Wildfires to increase in frequency and strength
Climate models predict a drier and more wildfire-prone United States in the coming decades, say NASA scientists.
Global warming will create conditions that "favor fire activity and an increase in the frequency of extreme events," said Doug Morton, a physical scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in a NASA release.
Researchers made calculations based on scenarios of low and high greenhouse gas emissions--and in both cases, modeling suggests fire seasons that are longer and stronger across all regions of the United States in the next 30 to 50 years.
Years like 2012 could occur two to four times each decade instead of just once per decade, as now happens, NASA says. Through August of this year, burned area in the United States totaled more than 6.17 million acres, NASA says, citing a database that includes observations from NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites.
Since the early 1980s, land consumed by fires in the western United States has more than doubled in amount from 1,500 square kilometers on average per year to 3,800 square kilometers, according to a NASA presentation (.pdf) made at Dec. 4 American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
- read the NASA release