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Two wildfires erupted on the outskirts of cities near Los Angeles, forcing more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes Monday as powerful Santa Ana winds swept the flames through dry grasses and brush. With strong winds and extremely low humidity, large parts of California were under red flag warnings.

High fire risk days have been common this year as the 2020 wildfire season shatters records across the West.

More than 4 million acres have burned in California – 4% of the state’s land area and more than double the previous annual record. Five of the state’s six largest historical fires happened in 2020. In Colorado, the Pine Gulch fire that started in June broke the record for size, only to be topped in October by the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires. Oregon saw one of the most destructive fire seasons in its recorded history.

What caused the 2020 fire season to become so extreme?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.