The Climate Connections of a Record Fire Year in the U.S. West – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (2022)

The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, not the least of which were a series of devastating fires around the globe that bear the fingerprints of climate change. From Australia and South America’s Amazon and Pantanal regions, to Siberia and the U.S. West, wildfires set new records and made news year-round.

It was an especially bad year for wildfires on the U.S. West Coast. Five of California’s 10 largest wildfires on record happened in 2020, and the state set a new record for acres burned. According to CAL FIRE, the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 9,600 wildfires burned nearly 4.2 million acres through mid-December, causing more than 30 fatalities and damaging or destroying nearly 10,500 structures.

The Golden State wasn’t alone. Oregon, Washington, and Colorado were also particularly hard hit. In fact, as of mid-December 2020, the National Interagency Fire Center reported more than 10.6 million acres burned and nearly 17,800 buildings destroyed across its seven geographic area coordination centers in the western half of the contiguous United States.

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It was the fire equivalent of a perfect storm. Record drought conditions across the Western United States in late 2019 extended into early 2020, and were followed by the hottest summer on record in the Northern Hemisphere. Add in unusually dry air, strong wind events, and an outbreak of summer thunderstorms in Northern California in August, and conditions were ripe for a dangerous fire season.

Natasha Stavros is an applied science system engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California who studies wildfires. She says that not only is the U.S. West experiencing more frequent wildfires, but they’re also happening at the same time, putting a strain on resources. They’re also bigger, more severe, and faster than ever before, and more destructive, with 15 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in California history occurring within the past decade.

Stavros attributes these trends to three primary factors: a changing climate, greater availability of fuel, and the expansion of urban areas, which brings with it more ignitions.

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Climate Change: A Powerful Catalyst

“Climate affects how long, how hot and how dry fire seasons are,” she said. “As climate warms, we’re seeing a long-term drying and warming of both air and vegetation.”

In recent decades, the U.S. West has warmed, and the frequency and severity of heat waves and droughts has increased. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), temperatures in California have increased approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the beginning of the 20th century. This has dried out the air. Fire seasons are also starting earlier and ending later each year, while snow packs are shrinking, leading to earlier spring snowmelt and longer, more intense dry seasons.

These warmer and drier conditions are also making U.S. Western wildfires more severe. Another recent study led by Sean Parks of the U.S. Forest Service finds the amount of Western U.S. land burned by “high-severity” wildfires (fires that destroy more than 95 percent of trees) has increased 800 percent since 1985.

More Fuel to Burn

Another factor driving changes in U.S. Western wildfires is a greater availability of fuel. Drier air stresses vegetation, making forests more susceptible to severe wildfires, while droughts are creating more dead fuel. But, as Stavros explains, there are limits.

“Fire is both fuel- and flammability-limited,” she said. “Take the state of Washington. You have lots of trees, but it tends to be really wet and cold there, so fires are limited by the flammability of the fuels. In a place like Nevada, however, the amount of fuel is limited, but it tends to be dry. Droughts increase fires in flammability-limited areas, but don’t have an impact in fuel-limited areas. Ironically, you have to have rain to have a fire.”

Fuels in the Western U.S. are also building up due to a century of intentional wildfire suppression. “Prescribed fires are important to reduce fuels, while mitigating the effects of smoke,” she said. “For example, ozone, regulated by the Clean Air Act, is problematic in the summer season when conditions are optimal for ozone formation. Wildfire emissions can increase these concentrations. Altering the timing of smoke emissions through the use of prescribed burning so that emissions occur outside of the ozone season may have a positive effect and reduce health impacts.”

Ignition Sources on the Rise

Yet another factor driving changes in Western U.S. wildfires is a greater number of ignition sources, both natural and human-caused.

