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How climate change primed Colorado for a rare December wildfire


The rare December blaze that tore through Boulder County, Colorado, at frightening speed this week may not be that unusual in the future, wildfire experts are warning, as climate change sets the stage for more.

Wildfires do not historically happen during the winter, particularly in areas like Boulder County, where the ground is normally moist from snow.

But in recent months, Colorado has experienced a severe drought. From July 1 through Dec. 29, 2021, Denver record ed its lowest amount of precipitation by over an inch, with snowfall at record low levels, too. Meanwhile, Boulder, which typically sees about 30 inches of snow between September and December, received just one inch in that period leading up to the day of the fire.

Wildfires near Boulder, Colorado force thousands to evacuate

Dec. 30, 202101:52

Combine that with an unseasonably warm fall, and the ground had significantly less moisture in it than it normally would — creating perfect conditions for a fire to flourish.“Everything is kind of crispy,” said Keith Musselman, a snow hydrologist and assistant research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. “In addition to the extreme drought, just one- or two-degree warmer days can really dry out the landscape quite […]

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