New Eyes on Floods and Fire

Sonoma County

By Jacoba Charles

Flames have become the unofficial face of climate change for Sonoma County, in the wake of the catastrophic Tubbs and Kincade fires that tore through the northern parts of the county in 2017 and 2019. Together the two fires burned more than 114,000 acres, roughly a tenth of the county, claimed 22 lives, and destroyed almost 5,000 homes. However, increased frequency and severity of wildfire is only one of the many ways that climate change is poised to affect life in Sonoma County. “The fires got us all out of our silos,” says Lisa Micheli, president of the Pepperwood Foundation and Dwight Center for Conservation Science. “The inextricable linkages between the natural world and our built environment mean that we all need to talk to one another.” Drought and warmer temperatures promise to disrupt county agriculture and the natural environment, such as the fog-dependent coast redwoods. Drought also threatens water supplies while intense and frequent winter storms increase flooding. The Russian River already has the highest repetitive flood loss damages of any location west of the Rockies. “I tend to think of climate hazards as the horsemen of the apocalypse: there is fire, flood, drought, heat wave, and sea-level rise,” says the Sonoma Ecology Center’s Caitlin Cornwall. “We had all of these before—just not at this frequency or severity.”

Read More

Photo: Burn out from Tubbs Fire, Santa Rosa in 2017 by Jacoba Charles.

Previous Estuary News Stories

Resprout Post-Fire Photo Essay, December 2017

After the Burn Comes the Rain, December 2017

Background

Regional Climate Protection Authority

Sonoma Water

Pepperwood Preserve

Sonoma Ecology Center

Related Content

About the author

Jacoba Charles is a naturalist and science writer. Her first article, at age eight, was about the behavior of ducks as observed from the roof of her family’s barn. It went unpublished. She later graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism (2007). In addition to writing for Estuary News, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, and Modern Farmer, Bay Nature, Marin Magazine, and various literary publications. Her botany blog can be found at flowersofmarin.com and her website is jacobacharles.com. She lives in Petaluma with her family.

Related Posts

blue whale feeding

Blue Whales Consume Microplastic Particles by the Billion

The age of humans, termed the Anthropocene, might just as well be considered the age of plastic. The dangerously durable material, made ubiquitous in products and packaging through the late 20th century, has inundated our planet’s environment. Today, miniscule plastic pieces are present in deep-ocean sediment, high-mountain snow and just about...

Sharing Science Across Barriers

Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, an urban landscape of metal and concrete, Miguel Mendez had limited access to open spaces, and always dreamed of traveling. Yet there in the city, he got his first introduction to environmentalism. “In some of the places I lived in Chicago, environmental activists are...

The Long Haul to Restore San Joaquin Spring-Run Chinook

When a team of fish biologists was tasked with restoring spring-run Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River in 2006, none of them quite knew where to begin. The thirsty farms that crowd the river on both sides had taken almost all the water out of it most years since...