While 2020 will be a year that is studied in detail by future historians with an interest in pandemics and political unrest, biologists will also look back at 2020 to study the long-term effects of the widespread damage that was caused by one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.
Particularly hard hit was the state of California, which battled hundreds of individual fires, with several eventually growing to become the largest fires in the state’s history. Overall, more than 3% of the total area of California has burned so far in 2020. Unfortunately, as climate change is a major contributing factor to these fires, it is possible that future wildfire seasons could equal or even surpass the destruction seen this year.
In addition to the environmental and property damage, the wildfires poured immense volumes of smoke into the atmosphere, resulting in the poorest air quality recorded in cities throughout the western United States and Canada. As a result, the beleaguered public that was already struggling to counter rising numbers of COVID-19 cases experienced increased hospital admissions for respiratory symptoms and cerebrovascular incidents.
Social scientists are likely to look back at 2020 as an important indicator of how the public copes with the stress of simultaneous disasters. Hopefully, lessons learned this year will help future populations to mitigate the risk of disasters and manage the stress they cause.
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