MUST READ: Severe Drought, Worsened by Climate Change, Ravages the American West
Rising temperatures, an off-rainy season, and low snowpack—all consequences of climate change— are creating an alarming combination of drought and wildfires across the American Southwest, the Pacific Coast, and Great Plains.
Washington, D.C. – Today, the New York Times’ Henry Fontaine published an article on the intensifying drought and climate-fueled wildfires taking hold of the American West and putting Americans at risk. According to Fontaine, years of warming temperatures, shifting weather, and other phenomena linked to climate change are to blame and the consequences stand to be dire.
Key sections below:
From the Pacific Coast to the Northern Plains, a severe drought is drying up wells, jeopardizing livelihoods, and most alarmingly, intensifying wildfires across the region. “The signals and indications are that we are heading for another very dangerous fire year,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last week. “We’re seeing a higher level of risk and an earlier level of risk than we’ve seen in the past.”
Behind the drought are warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns—both products of greenhouse gas emission. The result has left 84 percent of the West with limited water supply, and nearly half of the affected areas in “severe” or “extreme” conditions.
What’s most concerning is that conditions only stand to get worse. “We’re entering the climatologically dry period of the year,” said Adam T. Hartman, a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center, a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reversing the drought covering the region needed to happen during a wetter season, but that season never came and temperatures continued to rise.
Together, the heat and low precipitation result in vegetation that is dry and prone to catching fires. It also causes mass tree die-offs, creating the perfect fodder for huge and deadly wildfires.