NewsMay 5, 2013

Wildfire Interactive Helps Track the Springs Fire Blaze

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By Climate Central

With the weather lending a helping hand, officials were cautiously optimistic that the raging fire, called the Springs Fire, near Los Angeles was being brought under control as of late Saturday. Firefighters reportedly had contained more than 50 percent of the fire, as they were aided by calmer winds and cooler temperatures, and Sunday's forecast had a 20 percent chance of rain.

As the blaze is still being battled, you can monitor that wildfire with Climate Central's interactive map. The flame icons represent wildfires currently active in the country. Hover over a given fire to see its name, and if you zoom in you’ll be able to see the outline of the area that’s burning — the so-called fire perimeter. If you click within the perimeter, a window pops up showing the fire’s size in acres, the amount by which the perimeter has grown or shrunk over the past 24 hours, the fraction of the fire that has been contained and other data. There’s also a link to an even more detailed report.

The interactive is based on data from the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group; the information is updated once a day from reports by fire managers on the scene, satellite imagery and GPS data, among other sources.

As the temperature warms and large parts of the U.S. become drier, wildfires are becoming more common and widespread — a trend likely to worsen thanks to climate change caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

The Springs Fire started right as a new outlook by the National Interagency Fire Center releasted its wildfires outlook, which highlighted how fire season may come early this year in the West, thanks to ongoing drought conditions and increasing temperatures. The NIFC predicted that major wildfires in California could begin as early as May, nearly a month ahead of schedule. Wildfire season is also expected to come early in southern Oregon and Washington, as well as in the central Rocky Mountains and parts of the Southwest.

The West is quickly becoming the epicenter of drought in the U.S., as recent rain and snow has eased severe drought conditions across the Plains and Midwest. The report, which was released Wednesday, provided a four-month outlook on the potential severity and timing of wildfires across the U.S., and it is based on measurements of temperature, drought, and moisture conditions.

The Southwest is also likely to see some major fires this year, especially in drought-stricken southeastern Arizona and central New Mexico. However, the timing of that risk is expected to vary week-by-week, depending on the amount of rainfall from the Southwest Monsoon, which typically sets in during mid to late-summer. The current dry conditions mean that there is plenty of fuel to burn if a wildfire begins to spread.

Large blazes are becoming more common in the West as average temperatures increase and spring snowmelt occurs earlier in the year. In addition, land-use changes have helped contribute to more wildfires as communities expand into previously unoccupied territory.

Compared to an average year in the 1970s, during the past decade there were seven times more fires greater than 10,000 acres each year, and nearly five times more fires larger than 25,000 acres each year, according to Climate Central research.

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