Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

US fires getting bigger and more frequent

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Forests
US fires getting bigger and more frequent Shutterstock
01 Jul
2014
Over the past 30 years, wildfires across the western USA have been getting bigger and more frequent, according to new research

A team led by Philip Dennison of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City used satellite data to measure areas burned by large fires since 1984. The researchers also looked at climate variables such as seasonal temperature and rainfall.

The results indicated that in the region stretching from Nebraska to California, the number of wildfires more than 400 hectares in size increased by seven fires a year between 1984 and 2011. The total area burned by these fires increased at a rate of about 36,000 hectares a year.

The researchers also found that most areas that saw increases in fire activity also experienced increases in drought severity. ‘We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case, it was less than one per cent,’ said Dennison.

‘Twenty eight years is a pretty short period of record, and yet we are seeing statistically significant trends in different wildfire variables – it is striking,’ said one of the study’s co-authors, Max Moritz of the University of California-Berkeley Cooperative Extension.

Although the study stopped short of linking the changes to anthropogenic climate change, the authors did point out that they are in line with projections from models linking fire patterns and climate.

This story was published in the June 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Forests

The impacts of deforestation are wide ranging. But while some…

Places

Community trekking is the latest development to emerge from the…

Cities

Scientists are using sophisticated data modelling to predict how cities…

Places

The most populated country of Central Asia, Uzbekistan has been…

Forests

To protect the forests that act as natural carbon reservoirs,…

Forests

Recent research finds that climate change-induced drought is having a…

Cities

The city of Calais struggles with its reputation. More often…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig and Tina Gotthardt map the coronavirus

Water

The controversial practice of cloud-seeding has always been difficult to…

Forests

The impact of wildfires on water supplies has received little…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps the two sides of global malnutrition –…

Cities

Thomas Bird reports on the coronavirus, speaking to those trapped…

Forests

The world’s second largest tropical forest receives significantly less funding…

Cities

The world’s first water-borne dairy farm has been erected on…

Cities

Continental Europe’s most extensive underground rail transport network, the Madrid…

Cities

A central highway in Brazil’s largest city is about to…

Cities

Urban photography marries themes and passages from TS Eliot in…

Mapping

From Leonardo da Vinci’s genius and the history of Starbucks,…

Mapping

How do you usually travel to work? Question 41 in…

Water

The Nile is home to mysteries both ancient and modern…