While search and rescue crews were looking for victims of the Camp Fire and survivors were reeling from their experiences, Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to climate change and global warming as factors in the fire.
"The best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, they are going to intensify," Brown said at a news conference. "Predictions by some scientists are that we've already gone up one degree. I think we can expect a half a degree, which is catastrophic over the next 10 to 12 years."
However, Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and weather modelling expert, said neither global warming nor climate change played a significant role in the deadly Camp Fire.
"I mean if you really look at the factual information, it really doesn't appear that global warming has much to do with the Camp Fire or with the Wine Country fires from last year," Mass said.
The federal government classifies global warming as one aspect of climate change, which can be measured through changes in wind, rain, snowfall and temperature.
For instance, on the day the Camp Fire started, the winds were measured at 32 miles per hour with gusts up to 52 miles per hour.
When Mass reviewed the wind records for the area, he found there have been similar northeasterly winds 508 times in the past 15 years.
Mass also said the latest global warming modelling shows changes in air pressure that should weaken Santa Ana and Diablo winds, two of the regular wind events that propel fires.
"There is absolutely no reason to think the winds are connected with global warming. In fact, probably they'll weaken under global warming," Mass said.
Another fire factor includes surface dryness, how dry are the vegetation and grasses in the region.
Mass looked at data from the Jarbo Gap weather station, which showed fuel moisture changes over the past five years.
He said the pattern is clear, fuels are not getting progressively drier. He added that even if temperatures are rising, it wouldn't matter because California is historically dry in fall and fuel moisture levels have dropped to 3 percent for years.
"People throw these hand-waving arguments about the global warming will make things warmer and drier, well that may be true, but there are plenty dry enough to burn right now. So, that's really not a factor," Mass said.
As for rain, Mass looked at data going back 90 years which shows August to October precipitation in the Camp Fire area is typically light with wide variation and no obvious trend.
"If you actually plot the precipitation for the fall, which I've done in my blog that really hasn't changed that much over the last 30 to 50 years," Mass said. "So, there's no real indication that, for instance, September and October rainfall has dropped by a significant amount over the last several decades, so that doesn't seem to pan out."
Mass's research contradicts a recent federal report that warns California wildfires are worsening because of climate change. The National Climate Assessment, which was written before the November wildfires, says warming-charged extremes "have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration."