Climate Change Caused Colorado Wildfires, Scientist Says

Climate change is a big reason for the devastating wildfires in Colorado, according to climate scientists, although the official cause is likely lightning and suspected arson.

Newser reports that the scientists are naming climate change as the reason why New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado have seen their worst fires in history.

The Washington Post reports that Agriculture Department Undersecretary Harris Sherman stated:

“We’ve had record fires in 10 states in the last decade, most of them in the West. The climate is changing, and these fires are a very strong indicator of that.”

Sherman, who oversees the Forest Service, explained that the wildfire season, which usually runs from June until September, has expanded to include May and October in the past 10 years. While it was once rare for fires to burn 5 million cumulative acres per year, some seasons recently have seen twice that.

Newser notes that warmer temperatures have diminished winter snow and also killed off spring rain, leaving state lands, especially in the west, parched and perfectly ready to burn for a fire. MongaBay reports that climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, the head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) stated that:

“I have no doubt climate change is playing a role in this…there are wildfires all over the place.”

Michael Oppenheimer director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) at Princeton University said in a recent conference call that, “Global warming has in general made this part of the world [the Southwest U.S.] warmer and drier than it would be otherwise…what we’re seeing fits into a pattern.”

Max A. Moritz, a lead author of the study and fire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension stated, according to The Washington Post, that, “In the long run, we found what most fear: increasing fire activity across large parts of the planet.”

Do you think that global warming is to blame for the incredibly destructive fires we have seen this year?