News•June 15, 2016
Everything You Need to Know About Wildfires in One Map
By Brian Kahn
Summer's heat is settling in early in parts of the West, and is forecast to arrive in earnest this weekend. With sweltering days ahead, the rising specter of wildfires isn’t far behind.
To get the big-picture, we’ve created a brand new wildfire tracker that shows where every wildfire is burning with a side of climate.
Hover over a red circle to see how much area has been burned. Click on it, and you’ll get more climate context and the number of people at risk. No wildfire happens in a vacuum anymore. Large wildfires — those greater than 1,000 acres — have doubled since 1970 due in part to a warming climate. And with more people living in harm’s way, that’s raising the risk of losing life and property (a risk that became reality in California last year with the Valley and Butte fires).
There are a number of climate factors also upping the odds of a bad wildfire season in the western U.S. Drought-addled California continues to be a huge wildfire risk. Snowpack is at 6 percent of normal for this time of year with the southern and central Sierra Nevada mountains registering a goose egg in terms of snow on the ground.
The Southwest is facing red flag warnings through Thursday due to elevated wildfire risk. This weekend will be an absolute scorcher with record-breaking temperatures likely, further drying out the region ahead of the heart of wildfire season.
Last year, wildfires charred more than 10 million acres for the first time on record. It remains to be seen if this year will top that, but it’s already off to an above-average start. More than 1.8 million acres have burned so far, about 200,000 acres above the 10-year average for this time of year.
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