It may seem reasonable that higher temperatures and drought conditions caused by climate change fuel wildfires, and that’s definitely a big factor in this year’s summer blazes. But according to leading climate scientists, high temperatures are only part of the puzzle. This great video from Climate Desk breaks it down in about a minute and a half (after the jump).
According to Matthew Hurteau, assistant professor of forest resources at Penn State University, it takes more than just one year of reduced snowpack to fuel truly devastating wildfires. But it is prolonged droughts that have the worst impact — and we can only expect more of them as the climate changes. Ironically, he also places some of the blame on modern fire suppression policies, which create denser forests with smaller trees that help fires spread faster and more easily.
We’re already seeing this dynamic start to play out in recent years, and if trends continue, we can expect more of the same throughout the Western US and the world. Given that US forests absorb about 16% of all carbon dioxide emissions within the country, more fires could actually accelerate climate change, creating a vicious cycle.