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Wildfires caused by lightning tend to occur in remote areas that are harder for firefighters to reach. These lightning-triggered wildfires are occurring more frequently. According to the U.S Forest Service, between 1992 and 2015, 44 percent of Western U.S. wildfires were triggered by lightning. Those fires were responsible for 71 percent of all land burned. Some studies predict climate change will increase the frequency of lightning in the future, but further research is needed.

The Climate Connections of a Record Fire Year in the U.S. West – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (7)

Human-caused fires are also on the rise, due to increased human development of land at what’s known as the wildland-urban interface – the edge of wildland areas. This significantly increases opportunities for both accidental and intentionally set wildfires. It also tends to make these fires more destructive to lives and property.

How Wildfires Are Impacting Climate

While the impact of climate change on wildfires is well-established, wildfires are also affecting climate, with associated impacts on ecosystems, air and water quality, and human health. These climate impacts may be significant.

Wildfires release carbon emissions that affect climate and drive climate change-related events that contribute to even more wildfires. The specific type of emissions they produce is determined by what they burn and how complete the combustion process is. The largest amounts of carbon emitted are in the form of carbon dioxide - a powerful greenhouse gas - and carbon monoxide. The quantity of each gas depends on whether a fire is flaming or smoldering. Dry fuels combust more easily and are more likely to be flaming.

To put the carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires into perspective, September 2020 data from the Global Fire Emissions Database show that California wildfires in 2020 generated more than 91 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s roughly 30 million metric tons more carbon dioxide emissions than the state emits annually from power production.

The Climate Connections of a Record Fire Year in the U.S. West – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (8)The Climate Connections of a Record Fire Year in the U.S. West – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet (9)

Western U.S. Wildfires on September 10, 2020

In this side-by-side image, the left side image shows areas (marked in red) where wildfires were burning in the Western United States on September 10, 2020. Copious amounts of smoke spill off the coast and into the Pacific Ocean.

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The right side, however, shows the real story of the danger that smoke poses. Using the OMPS (Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite) instrument, aerosols are detected and measured in terms of thickness and height of the atmospheric aerosol layer. For most atmospheric events involving aerosols, the AI ranges from 0.0 (colorless through light yellow, yellow, orange, and red) to 5.0 (deep red), with 5.0 indicating heavy concentrations of aerosols that could reduce visibilities or impact health. High aerosol concentrations not only can affect climate and reduce visibility, they also can impact breathing, reproduction, the cardiovascular system, and the central nervous system, according to the US EPA.

Since aerosols are able to remain suspended in the atmosphere and be carried in prevailing high-altitude wind streams, they can travel great distances away from their source and their effects can linger. The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot).

Smoke can contain many different chemicals, including aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals and dioxins. The type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what is burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature. Credit: NASA Worldview

Wildfires also emit aerosols (tiny, floating solid and/or liquid particles of organic and inorganic matter). These aerosols can come in the form of black carbon, brown carbon, or both. When a fire is really hot, it produces more black carbon, commonly known as soot, char, or ash. When fires are less hot and smoldering, they produce more brown carbon, which reflects light, making it appear brown or yellow. Both types of carbon warm Earth’s climate, but black carbon has a stronger warming effect. Scientists currently know more about black carbon and its effects on climate than they do about brown carbon.

Scientists are also working to better understand the amount of ammonia wildfires release. When mixed with sunlight, ammonia produces two secondary aerosols - ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate – both of which have a cooling effect on climate. Ammonia also contributes to the formation of brown carbon.

Recently, scientists studying the devastating Australia wildfires of late 2019-early 2020 discovered that an outbreak of a rare type of fire-generated thundercloud had punched into Earth’s stratosphere, the second lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The large quantity of smoke that made it into the stratosphere then circled the globe, reducing the amount of sunlight that reached the ground for several months. The smoke slightly cooled Earth’s surface by an as-yet undetermined amount (likely a small fraction of a degree, similar to the cooling effect of a moderate volcanic eruption). The event illustrates how large future wildfires may, at times, have a slight cooling effect on climate.

