Wildland fires are out of control
By Michael Webster, Syndicated Investigative Reporter. Oct 19, 2012 at 1:00PM PST
Screenshot from Climate Central's Interactive Wildfire Tracker. Click here to check it out. For more info on safety tips and wildland fires go to: www.uscda.us
Climate Central conducts scientific research on
climate change and informs the public of key findings.
Based on Climate Central’s studies and others the 2012 wildfire season isn’t over yet, but already this year is shaping up to be the one of the worst on record in the American West.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, with nearly two months still to go in the fire season, the total area already burned this year is 30 percent more than in an average year, and fires have consumed more than 8.6 million acres, an area larger than the state of Maryland.
Yet, what defines a “typical” wildfire year in the West is
In the past 40 years, rising spring and summer
temperatures, along with shrinking winter snowpack,
have increased the risk of wildfires in most parts of the
These studies show that continued climate change is going to make wildfires much more common in the coming
The National Research Council reports that for every
degree Celsius (1.8oF) of temperature increase, the size
of the area burned in the Western U.S. could quadruple.
According to the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, summer
temperatures in western North America could increase
between 3.6oF and 9oF by the middle of this century.
Their analysis of 42 years of U.S. Forest Service records for 11 Western states shows that:
The number of large and very large fires on Forest Service land is increasingly dramatically. Compared to
the average year in the 1970’s, in the past decade there were:
• 7 times more fires greater than 10,000 acres each year
• Nearly 5 times more fires larger than 25,000 acres each year
• Twice as many fires over 1,000 acres each year, with an average of more than 100 per year from 2002
through 2011, compared with less than 50 during the 1970’s.
In some states the increase in wildfires is even more dramatic. Since the 1970’s the average number of
fires over 1,000 acres each year has nearly quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho, and has doubled in California,
Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
The report states that on average, wildfires burn twice as much land area each year as they did 40 years ago. In the past decade, the average annual burn area on Forest Service land in the West has exceeded 2 million acres – more than all of Yellowstone National Park.
The burn season is two and a half months longer than in the 1970s. Across the West, the first wildfires of
the year are starting earlier and the last fires of the year are starting later, making typical fire years 75 days
longer now than they were 40 years ago.
* based on _res over 1,000 acres as reported annually by the U.S. Forest Service
Large Fires Are Becoming More Common In The West
1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
Fires on U.S. Forest Service Land
The annual number of wildfires greater than 1,000 acres on
U.S. Forest Service Land has been increasing across the West.
Rising spring and summer temperatures across
the West appear to be correlated to the increasing
size and numbers of wildfires. Spring and summer
temperatures have increased more rapidly across this
region than the rest of the country, in recent decades.
Since 1970, years with above-average spring and
summer temperatures were typically years with the
Previous research reveals that climatic changes, including
increasing temperatures and the earlier onset of spring
snowmelt, have been linked to increasing levels of
atmospheric greenhouse gases and are likely influencing
these damaging fire trends. As average global temperatures rise, researchers project that the risk of wildfires in America’s
West will accelerate.
Fires Larger Than 10,000 Acres Are Much More
Common Than 40 Years Ago
*based on _res over 10,000 acres as reported annually by the U.S. Forest Service
Fires on U.S. Forest Service Land
Wildfires larger than 10,000 acres are about seven times
more common now than they were 40 years ago on U.S.
Forest Service Land.
Michael ( Mick) Webster Syndicated Investigative
Reports are read worldwide, in 100 or more U.S. outlets and in at least 136
countries and territories. He publishes articles in association with global news
agencies and media information services with more than 350 news affiliates in
He served as a trustee on trade Union funds. A noted Author, Lecturer, Educator, Emergency Manager, Counter-Terrorist, War on Drugs and War on Terrorist Specialist, Newspaper Publisher. Radio News caster. Labor Law generalist, Teamster Union Business Agent, General Organizer, Union Rank and File Member Grievances Representative, NLRB Union Representative, Union Contract Negotiator, Workers Compensation Appeals Board Hearing Representative. Mr. Webster represented management on that side of the table as the former Director of Federated of Nevada. Mr. Webster publishes on-line newspapers at www.lagunajournal.com and www.usborderfirereport.com and does investigative reports for print, electronic and on-line News Agencies.