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California Wildfires and Climate Change by Robinson Mayer

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In the article The Most Important Number for the West’s Hideous fire season By Robinson Mayer, he explains through logos and pathos the effects climate change and california wildfires and climate change. Mayer makes an effective argument through logos as he had interviewed Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at University of California Los Angeles and for a National Center of researching the atmosphere. He uses facts and science to back up his claim of climate change as being the main factor in the recent wild California fires. He mentions how climate change has caused California to become three degrees warmer. Though a three degree increase in weather may not seem like a big change, Mayer further explains the dire affects of vaporization of water during seasonal fires.

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Though Californias ecosystem has since evolved to adapt and grow from these fires, the rise in heat has affected vegetation as well as behavior of water storage in the ecosystem. David Swain even reported “This has been one of the hottest and driest years on the record in this part of the country- and surprise, surprise, now there are hot fires.” Mayer then expresses how air temperature can make moisture become a gas, in which it would react with the hot atmosphere. This causes moisture from soil, wood, leaves, etc. to then evaporate and leaves that area highly combustible. Mayer does a great job of using causation and effect, logos, to explain how scientifically the weather can affect an ecosystem. Mayer also includes statistics regarding VPD, Vapor Pressure Deficit, in in order to show scientific proof of just how much moisture is being evaporated into the atmosphere. The vapor pressure deficit would measure the humidity and airs “sponginess.” Mayer said. The VPD would measure very high in Californias atmosphere, meaning the temperature and humidity of the surrounding environment were at a probable level for high fire. Mayer spoke with Professor Park Williams, from Columbia University of vapor pressure in California and how “It has been record breaking high.”

Mayer mentions Oregon most recent fire where more than a million acres were burned, citizens were evacuated and “Officials warned of a ‘mass fatality incident.’”. Mayer then uses statistics such as “In the past few months, one in every 33 acres of California has burned.” As well as “Today, six of California’s ten largest wildfires have happened since 2018- and five of them happened this year.” In order to appeal to the readers emotional side. These are shocking and emotion evoking facts, because of this Mayer is able to make the reader understand the severity of these wildfires. He continues to use pathos effectively by emphasizing the destruction the fires have caused to people, “One of the hottest, driest summers on record has led to a barrage if ‘megafires’ that have killed at least 35 people, burned nearly 5 million acres, and destroyed thousands of homes and buildings.”Mayer writing about the destruction that these recent wild fires have caused to so many people, leaving them jobless or even burning down their very first home are a way to appeal to his audiences empathy through pathos.

The article overall focuses more on logos than pathos or ethos, Mayer wrote this article in mind to inform the audience of why and how the California fires are still going. He uses good use of rhetorical language, being descriptive at times of how something happens scientifically as well as how that connects to his main point. Overall I found this article has a very strong argument as to how climate change is the main factor in so many wide spread wildfires affecting us today. Robinson Mayer was able to focus on logos in order to awe and make the reader curious. He did a great job of using pathos to getting the reader to understand the severity of the wildfires and to keep them reading. I think this was a very effective article as it uses all three of the rhetorical triangle mainly logos as it is a science related article.

Works cited

  1. Mayer, R. (2020, September 15). The most important number for the West's hideous fire season. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/09/vapor-pressure-deficit-california-wildfires/616704/
  2. Swain, D. (n.d.). Daniel Swain. University of California Los Angeles. https://www.ioes.ucla.edu/person/daniel-swain/
  3. Williams, A. P., & Abatzoglou, J. T. (2016). Recent advances and remaining uncertainties in resolving past and future climate effects on global fire activity. Current Climate Change Reports, 2(1), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40641-016-0031-0
  4. National Center for Atmospheric Research. (n.d.). NCAR. https://ncar.ucar.edu/
  5. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (2022). 2021 California wildfire season. https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2021/
  6. California Air Resources Board. (2022). Climate change impacts in California. https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/fact-sheets/climate-change-impacts-california
  7. Pacific Gas and Electric Company. (2022). Wildfire safety. https://www.pge.com/en_US/safety/emergency-preparedness/natural-disaster/wildfires/wildfire-safety.page
  8. National Interagency Fire Center. (2022). Wildland fire outlook. https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/monthly_seasonal_outlook.pdf
  9. United States Forest Service. (2022). Wildfire data and statistics. https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/fire/wildfire-data-and-statistics
  10. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (2022). Wildfire prevention. https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prevent-wildfire/

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