In 20 Years, Wildfires Will Be Six Times Larger

In 20 Years, Wildfires Will Be Six Times Larger

SOURCE: Outside Magazine DATE: March 22, 2018 SNIP: From Montana to California, wildfires in 2017 shattered record after record and cost the Forest Service an unprecedented $2 billion. The blazes ravaged rural landscapes and business centers and claimed dozens of lives, including those of at least two firefighters. This season’s bone-dry winter conditions in the southern Rockies could set the stage for another taxing fire season in the West. If it’s starting to feel like the weather pendulum is favoring one side of the extreme, that’s because it is. Over the next two decades, as many as 11 states are predicted to see the average annual area burned increase by 500 percent, according to a recent study. That would mean a small fire, say 100 acres, becomes, on average, a 600-acre fire, with Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Nevada expected to increase 700 percent in burn size. It’s a grim picture for future fire seasons—one that might be inevitable, because researchers have been able to check their work from current trends. Scientists from the University of Arizona, the Universidad Nacional del Comahue in Argentina, and the University of California, Merced, analyzed more than three decades of fire occurrence, seasonal temperatures, and snowpack trends throughout western North America to calculate how climate regulates wildfire. By 2039, the researchers estimate there will be 50 fewer days of snowpack in much of the West and a four-degree Fahrenheit increase in average temperature. Both trends will create longer fire seasons that burn much more...
Extreme weather explicitly blamed on humans for the first time

Extreme weather explicitly blamed on humans for the first time

SOURCE: Nature DATE: December 19, 2017 SNIP: Basic theory suggests that climate change will lead to more extreme weather, but making the link to individual events is difficult. There was a time when the typical answer was something along the lines of, ‘Perhaps, but it’s hard to say.’ The science has advanced over the past several years, and scientists have identified global warming’s relative contribution to many extreme weather events. Now, for the first time, climate researchers are reporting that some weather events would have been outright impossible without the warming influence of humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions. This kind of confident assertion rarely makes its way into the scientific literature. Yet it appeared in three studies included in a special annual edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) dedicated to attributing the causes of extreme weather events. If these results hold up, the implications would be profound and unsettling: humanity has already pushed the global climate into a new...
Some forests aren’t growing back after wildfires, research finds

Some forests aren’t growing back after wildfires, research finds

SOURCE: CBC News DATE: December 12, 2017 SNIP: Bigger, hotter wildfires are ravaging forests and burning them to the ground more frequently as the climate gets hotter and drier. Now a new study shows that in some places in the U.S., those forests may never grow back. That adds to evidence that amid climate change, some forest landscapes — including those in Canada — can change dramatically after being burned. The new U.S. study looked at 1,500 forest sites affected by 52 wildfires in five states in the U.S. Rockies between 1985 and 2015. It found overall decreases in the amount of tree regrowth since 2000 compared to before 2000 due to warmer, drier conditions. After 2000, no seedlings were growing back at about one third of sites, compared to 15 per cent of sites that burned before 2000, said Camille Stevens-Rumann, lead author of the study published today in the journal Ecology Letters. “We often think about climate change as something that we’re going to feel the effects of in the future. The truth is wildfires are facilitating those changes happening sooner,” Stevens-Rumann told CBC News. “And I think that was a really big surprise to all of us to see it even over just a 30 year...
Nearly 2 million acres of land are burning across the US in one of the worst fire seasons we’ve ever seen

Nearly 2 million acres of land are burning across the US in one of the worst fire seasons we’ve ever seen

SOURCE: Business Insider and San Francisco Chronicle DATE: September 14, 2017 SNIP: Almost 2 million acres of land — an area nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined — are currently aflame, according to the September 14 daily report by the National Interagency Fire Center. There are more than 100 active wildfires and at least 41 uncontained large blazes, battled by more than 25,000 responders, the National Guard, and half a battalion of active-duty soldiers. A staggering amount of land has burned so far this season — more than 8 million acres, along with more than 500 homes and other structures, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The Forest Service has spent more than $1.75 billion fighting fires so far this fiscal year, and the Interior Department has spent more than $391 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. Research indicates that human-caused climate change has already had a significant increase on the overall number and size of fires. The amount of land burned in the US since 1984 was double what would have been expected without the effects of climate change in that period. And wildfire season has become about two and a half months longer since 1970 (a trend that’s expected to...
The unprecedented drought that’s crippling Montana and North Dakota

The unprecedented drought that’s crippling Montana and North Dakota

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 7, 2017 SNIP: When Rick Kirn planted his 1,000 acres of spring wheat in May, there were no signs of a weather calamity on the horizon. Three months later, when he should have been harvesting and getting ready to sell his wheat, Kirn was staring out across vast cracked, gray, empty fields dotted with weeds and little patches of stunted wheat. “It’s a total loss for me,” said Kirn, who operates a small family wheat farm on the Fort Peck Reservation, an area of north-eastern Montana that lies right in the heart of the extreme climactic episode. “There’s nothing to harvest.” Kirn’s story is typical across the high plains in Montana and the Dakotas this summer, where one of the country’s most important wheat growing regions is in the grips of a crippling drought that came on with hardly any warning and, experts say, is without precedent. “This is unprecedented,” says Tanja Fransen of the National Weather Service in Glasgow, a larger city just up the road from Fort Peck. “This is as dry as it’s been in recorded history and some of our recording stations have 100 years of data. A lot of people try to compare this to previous years, but really, you just...