Wildfires are hotter, larger and more likely in the west

NOW: Wildfires are hotter, larger and more likely in the west


SOUTH BEND, Ind -- The wildfires may be thousands of miles away but a smokey haze has covered our skies this summer. The Western United States is getting hotter, the fuels are drier and there's less snowfall that provides a slow release of moisture. 

The average temperature for the west has increased almost two degrees since 1980. That may not seem like much, but that requires a big shift of the daily highs and lows of all the long-term observation sites, recording much warmer temperatures over the last 40 years. 

Climate Central

Less time spent below freezing, especially at higher elevations also impacts the snow-pack. Which is the primary source of water for the year in the west, not regular rainfall. 

Climate Central

 2020 could be the worst fire season yet for west coast states.

Fires are caused naturally often by lightning or by humans from a spark or a combination of both if power lines are knocked down in the wind.. The margin for error is getting smaller with tinderbox fuels that can spread rapidly.

Fighting fires and rebuilding the disaster areas are costly. FEMA claimed $3.9 Million for reimbursements from the Camp fire in 2018. The environmental impact can be even greater as it can take over a century for ecosystems to recover, if at all in the scorched landscape. 


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