Global warming and strong winds – The Core IAS

Global warming and strong winds


  • In one of the worst natural disasters to hit the US, multiple wildfires are raging through Hawaii, especially the island of Maui. It is known that many people have died, thousands have been displaced and buildings and businesses have burnt down— the numbers will rise as rescue operations increase. More than 48 hours after it started, the fires are yet to be brought under complete control by crews.

The affected areas

  • Maui is one of the eight main islands that make up the archipelago of Hawaii. Lahaina, a coastal town of art galleries, unique spots and history in Maui, has, reportedly, been reduced to ashes.
  • Images show smouldering stretches of neighbourhood, smoking rubble and a grey landscape. Among the other areas affected are the coastal cities of Kihei and Kula, a picturesque, rustic area on the mountain slopes at the centre of the island. Parts of another island, called Hawai’i or the Big Island, have also been burnt by the fire.

Man-made and natural causes

  • The exact cause of the fire is still not certain. Data from 2000-2017 from US Forest Service, among others, shows that 85 percent of wildfires in the US are caused by humans and involve campfires, garbage burning, malfunctioning equipment and burning cigarettes, among others. Natural causes of fire include volcanic activity and lightning strikes. Maui is home to one of the six active volcanoes of Hawaii. What experts are nothing is that most of Maui was experiencing severe drought, so the dry land, with dry non-native grasses and vegetation, were ready fuel for fires. These fed the fires and helped them spread.

The winds of Hurricane Dora

  • Experts feel that the fire in Hawaii started in the wild and was carried by the wind that was blowing at almost 100 kmph. The winds have their origins in Hurricane Dora, an unusually strong storm in the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of miles away from Hawaii, Hurricane Dora did not hit Hawaii. Instead, the islands were caught between high and low pressure zones due to the hurricane, which resulted in the winds fanning the flames and making these difficult to control.
  • When the fire reached Lahaina in the darkness, the residents were unprepared. The flames ate through wooden monuments and other landmarks with such speed that people ran out of their homes but found the roads ablaze and strewn with debris. Many jumped into the ocean.

The role of fossil fuel

  • Hawaii, according to government data, has lost 1.5 million acres of native forest, which were natural water and climate regulators.  Without them, we are seeing disruptions in weather and temperature patterns. In other words, climate change and forest loss are working together to make Hawai‘i drier and hotter. Maui, for instance, had suffered fires in 2018 and 2021, which caused massive destruction.
  • One of the big reasons of climate change is the burning of fossil fuel which release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing global warming. Unprecedented climate events are increasing around the world. According to the United Nations, there will be an increase of extreme fires globally by up to 14 per cent by 2030, 30 per cent by the end of 2050 and 50 per cent by the end of the century.