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Firefighters on the front lines of climate change

Get the Science

MAKING THE CONNECTION: The science linking increased wildfire risk and climate change. Firefighters see that the fire environment is changing, becoming more dangerous as fires become more frequent and more intense. Studies from a number of different sources tell us that the warming climate is one of the root causes of this dangerous shift.

The following are highlights from select publications:

“Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by or linked to climate change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest. Fire models project more wildfire and increased risks to communities across extensive areas.”
Source:-National Climate Assessment Highlights

“The western wildfire season has grown from five months on average in the 1970s to seven months today. The annual number of large wildfires has increased by more than 75 percent.” Source: Playing with Fire- Report by Union of Concerned Scientists

“Since 1970, regional temperatures have increased by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit. By mid-century, temperatures are expected to increase an additional 2.5 to 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit.” Source: Playing with Fire- Report by Union of Concerned Scientists

“Fire makes a huge difference on the landscape,” says Rachel Loehman, a research scientist at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. “If and when they burn, in forests already affected by climate-related stressors like drought and mountain pine beetle epidemics, fires can cause a forested landscape to shift to a grassland or shrubland. This is especially true if fires burn differently than they have in the past—more frequently, with higher severity, or covering more area—because the forests may not be adapted to these emerging fire regimes.” Source: Joint Fire Science

“Changing climatic conditions across regions of the United States are driving increased temperatures— particularly in regions where fire has not been historically prominent. This change is causing variations and unpredictability in precipitation and is amplifying the effects and costs of wildfire. Related impacts are likely to continue to emerge in several key areas: limited water availability for fire suppression, accumulation at unprecedented levels of vegetative fuels that enable and sustain fires, changes in vegetation community composition that make them more fire prone, and an extension of the fire season to as many as 300 days in many parts of the country. The Rising Cost of Fire Operations 2015, United States Forest Service

Follow these news sources for frequent information on the current wildfire season:

High Country News-Wildfire

Wildfire Today

Denver Post-Colorado Wildfires

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