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.

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 August 22, 2014 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 August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) Iceland evacuates an area north of the country's Bardarbunga volcano, as the country's civil protection agency says it cannot rule out an eruption. Authorities have already warned airlines. As Joel Flynn reports, ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) China's energy revolution could do more harm than good for the environment, despite the country's commitment to reducing pollution and curbing its carbon emissions. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) Aluminum giant, Novelis, has partnered with Red Hare Brewing Company to introduce the first certified high-content recycled beverage can. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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