Massive forest fires may be caused by global warming

The massive forest fires that have ravaged the American West in recent years may be caused by global warming, according to a new study in the journal Nature. The Bush administration has argued that the fires are unnatural, caused by overgrown forest ground cover, and more logging, er, “thinning” is needed to prevent them — thus the Healthy Forests initiative passed last year. But according to the study, such arguments assume that the “Little Ice Age” from around 1350 to the early 20th century, which was characterized by cool, wet conditions, is the norm. An analysis of 8,000 years of sediment on Idaho forest floors shows that, prior to that period, average global temperatures were higher and massive forest fires were common. Maintaining Little Ice Age conditions “will be difficult in the face of global warming,” said study author Jennifer Pierce. As global warming accelerates, massive, destructive forest fires are only likely to increase.