Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Western Wildfires’ Size, Iintensity and Impact are Increasing

Three victims of the Yarnell, Arizona, wild fires

The congressional Republicans and their knuckle dragging Christofascist supporters continue to deny that climate change is real and that government action is needed to deal with the new reality facing not only America, but the entire world.  Hurricanes and tropical storms are increasing in number and intensity, seal levels are rising, and weather patterns are becoming more severe.  And western state fires are becoming more frequent and more intense as climate change alters rainfall patterns.  The latest horrific fires in the area of Prescott, Arizona, which killed 19 young firefighters (three are pictured above) are but the most recent example of this phenomenon.  Yet the Christofascists and the GOP refuse to face reality.  Here are excerpts from the New York Times:

Volatile weather patterns marked by shortened winters, stifling heat waves and prolonged droughts. New housing developments encroaching on fire-prone lands. Shrinking budgets for fire-prevention measures.

That dangerous combination of factors helps explain the increasingly voracious wildfires that have ripped through the western United States in recent years, say scientists, lawmakers and historians.

While the deaths of 19 firefighters Sunday in Arizona marked the most lethal firefighting incident in generations, the 8,400-acre blaze that led to the tragedy has become more the norm than the exception. 

“On average, wildfires burn twice as many acres each year as compared to 40 years ago. Last year, the fires were massive in size, coinciding with increased temperatures and early snow melt in the West,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwelltold lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month, adding, “The last two decades have seen fires that are extraordinary in their size, intensity and impacts.”

[B]road agreement exists that climate change, coupled with economic development and state and federal policies on fire prevention, has played a significant role in shaping the fires raging across Western landscapes. 

The Quadrennial Fire Review, a wildfire crystal ball of sorts that comes out every four years, predicted in 2009 that the effects of climate change would lead to “greater probability of longer and bigger fire seasons, in more regions in the nation” — in particular, shorter, wetter winters coupled with warmer, drier summers. The report also foresaw strained fire agency budget resources at all levels – federal, tribal, state and local.

[I]in other ways, the Yarnell fire might be further evidence of a new normal. The National Interagency Coordination Center, comprised of representatives from various federal agencies, said that nearly two dozen other uncontained wildfires are burning throughout the country this week. Experts say fire seasons are starting earlier and ending later than in the past.

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