Higher temperatures and widespread drought, both linked to global climate change, are increasing the risk of wildfire in the western United States, new studies have found.
According to the Associated Press, California and Arizona are forecasting more large wildfires as drought and dry conditions become more prevalent in years to come. A study published last month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that on average, 6.4 million acres burned each year between 2010 and 2013, more than double the average during the 1980s (2.9 million acres per year). The federal government’s recent National Climate Assessment and this year’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report documented similar findings.
Fires are often sparked by human activities (such as careless campfire management), but can be greatly exacerbated by drought, heat, and wind. Last year’s Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park burned over 400 square miles and is on record as the third-largest wildfire in California state history. Last week, California governor Jerry Brown requested an additional $142 million in drought-related fire prevention resources for 2014.