Climate Change Fuels Wildfires in Western U.S.

First Posted: Aug 02, 2013 10:38 AM EDT

A latest study reveals that climate changes are causing the destructive wildfires that are charring vast areas of American West.

According to the study led by Michigan State University, these unpredictable wildfires are harder to control and they often lead to disastrous damages and cost a huge loss to life and property.

"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.

In this study, the researchers examined the current and future climate patterns provided by various regional climate models. The researchers analyzed the effect of climate on spread of fire in mountainous areas that consist of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico and Wyoming. To proceed with the study they looked at the month of August that is the most active month for wildfires in the regions of West.

In august 2012, nearly 3.6 million acres were charred. This was the worst incident that occurred since 2000. The total number of fires in August 2012 was 6,948.

Recently, the unpredictable wildfire in Arizona that began with lightning, took the lives of 19 fire-fighters.

Natural factors that include the availability of vegetation, precipitation, wind and the location of lightning strikes have always played a crucial role in causing large wildfires. The dry and unstable conditions present in the lower atmosphere of the Earth will continue to cause extreme wildfires.

"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.

The study was published in the journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

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