If you’ve been paying attention to the news this year, you’ve probably noticed the influx of wildfire events. Across the US, especially in the west, wildfires have been rampant and causing unprecedented damage. So, why is this? Why does it seem like wildfires have increased tenfold this year?
The Weather Channel compiled some statistics about recent wildfires, and the facts are honestly shocking. Since 1970, wildfires larger than 1,000 acres have more than doubled. More fires over more land area? Not news you want to hear. The wildfire season has also increased in length, now lasting roughly two and a half months longer than it did fifty years ago.
What factors are contributing to the influx in wildfires? Three main things: Rising temperatures, earlier snowmelt, and drier conditions. As temperatures rise, so does the risk for fires. The warming trend our planet has been facing for the past few decades has only contributed to the spread of these destructive fires. Because of these warm temperatures, the country has seen earlier snowmelt. This means there is less moisture in the ground to help prevent wildfires from growing at such a fast pace. Because of the early snowmelt, the ground and surrounding shrubbery dry out quicker, which once again, contributes to the spread of fire.
As you can see in the graph above, the amount of acres burned each year is on the rise. The trend keeps climbing upward, meaning more and more acres are destroyed each year. Homes, businesses, and farms alike are all in danger of going up in flames, especially in places where weather is dry and hot year-round, like the western half of the US.
Which state do you think has had the most acres burn this year? While you might be inclined to answer California, it’s actually Nevada with a staggering 883k acres burned during 422 fires. California has had 709k acres burned during 5,000 fires. “5,000 fires, that must be the most fires recorded in any state, right?” Unfortunately, no. Texas holds that title with 6,900 fires in 2018. (via National Interagency Fire Center)
If you live in a wildfire-prone area, stay safe and informed by listening to your local authorities and following their guidance. Watch The Weather Channel to get your area’s latest forecast and to get more information on wildfire safety.