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What’s in the Wind?

This is The Discovery Files, from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

During hot, dry, Autumn weather, mighty offshore winds like California’s Santa Ana and Diablo winds, and Western Oregon’s East Wind, can cause unprecedented, destructive wildfires in those states.

Scientists have learned human activity can play a major role in such catastrophic fires also.

Supported in part by NSF, researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California-Merced, found that human produced greenhouse gases and aerosols increase the likelihood of extreme fire weather conditions by a staggering 40%.

The team studied epic fires such as California’s Wine Country and Campfires and Oregon’s Labor Day fire and found that extreme fire conditions are more likely because of human caused climate change, the main accelerants being increased temperatures and drier fuels and not so much a rise in wind speeds.

The research shows how the human impact on climate can exacerbate fire weather conditions and demonstrates the need for improved fire risk assessments and fire adaptation efforts.

It’s not just the wind, but what’s in it!

Discover how the U.S. National Science Foundation is advancing research at

“The discovery files” covers projects funded by the government’s National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research — brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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