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Fires burn more acreage due to climate change


Soil moisture changes likelihood of fires; forest suppression, climate change cause wildfires The Big Wood River basin in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho, is one of the researchers’ study sites. While research was done in Idaho, it applies to the western U.S. WSU researchers found that recent wildfires have been getting hotter, occurring more often and burning more acreage.

In some of the areas the researchers studied, climate change caused fires. In other areas, the cause was fire suppression, said Erin Hanan, lead author and postdoctoral researcher at WSU.

When people, such as firefighters, suppress forest fires, this results in a buildup of plants on the ground. Without fires burning and clearing away the plants, the plants continue to grow and amass. These dry plants are at a higher risk of burning, which causes larger forest fires, said Jennifer Adam, WSU civil and environmental engineering professor.

The fires caused by climate change also tend to be larger because climate change lowers the moisture in the climate, which limits plants’ water consumption. With less water, these plants will become drier, and this condition is favorable for fires, Adam said.

“The 2020 fires were fascinating because we’re starting to see more fires in places that have […]

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