New Study: Manmade Global Warming Contributing To Increase In Wildfires

A common right-wing argument about why global warming isn’t a problem is that it may have positive benefits for the earth:

“When it’s not even clear that the warming we’ve seen is hurting us — many argue that it’s a boon, citing its benefits to agriculture and its potential to make severe climates more hospitable.” [Jason Lee Steorts, National Review, 6/6/06]

A new study to be published today in the journal Science, however, concludes that recent increases in Western wildfires may be a result of global warming. While “part of the increase may be attributed to natural fluctuations, evidence also links it to the effects of human-induced climate warming,” according to Dan Cayan, a co-author of the paper and director of the climate research division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The AP reports on the study:


An analysis of data going back to 1970 indicates the fires increased “suddenly and dramatically” in the 1980s and the wildfire season grew longer, according to scientists in Arizona and California. … Beginning about 1987, there was a change from infrequent fires averaging about one week in duration to more frequent ones that often burned five weeks or more, they reported. The length of the wildfire season was extended by 78 days.

“So far in 2006, more than 3.8 million acres have burned in the United States “” double the 10-year average for this time of year,” according to the Interagency Fire Center. In 2000, fires burned 7.4 million acres across the West and more than 20 people died.