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South Coast Researcher Writes Book About Link Between Disasters Like Wildfires And Floods to Climate Change

The 2018 Woolsey Fire killed three people and destroyed more than 1,600 structures.

The book "Drought, Flood, Fire" connects the dots between global warming and disasters.

The 2018 Woolsey wildfire, which killed three people, destroyed more than 1,600 structures, and burned nearly 100,000 acres of land. Researchers say climate change is helping to make these monster fires more frequent, larger and harder to control.

Some say evidence shows climate change isn’t like filling up your bathtub, with a slow, gradual increase in temperature... Rather they contend we are seeing more dangerous swings between high and low temperatures, as well as with rainfall.

"It's a horrible analogy," said Dr. Chris Funk, the Director of UC Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazards Center. "You need to think of climate change as kinds of pockets of extremely warm sea surface temperatures or air temperatures that move around and create hazard."

He’s written a new book called Drought, Flood, Fire which tries to connect the dots between climate change and issues they help cause, like drought.

Funk has been working on research to try to predict extreme events. He says that one of the devastating events he anticipated last year occurred.

"I was worried last summer about warming in the Pacific Ocean producing back to back droughts in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. And you know, we predicted it, and it happened," said Funk. The warming waters created a new wave of famine for the region.

He notes there’s a lot to be concerned about. Funk says another example is the amount of the planet with exceptionally warm temperatures tripled in the last six years.

The researcher has been studying climate change issues for decades. But, he admits that even for someone following the crisis, he’s alarmed at how rapidly it’s accelerated.

Funk says some of the disasters we are seeing now like fires and flooding are putting a punctuation mark on the climate change crisis. He says in a way, the events may help stir global action, because they are highlighting the crisis.

The UCSB researcher still thinks we have time to turn things around, and slow or stop global warming. But, he says we have to act during the next 20 year window, before it's too late.

Funk will speak in a free online talk about the book Drought, Flood, Fire sponsored by Santa Barbara’s Chaucer’s books at 7 Tuesday night.