Studying the trace gas and aerosol emissions from wildfires and prescribed burns was the objective of a joint 2019 NASA-NOAA field campaign called Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments Experiment – Air Quality (FIREX-AQ). FIREX-AQ combined aircraft measurements, ground sampling and satellite data to correlate wildfire emissions to fuel and fire conditions on the ground; study wildfire plumes, including how they’re transported in the atmosphere and how they impact air quality downwind; and assess how effective satellites are in estimating fire emissions.

The air quality impacts of the 2020 U.S. Western wildfires were truly extraordinary, at times making day as dark as night and tinging skies in major urban areas a surreal red. Some locations recorded air quality readings higher than 500 on the Air Quality Index scale (anything above 300 is considered hazardous to health). But smoke doesn’t know state or national boundaries - it drifted east thousands of miles across many parts of the United States, north into Canada and even as far as Europe. Researchers at Stanford University in Stanford, California, estimated California wildfire smoke likely led to at least 1,200 and as many as 3,000 excess California deaths between Aug. 1 and Sept. 10, 2020 alone.

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Another climate impact of U.S. Western wildfires is their role in converting ecosystems from one type to another. Wildfires are necessary for healthy forest ecosystems. They help clear the forest floor of dead organic material, allow sunlight to reach it, add nutrients to the soil, provide habitat for animals and birds by clearing heavy brush so new plants can grow, and kill disease and insect infestations, among their many benefits. But when their frequency or severity is disturbed, it can throw things dangerously out of whack. In time, this may lead to the loss of some forests, as climate change increases the frequency of fires and makes it harder for ecosystems to reestablish.

“When you have major disturbance events like droughts and fires back-to-back in quick succession, you can change ecosystems,” Stavros said. “We’re starting to see this in some regions as wildfire frequency increases. Southern California’s mountains are covered with chaparral shrubs whose seedlings are only triggered to open by the extreme heat of a wildfire, and they’ve adapted to burning every seven to 15 years. If you increase the wildfire frequency, you begin depleting the seed bank and the chaparral may not regrow, because the only seedlings available for growth are often invasive species. In places like Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, we’re starting to see forests turn into prairies and grasslands. It’s not yet widespread, but it’s happening.”

Of course, the climate impacts of wildfires aren’t limited to the contiguous Western United States. In Alaska, increased wildfire activity is causing fires to burn through dense peatlands, releasing significant quantities of methane and carbon dioxide that exacerbate global warming. Other areas of global concern include Australia; Southeast Asia; the Amazon; Siberia, Canada and other parts of the Arctic; and even the Mediterranean region. The climate impacts of fires in each of these regions varies.

“The worst fires for climate are actually coming from Southeast Asia, the Amazon, and the Arctic, because you have carbon that’s been sitting there for a long time and then put back into the atmosphere when it burns,” Stavros said.

Adapting to a Fierier Future

One thing is clear: fires are likely to become an increasingly consequential fact of life as the U.S. West continues to get warmer and drier. Society will need to adapt.

“The impact of fire is much more than just area burned,” Stavros said. “It’s lives lost, infrastructure damaged, degraded air quality. We can use our scientific understanding to inform systematic approaches to managing how we live in a world with fire: how and where we build, how and where we perform maintenance on power lines, etc.

“Everybody cares when they can see and smell the smoke, but when it’s gone, they stop,” she added. “But the problem isn’t going to go away.”

(Video) NASA Google Hangout Wildfire and Climate Change

FAQs

What is the connection between climate change and wildfires? ›

Research shows that changes in climate create warmer, drier conditions, leading to longer and more active fire seasons. Increases in temperatures and the thirst of the atmosphere due to human--caused climate change have increased aridity of forest fuels during the fire season.

What are 3 reasons why climate change is leading to an increase in wildfires? ›

Rising temperatures, a key indicator of climate change, evaporate more moisture from the ground, drying out the soil, and making vegetation more flammable. At the same time, winter snowpacks are melting about a month earlier, meaning that the forests are drier for longer periods of time.

