Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Extreme wildfires in Western U.S. likely fueled by climate change

Date:
August 1, 2013
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Climate change is likely fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires that are scorching vast areas of the American West, according to new research.

Climate change is likely fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires that are scorching vast areas of the American West.
Credit: herculaneum79 / Fotolia

Climate change is likely fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires that are scorching vast areas of the American West, according to new research led by Michigan State University scientists.

Related Articles


These erratic fires are harder to contain and often result in catastrophic damage and loss of property and life. Although not analyzed in the study, the recent Arizona wildfire that began with a lightning strike and killed 19 firefighters appeared to be such an unpredictable, fast-spreading blaze, according to a state report.

The MSU-led study, which appears in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, predicts the trend will continue in the western United States.

"Our findings suggest that future lower atmospheric conditions may favor larger and more extreme wildfires, posing an additional challenge to fire and forest management," said Lifeng Luo, MSU assistant professor of geography and lead author on the study.

The researchers analyzed current and future climate patterns projected by multiple regional climate models and their effect on the spread of fire in a mountainous region that includes Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The study focused on August, the most active month for wildfires in the western United States.

August 2012 saw 3.6 million acres burn in the region, the most of any August since 2000. However, there were only 6,948 fires in August 2012 -- the second fewest in that 12-year timeframe -- meaning the fires were much larger.

Large wildfires are mainly driven by natural factors including the availability of fuel (vegetation), precipitation, wind and the location of lightning strikes. In particular, the researchers found that exceptionally dry and unstable conditions in the earth's lower atmosphere will continue contributing to "erratic and extreme fire behavior."

"Global climate change may have a significant impact on these factors, thus affecting potential wildfire activity across many parts of the world," the study says.

Co-authors include Ying Tang and Shiyuan Zhong from MSU, and Xindu Bian and Warren Heilman from the USDA Forest Service.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lifeng Luo, Ying Tang, Shiyuan Zhong, Xindi Bian, Warren E. Heilman. Will Future Climate Favor More Erratic Wildfires in the Western United States? Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 2013; 130730135442007 DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-12-0317.1

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Extreme wildfires in Western U.S. likely fueled by climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130801113148.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2013, August 1). Extreme wildfires in Western U.S. likely fueled by climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130801113148.htm
Michigan State University. "Extreme wildfires in Western U.S. likely fueled by climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130801113148.htm (accessed March 2, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, March 2, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

Whale-Watching Scientists Spot Baby Orca

AP (Feb. 28, 2015) Researchers following endangered killer whales spotted a baby orca off the coast of Washington state, the third birth documented this winter but still leaving the population dangerously low. (Feb. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bridge Collapses Due to Flooding in Bolivia

Bridge Collapses Due to Flooding in Bolivia

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 28, 2015) Heavy rain and flooding sweep through parts of Bolivia causing damage and leaves more than 2,000 people homeless. Sophia Soo reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

AFP (Feb. 27, 2015) More than 200 people have been killed in a series of avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall in Afghanistan. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) The presidents of France and the Philippines issue a joint appeal for a binding agreement on climate change. Katie Sargent reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins