As the huge Carpenter 1 Fire outside Las Vegas winds down, having burned over a remarkable 43 square miles, the wildfire season of 2013 is already shaping up as one that may rival or surpass 2012 as the worst on record.
More alarming than individual examples, however, is the overall trend of intensifying wildfire in the United States, especially but not only in the intermountain West.
Last year’s fires were 30 percent above average, in a season that has grown longer by a month at each end, beginning now in May and running through October. And the money allocated for fighting them ran out in August.
The worsening fire seasons are clearly driven by hotter, drier climate regimes and these, in turn, are driven by the general climate trends associated with global warming. Some of the best analysis on these connections has been done by the folks at Climate Central, and this year they have devised an interactive map that lets you see, year by year across the region or in individual states, the correlations linking rising temperatures and shrinking spring snowpacks with higher incidence of fire.
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