How global warming and a wet winter may impact the U.S. wildfire season

by | May 24, 2023 | Science

Wildfire season in most parts of the western United States could be delayed this summer with heavy snow still covering many mountain ranges, national fire forecasters say. Still, the risk of damaging wildfires continues to trend upward as the climate warms, one factor making it more difficult to predict how the season will shake out.Forecasters and fire ecology experts said changes to fire behavior make it challenging to predict conditions in the late summer and the early fall. Fire seasons are growing longer. Hotter temperatures zap fuels of their moisture faster. And more people are living near the wilderness — and potentially, in harm’s way.Jim Wallmann, a meteorologist for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said “the likelihood of getting something big early in the year is greatly reduced.”The NIFC is predicting above-normal fire activity in parts of the Pacific Northwest, including eastern Oregon and central Washington, in July and August. Elsewhere in the West, forecasters are predicting normal or below-normal fire activity for those months.“With these really wet winters, you think there’s going to be a quieter fire season and they generally start slower,” Wallmann said. “What ends up happening is your fuels still dry out faster than they used to.”Even if the …

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