University of Pittsburgh
October 22, 2007

California Fires and Georgia Drought, Once Anomalies, Could Become Norm as Earth Warms, Pitt Paleoclimatologist Says

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-As global temperatures rise, people should brace themselves for more of such crises as the fires ravaging California and the drought conditions fueling them, says University of Pittsburgh paleoclimatologist Michael Rosenmeier.

Although the current wildfires across Southern California cannot be directly linked to climate change, scientific models of a warmer Earth show that weather extremes akin to the heavy winds and dry, hot weather driving the flames will be more common, Rosenmeier said. Scientists have predicted that in a warmer world extreme weather-from heavy rainfall to blistering heat waves and freezing conditions-will occur frequently and erratically. These fluctuations could bring an increase in catastrophic conditions such as the wildfires in California and the water shortage currently gripping drought-stricken Georgia.

"Decades ago, droughts were considered anomalies," Rosenmeier said. "Now, I would argue that drought should be considered more of a norm. We need to be consistently prepared for fire in the American West each year. What we consider extremes are going to become more common occurrences. All of the models predict that."

As an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Planetary science in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences, Rosenmeier studies the interaction of humans and climate throughout history. His research includes the possible role of climate change on the fall of the Mayan Empire and its impact on the local environment.

Rosenmeier can be reached at 412-624-8775 or mrosenme@pitt.edu, or through Pitt News Representative Morgan Kelly.

For a list of Pitt faculty experts, visit www.umc.pitt.edu/m/experts.html.

###

10/23/07/tmw