the fingerprints on chiles fires and california floods el nino and warming

Two disasters, far apart, show how a dangerous climate cocktail can devastate places known for mild weather.

Two far-flung corners of the world, known for their temperate climates, are being buffeted by deadly disasters. Wildfires have killed more than 120 people as they swept the forested hillsides of Chile, and record-breaking rains have swelled rivers and triggered mudslides in Southern California.

Behind these risks are two powerful forces: Climate change, which can intensify both rain and drought, and the natural weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which can also supersize extreme weather.

In California, meteorologists had been warning for days that an unusually strong storm, known as an atmospheric river, was gathering force because of extraordinarily high Pacific Ocean temperatures. The rains began over the weekend and several counties were under a state of emergency. By Monday, officials warned that the Los Angeles area could be deluged by the equivalent of a year’s rainfall in a single day.

In the southern hemisphere, Chile has been reeling from drought for the better part of a decade. That set the stage for a hellish weekend, when, amid a severe heat wave, wildfires broke out. The president has since declared two days of national mourning and warned that the death toll from the devastating blazes could “significantly increase.”

Both the floods and the fires reflect the extreme weather risks brought on by a dangerous cocktail of global warming, which is principally caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and this year’s El Niño, a cyclical weather phenomenon characterized by an overheated Pacific Ocean near the Equator.

The disasters in Chile and California follow what was the hottest year on land and in the oceans. They herald what is almost certain to be one of the five hottest years on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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