Why are there so many fires in the West? ›

In the West, fuel is plenty, with flammable pine needles, shrubs and grasses that can ignite easily. And while the region's dry vegetation has always made it prone to fires, climate change is intensifying wildfires and lengthening fire season.

Which of the following is leading to an increase in wildfires in the western United States? ›

Which of the following is leading to an increase in wildfires in the Western United States? Drier winters and warmer springs.

What are the effects of fires on the environment? ›

Wildfires can disrupt transportation, communications, power and gas services, and water supply. They also lead to a deterioration of the air quality, and loss of property, crops, resources, animals and people.

How many forest fires are there in 2022? ›

August 2022 Wildfires Report
June - AugustTotals2001-2020 Average
Number of Fires-999923,523
Acres Burned per Fire-9999190.5
5 more rows

What are six causes of fires in the environment? ›

List of six causes of fires in the environment are:
  • Candles.
  • HolidayDecoration.
  • Electricity System and Devices.
  • Smoking.
  • Chemicals and Gasses.
  • Lightning.
18 Jul 2022

What are the factors that affect the spread of fire? ›

Three factors typically influence fire behaviour: weather, fuels and topography.

What are the 5 effects of global warming? ›

Effects of Climate Change
  • Hotter temperatures. As greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so does the global surface temperature. ...
  • More severe storms. ...
  • Increased drought. ...
  • A warming, rising ocean. ...
  • Loss of species. ...
  • Not enough food. ...
  • More health risks. ...
  • Poverty and displacement.

Why are there so many fires in the US? ›

As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson.

Why are forest fires increasing? ›

Multiple studies have found that climate change has already led to an increase in wildfire season length, wildfire frequency, and burned area. The wildfire season has lengthened in many areas due to factors including warmer springs, longer summer dry seasons, and drier soils and vegetation.

Are US wildfires getting worse? ›

In fact, since 2000, an annual average of 70,072 wildfires have burned an annual average of 7 million acres across the country. That's more than double the annual average of 3.3 million acres burned in the 1990s, when a greater number of fires occurred annually.

How did the California wildfires affect the environment? ›

California's Wildfires Had an Invisible Impact: High Carbon Dioxide Emissions. From June to August, the blazes emitted far more planet-warming carbon dioxide than in any other summer in nearly two decades, satellite data shows.

Why does California have so many fires? ›

Rising temperatures, drought conditions, and dry vegetation are all contributing causes of wildfires in California, but the worsening impact of climate change is further exacerbating and prolonging the fire season in the state.

Are wildfires increasing or decreasing? ›

In recent years, there has been a decrease in grassland fires, which account for 70% of global wildfires (2). But predictions are that the number of extreme fires globally will grow 14% by 2030, 30% by 2050 and 50% by 2099 (3).

What are social impacts of fires? ›

Emergency evacuations and the loss of one's physical and social environment are intense stressors that can have an impact on mental health, particularly in children and adolescents. People directly exposed to wildfires are at greater risk of major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders.

What are the causes and effects of fire? ›

For a fire to start, three things must be present; oxygen, heat, and fuel. Foresters call this the fire triangle. Fire will spread towards the direction where there is plenty of one of these elements. So, the only way to put out or control it is to significantly limit one of these three elements.

What are positive and negative effects of fire? ›

Fire is often associated with negative impacts on the environment. We usually think of the damage and devastation fire causes to wildlife and vegetation, but a fire event can also be beneficial for our plants and animals. For example, fire: heats the soil, cracking seed coats and triggering germination.

What state has the most wildfires 2022? ›

The state of California sees the most wildfires than any other state in the U.S. In 2021, over 2.5 million acres burned in the Golden State, as well as 3,629 structures.

