Climate change increasing massive wildfires in West
Credit: Draysen Brooks Bechard
by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
Posted on April 19, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Updated today at 11:09 AM
Massive wildfires are on the increase in the Western US due to rising temperatures and worsening drought from climate change, and the trend could continue in the decades to come, new research suggests.
Overall, the number of large wildfires increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, while the total area damaged by fire increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres per year, according to the study, published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
The study comes against the backdrop of what could to be a disastrous year for fires in the West, especially drought-plagued California, which even saw fires in the normally quiet month of January.
Though relatively calm this week, “Expect dry and windy conditions to develop over the Southwest Tuesday and Wednesday,” according to a forecast Friday from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. By May, “Above normal significant fire potential will expand over portions of Southern, Central and Northern California,” the NIFC predicted earlier this month.