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Goats are gaining a reputation for being a useful tool for fire prevention. HarshLight / CC BY 2.0

A city in Southern California has found a unique and adorable way to help prevent the next big wildfire: goats!

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Destruction from the Currowan fire on Tallowa Dam Rd. in Kangaroo Valley, Australia on Jan. 5, 2020. Wolter Peeters / The Sydney Morning Herald / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Twenty-five people and more than one billion animals are dead in historic Australian wildfires that are now expected to burn for months.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A kangaroo tries to move away from nearby bushfires at a residential property near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales. SAEED KHAN / AFP via Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Ecologists at the University of Sydney are estimating that nearly half a billion animals have been killed in Australia's unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires, which have sparked a continent-wide crisis and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in desperation.

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An alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, as seen here in Christmas Valley, South Lake Tahoe, California on Feb. 15, 2020. jcookfisher / CC BY 2.0

California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

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The remains of burnt out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on Dec. 31, 2019, after bushfires ravaged the town. Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia. SEAN DAVEY / AFP via Getty Images

An out-of-control wildfire in the Australian state of Victoria forced thousands of people to flee towards the coast Tuesday.

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A wallaby licks its burnt paws after escaping a bushfire on the Liberation Trail near the township of Nana Glen on the Mid North Coast of NSW, Nov. 12, 2019. Wolter Peeters / The Sydney Morning Herald / Fairfax Media / Getty Images

Carrots to the rescue!

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Images taken during the bushfire crisis are projected on the sails of the Sydney Opera House on Jan 11, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Don Arnold / Getty Images

After a "devastating" wildfire season, all of the bushfires in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) are now contained.

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The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of forest fire smoke hovering over North America on Aug. 15, 2018. NASA Earth Observatory

New York City isn't known for having the cleanest air, but researchers traced recent air pollution spikes there to two surprising sources — fires hundreds of miles away in Canada and the southeastern U.S.

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BLM drill seeders work to restore native grasses after wildfire on the Bowden Hills Wilderness Study Area in southeast Oregon, Dec. 14, 2018. Marcus Johnson / BLM / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

In 2017 the Thomas fire raged through 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, California, leaving in its wake a blackened expanse of land, burned vegetation, and more than 1,000 destroyed buildings.

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The Cave Fire ignited shortly after 4 p.m. near Highway 154 and grew to at least 3,122 acres by 9 p.m. Santa Barbara County Fire Info

The county of Santa Barbara, California proclaimed a local emergency after a wildfire spread more than 3,000 acres in five hours Monday night.

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By Eoin Higgins

Australia is on fire.

The country on Saturday saw delayed flights on the second day of a national state of emergency due to raging brushfires near every major city and choked-out smoke conditions.

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The Easy Fire threatens the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California Wednesday. MARK RALSTON / AFP via Getty Images

More than a dozen wildfires ignited around Los Angeles Wednesday as strong Santa Ana winds prompted the National Weather Service to issue "extreme red flag warnings" for Los Angeles and Ventura counties, BBC News reported.

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Sheriff officials work the scene at Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park in Calimesa on Oct. 13. Jennifer Cappuccio Maher / MediaNews Group / Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / Getty Images

Three people have died in incidents related to two major wildfires in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times Reported Sunday.

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A firefighter battles the Kincade Fire in California's Sonoma County on Oct. 27. Anda Chu / MediaNews Group / The Mercury News via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency Sunday as "unprecedented high-wind events" fueled more than a dozen wildfires across the state, The New York Times reported.

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Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes after a fast-moving wildfire erupted early Monday morning near the famous Getty Center in Los Angeles. Xinhua / Qian Weizhong via Getty Images

Yet another wildfire has ignited in California as the state battles wind-driven blazes that have forced nearly 200,000 from their homes and left around a million without power due to preventative outages, CNN reported Tuesday.

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New and recent books explore how we can effectively respond to climate change while enhancing our health and happiness. Kei Uesugi / DigitalVision / Getty Images

A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.

Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.

Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?

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People commute to work on Feb.07 in Sydney, Australia. A severe weather warning is in place for Sydney and most of the NSW coast, with 130mm of rain predicted in Sydney alone. Brendon Thorne / Getty Images

The fire ravaged state of New South Wales in Australia received much-needed torrential downpours that doused active fires, reducing the total number by a third, as The Guardian reported. The number of active fires dropped from more than 60 to 42 in just one day.

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A plume of bushfire smoke rises above Mount Taylor Road bordering local farm land on Jan. 11 in Karatta, Australia. Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

At first glance, the images seem more like nightmares than real life. Blood-red skies that appear to have seeped into the earth below, staining it hellishly. Cyclone-like whirls with columns of flame at their centers. People and animals huddled close together on a beach, ready to jump into the ocean should the encroaching fires reach their makeshift camp and leave them with no choice.

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