How can we prevent wildfires? ›

Forest Fire Prevention Tips
  1. Obey local laws regarding open fires, including campfires.
  2. Keep all flammable objects away from fire. ...
  3. Have firefighting tools nearby and handy.
  4. Never leave a fire unattended.
  5. Carefully dispose of hot charcoal.
  6. Drown all fires.
  7. Carefully extinguish smoking materials.

How can we prepare for a wildfire? ›

Find an outdoor water source with a hose that can reach any area of your property. Create a fire-resistant zone that is free of leaves, debris or flammable materials for at least 30 feet from your home. Designate a room that can be closed off from outside air. Close all doors and windows.

What are the 3 main causes of fire? ›

Common causes of fire
  • Faulty appliances and leads.
  • Faulty fuel supply.
  • Misuse of equipment or appliances.
  • Placing articles too close to heat.
10 Aug 2018

What are the 4 most common causes of fires? ›

According to the NFPA report, the top four causes of home fires and their resulting casualties are cooking, heating, electrical distribution and lighting equipment (installed wiring, outlets, switches, cords, plugs, power supplies, and lighting), and careless smoking.

What is the #1 cause of house fires? ›

Cooking safety tip sheet

Did you know that cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries? By following a few safety tips you can prevent these fires.

What are the 7 factors that affect fire development? ›

Rate of burning and heat output for surface and crown fires are influenced by fuel load, fuel moisture, topography, ignition method, air temperature, wind, and relative humidity.

What is the importance of knowing the factors affecting fire? ›

Knowing how a wildfire may behave is key to control and management. Many factors affect how a wildfire burns, how fast it moves and how difficult it is to control. The three sides of the fire behavior triangle are weather, topography and fuels. Weather includes wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture and air pressure.

Which of the following has the greatest impact on fire spread and intensity? ›

Moisture level is the most important consideration. Live trees usually contain a great deal of moisture and dead logs contain very little. The moisture content and distribution of these fuels define how quickly a fire can spread and how intense or hot a fire may become.

What will happen if we don't stop global warming? ›

The wildlife we love and their habitat will be destroyed, leading to mass species extinction. Superstorms, drought, and heat waves would become increasingly common and more extreme, leading to major health crises and illness. Agricultural production would plummet, likely leading to global food shortages and famine.

What are the 3 main natural causes of climate change? ›

These have been caused by many natural factors, including changes in the sun, emissions from volcanoes, variations in Earth's orbit and levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). Global climate change has typically occurred very slowly, over thousands or millions of years.

How can the production and consumption of goods be neutralized to minimize their ill effect on the environment? ›

Reducing consumption can thus mitigate climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of goods and services. Consumption can be reduced in three primary ways: Shifting the basket of goods and services consumed from higher-emitting to lower-emitting items.

What is the largest wildfire in US history? ›

1. The 2021 Dixie Fire, California. Following an unprecedented heat wave in June 2021, California was once again engulfed in raging wildfires. According to CalFire, the fire has burned more than 463,000 acres in Northern California, taking hundreds of buildings down with it and threatening nearly 14,000 structures.

What caused the fires in California 2022? ›

The Mosquito Fire became the largest wildfire to burn in California this year after growing over 63,000 acres Wednesday night, fueled by dried vegetation in an area that was cooling off after record-breaking heat last week. The massive fire has been burning for more than a week since it ignited on Sept. 6.

Are wildfires becoming more common? ›

According to the EPA, the extent of area burned by US wildfires each year seems to have increased since the 1980s. The top 10 years with the largest annual acreage burned all occurred since 2004, a period which coincides with many of the warmest years on record across the US and worldwide.

Do wildfires affect air quality? ›

Wildfires increase air pollution in surrounding areas and can affect regional air quality. The effects of smoke from wildfires can range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma and heart failure, and premature death.

Are wildfires good for the environment? ›

Fire removes low-growing underbrush, cleans the forest floor of debris, opens it up to sunlight, and nourishes the soil. Reducing this competition for nutrients allows established trees to grow stronger and healthier. History teaches us that hundreds of years ago forests had fewer, yet larger, healthier trees.

