another natural cycle.

A storm over San Bernardino Mountains (Photo Credit: Don Graham)

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge supports the research that helps us predict such changes, which, in turn, can help inform our climate resilience and adaptation planning.   

Listen to the full segment on KCRW.