Aug 18, 2006

Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity

by
A. L. Westerling, H. G. Hidalgo, D. R. Cayan, T. W. Swetnam
,
Science
  • Compiles a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data
  • Shows that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons
  • Finds the greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt