The vicious 2012 wildfire season now unfolding in the interior West is hardly a surprise. Much of the region has been in a drought for more than a decade. This winter’s snowpack was sparse, particularly in Colorado, and it melted and ran off early. Temperatures have been high, and humidity has been low—making fuels from grasses to trees very dry and flammable.
All of that means conditions ripe for fires, which have come with a vengeance. New Mexico has had its biggest fire ever, and Colorado has seen the most destructive fires in its history, with the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs and the High Park Fire near Fort Collins destroying more than 600 homes combined. Even as firefighters have brought the big Colorado fires near containment, other large blazes have broken out in Wyoming, Utah, and Montana.
Yes, it’s looking like a big fire year. And yes, this is part of the new normal. It’s pretty much exactly what climate experts have been predicting and what the data have been telegraphing for some time. While there are various proposals on the table to deal with increasingly destructive wildfires, they are likely to continue and become worse unless we tackle climate change.
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