Flash droughts: How climate change contributes to Hawaii’s wildfires

Hawaii went from lush to bone dry and thus more fire-prone in a matter of just a few weeks – a key factor in a dangerous mix of conditions that appear to have combined to make the wildfires blazing a path of destruction in Hawaii particularly damaging.

Experts say climate change is increasing the likelihood of these flash droughts as well as other extreme weather events like what’s playing out on the island of Maui, where dozens of people have been killed and a historic tourist town was devastated.

“It’s leading to these unpredictable or unforeseen combinations that we’re seeing right now and that are fueling this extreme fire weather,” said Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of forestry. “What these … catastrophic wildfire disasters are revealing is that nowhere is immune to the issue.”