Wildfires of the Future

As the UK enjoyed unusually hot temperatures at the end of May, alongside hosepipe bans, other parts of the world suffer from more and more disastrous wildfires.

In the US the ‘wildfire season’ started earlier than usual in Arizona, in the middle of May – with five fires at the same time. After the dry winter, plants were also rather dry and as the spring was warmer than usual, this all contributed to the first big wildfires of the year. Two-thirds of the state of Arizona is currently suffering from extreme drought, and there is hardly any chance of rain during the summer.



Later in May, residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico could barely see from the smoke of wildfires around them in the city, and fires were also burning in Colorado, Nevada, California and Utah.

Wildfires are getting more and more frequent and more destructive. Last year Texas suffered the most damages on record – with four million acres and about 2800 houses burnt down. Another big wildfire burnt for six weeks and eventually destroyed about 500,000 acres in Arizona – the “Wallow Fire” is now the biggest ever on record in Arizona’s history. And these are only figures from the Southern part of the US, while wildfires are now frequent in Idaho or the Yellowstone National Park, as well as in enormous countries like Australia, Canada and even in
Siberia, Russia.

Besides the obvious financial damages and occasional deaths, scientists have now also calculated the extra lives taken due to the increased air pollution. And while in a normal wildfire trees burn mainly, if the peat underground catches fire, it can significantly increase carbon emissions.

Most of the wildfires are caused by human negligence and lightning strikes. Such blazes have been regular in these environments, but the warmest ever spring with very dry conditions this year can lead to even greater fires than usual. They are very difficult to contain in fast winds, or in cases of merging with another fire.

Throughout history nature created perfect conditions to withstand large forest fires. A natural defense is that trees grow far from each other, but re-planted forests now mean more problem and more dangerous fires.

The recent changes in the Earth’s climate seem to fuel ever bigger fires, thus our future may mean regular disastrous wildfires all over the world, not just occasionally.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: HowStuffWorks

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