How fast do wildfires spread? ›

How fast do wildfires spread? The stronger the wind, the faster the wildfire expands. And since heat rises, fires move more quickly as they go uphill. Once the fire begins and spreads, it can travel at a rate of up to 14.27 miles per hour, destroying everything in its path.

How much do forest fires contribute to global warming? ›

When they calculate total global CO2 output, scientists don't include all wildfire emissions as net emissions, though, because some of the CO2 is offset by renewed forest growth in the burned areas. As a result, they estimate that wildfires make up 5 to 10 percent of annual global CO2 emissions each year.

How can climate change prevent wildfires? ›

Increasing spending on prescribed burns and fuel treatments to match spending on suppression will reduce fuel loads. Helping homeowners to clear defensible space around their properties will protect homes and reduce risks to firefighters.

Where do most wildfires occur? ›

California is the most wildfire-prone state in the United States. In 2021, over 9,000 individual wildfires burned in the Southwestern state ravishing nearly 2.23 million acres. California accounted for roughly 31 percent of all acres burned due to wildland fires in the U.S.

How much damage can wildfires do? ›

In 2020, wildfires destroyed almost 18,000 structures, 54 percent of which were homes. California has been notably hard-hit by destructive fires. A 2020 study found that in 2018, wildfires caused a total of almost $28 billion in capital losses in California, including damage to both homes and businesses.

How do wildfires affect agriculture? ›

Successive fires destroy the organic matter that makes soil fertile, causing crop yields to decrease over time and increasing the need for costly fertilizers. Smoke and spreading flames also pose a risk to neighbouring communities, buildings, and fields.

How do wildfires affect the economy? ›

Catastrophic wildfires take a large economic toll on communities through property losses, decreased tourism, even changes in the long-term structure of the local economy.

What city is the cheapest to live in California? ›

Cheapest Places to Live in California
  • Bakersfield. With a median home price of just $254,430, Bakersfield is a surprisingly cheap place to live in California. ...
  • Stockton. The notorious boom and bust town of Stockton, CA continues to offer cheaper house deals. ...
  • Fresno. ...
  • Clovis. ...
  • Sacramento. ...
  • Fontana. ...
  • Chico. ...
  • Eureka.
21 Sept 2022

Why is the West always on fire? ›

In the West, fuel is plenty, with flammable pine needles, shrubs and grasses that can ignite easily. And while the region's dry vegetation has always made it prone to fires, climate change is intensifying wildfires and lengthening fire season.

What are 3 effects of global warming? ›

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions, and an increase in the duration and intensity of tropical storms.

What are the 5 effects of global warming? ›

Effects of Climate Change
  • Hotter temperatures. As greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so does the global surface temperature. ...
  • More severe storms. ...
  • Increased drought. ...
  • A warming, rising ocean. ...
  • Loss of species. ...
  • Not enough food. ...
  • More health risks. ...
  • Poverty and displacement.

How many fires are caused by power lines? ›

Improperly maintained power lines only account for about 3 percent of wildfires, but the fires they do cause can spread quickly since lines are often located in remote and windy areas.

How does climate change cause wildfires in California? ›

More Fuel to Burn

Another factor driving changes in U.S. Western wildfires is a greater availability of fuel. Drier air stresses vegetation, making forests more susceptible to severe wildfires, while droughts are creating more dead fuel.

How can climate change prevent wildfires? ›

Increasing spending on prescribed burns and fuel treatments to match spending on suppression will reduce fuel loads. Helping homeowners to clear defensible space around their properties will protect homes and reduce risks to firefighters.

What is the cause of wildfires? ›

Naturally occurring wildfires are most frequently caused by lightning. There are also volcanic, meteor, and coal-seam fires, depending on the circumstances. Human caused wildfires can be accidental, intentional (arson), or from an act of negligence.

