On April 30, 2014 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a dramatic view of the start of the Baja California fire season. In this image, a broad gray plume of smoke blows hundreds of kilometers southwest over the Pacific Ocean, after rising from several “hot spots” in northern Baja California. The fires are burning between the cities of Tijuana (north) and Ensenada (south), Mexico.
The region is suffering from a severe drought – so severe that in by April 14, according to KPBS News, the governor had declared a state of emergency, and many of Ensenada’s 320,000 inhabitants could only draw water from their taps two or three times a week. The rationing was required as the town wells began to dry up and the reservoir stores reached extremely low levels.
The blame for the immediate crisis is laid upon the winter that wasn’t – when it didn’t get cold, and didn’t rain. Like many western regions, Baja California relies on winter precipitation to maintain moisture through the hot, dry summer months.
In addition to drought, high temperatures and stout Santa Ana winds have combined to make the region – including southern California – little more than a tinder box waiting for a spark to fan flames into infernos. In May, the sparks flew not only in Mexico, but also in San Diego County, California, where numerous fires quickly burned thousands of acres during the first weeks of the month.