Climate change making wildfires worse, study finds
Wildfires in the Western U.S. are increasing in frequency and size, and our drier, hotter climate seems to be to blame, says a new study published in Science. Researchers analyzed 1,166 large fires in the West and found that wildfire frequency increased “suddenly and dramatically” in the mid-1980s. Comparing data from 1970 to 1986 with data from 1987 to 2003, researchers found that the average temperature rose 1.5 degrees in the West in the second time period — corresponding with a 78-day lengthening of fire season and four times as many large wildfires, which burned 6.5 times as much land and lasted on average 37 days, up from 7.8 days during the earlier time period. Reduced winter rains and early snowmelt caused by warming played a big part. “I see this as one of the first big indicators of climate-change impacts in the continental United States,” said study co-author Thomas Swetnam. Hey, maybe now we’ll do something about it! Ha. Ha. Oy.
Get Grist in your inbox