How does climate change affect the environment? ›

More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people's livelihoods and communities. As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe.

Why are wildfires increasing? ›

Multiple studies have found that climate change has already led to an increase in wildfire season length, wildfire frequency, and burned area. The wildfire season has lengthened in many areas due to factors including warmer springs, longer summer dry seasons, and drier soils and vegetation.

Why are fires increasing in California? ›

The short answer: climate change. California has been experiencing warmer temperatures and drier seasons, bringing on longer and more intense drought seasons as a result of the changing climate. The conditions that are needed to spark a wildfire are more easily met, thereby also increasing its severity once it starts.

What are the estimated damages for forest fires in the american west year to year? ›

Studies estimated suppression costs for this fire between $43 and $50 million. 12 Other direct costs, including the loss of homes and property, totaled $122.5 million. Rehabilitation costs were generated from immediate post-fire expenditures, and then projected out over three years for a total cost of $139 million.

How can the impact of fire be reduced? ›

  1. Unplug Items You're Not Using. Excess electricity flowing through items in your home can always be a potential fire hazard. ...
  2. Use Surge Protectors. ...
  3. Never Leave Flames Unattended. ...
  4. Keep Flammable Items Away From Heat. ...
  5. Don't Smoke In the Home. ...
  6. Put Out The Fire. ...
  7. Cut The Clutter. ...
  8. Remove Lint And Change Filters.

What are 3 effects of global warming? ›

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions, and an increase in the duration and intensity of tropical storms.

What is causing the recent fires to burn so much more intensely and faster spreading than in the past? ›

In fact, experts said, dryness is the “X factor” behind many of California's recent conflagrations. The dryness of the vegetation, primed by both long-term drought and shorter-term heat waves, is turning terrain into kindling, making it easy for fires to ignite and even easier for them to spread.

What are 3 causes of wildfires? ›

Wildfires do sometimes occur naturally, either ignited by the sun's heat or a lightning strike. However, most wildfires are caused by human activities, including unattended campfires, discarded cigarettes, arson and more. “Human carelessness is the biggest factor contributing to wildfires,” Roise said.

What are six causes of fires in the environment? ›

List of six causes of fires in the environment are:
  • Candles.
  • HolidayDecoration.
  • Electricity System and Devices.
  • Smoking.
  • Chemicals and Gasses.
  • Lightning.
18 Jul 2022

What percentage of forest fires are caused by humans? ›

Studies have shown human ignition is to blame for 84% of all wildfires in the United States, and 97% of all those that threaten homes.

Why is climate change a threat? ›

Climate change is already impacting health in a myriad of ways, including by leading to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues.

What are the problems and solutions of climate change? ›

The main ways to stop climate change are to pressure government and business to:
  • Keep fossil fuels in the ground. ...
  • Invest in renewable energy. ...
  • Switch to sustainable transport. ...
  • Help us keep our homes cosy. ...
  • Improve farming and encourage vegan diets. ...
  • Restore nature to absorb more carbon. ...
  • Protect forests like the Amazon.

Who is most affected by climate change? ›

The most vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, people with preexisting health conditions, outdoor workers, people of color, and people with low income, are at an even higher risk because of the compounding factors from climate change.

Videos

1. Managing the Planet: Planning for Climate Change - Lessons from the Dust Bowl (3/25/21)
(SustainabilityCSU)
2. The Year in Climate Emergencies
(The Agenda with Steve Paikin)
3. Emerging climate risks (COP26 2021) - Full Recording
(World Climate Research Programme)
4. Covering Climate and the Environment
(MIT Knight Science Journalism Program)
5. Spring 2022 Lecture Series: Climate Change and Drought feat. Dr. Pablo Ortiz-Partida
(PlanetActerra)
6. Heatwave: Wildfires spread across Europe as countries break record temperatures - BBC News
(BBC News)

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