Wildfires are burning across the Southwest, including in Arizona, Nebraska, and New Mexico. Over the last week, western wildfires, including the Tunnel Fire, have collectively burned at least 150,000 acres, killing at least one person, damaging or destroying more than 200 structures, and forcing thousands to evacuate. The underlying widespread drought is exacerbated by high temperatures, extremely low humidity, and winds gusting over 70mph, which created dire conditions. Climate change, caused mainly by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is supercharging wildfires and making droughts more frequent and intense. The conditions fueling what New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham described as "dangerously early" wildfires are, according to Scott Overpeck, with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, "not typical" and "pretty much on steroids." Meanwhile, a different part of the same storm whipping up winds driving the wildfires dumped as much as 20 inches of snow on the western Dakotas and northern Rockies, where temperatures plummeted 60°F in two days, as 15,000 people struggled with power outages due to the heavy snow.
(The Guardian, New York Times $, Washington Post $, Axios, Reuters, Today Show, Reuters; Lujan Grisham: AP; Weather whiplash: Washington Post $)
(Climate Signals Background: Atmospheric river change, drought, wildfire)
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