Climate change doubles US forest fires: study

Humans are causing climate temperature highs that are igniting more forest fires


By Allie Sanchez

A recently published study indicates that human induced climate change has caused forest fires to double in terms of area in western US in the past 30 years. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Additionally, the authors say that since 1984, the increasing temperatures and resulting dryness have caused fires to cover 16,000 square miles more than they otherwise would have. The area is larger than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.

 “No matter how hard we try, the fires are going to keep getting bigger, and the reason is really clear,” observed study co-author Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Climate is really running the show in terms of what burns. We should be getting ready for bigger fire years than those familiar to previous generations.”

Further, wildfires across the globe have been noted to be on the rise, often suspected to be connected to climate change. For instance, the huge fire that razed Fort McMurray in Alberta this May is said to be the result of a warming trend that is causing aridity in northern forests.

“Increased fire in a lot of places agrees with the projections,” noted Jeremy Littell, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska. “But in many wood lands, the relationship between climate and fire is not as tidy.”

Scientists peg the effects of these fires beyond the loss of trees and vegetation. A 2012 study suggests that smoke from these fires causes long term health concerns that kill around 300,000 people each year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Additionally, carbon released into the air adds to the burden of greenhouse gases, resulting in even more warming.

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