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Class Project: Wildfires Across the Western U.S.

Severe and Hazardous Weather Class Project: Wildfires Across the Western U.S.

Kelsey R. OLeary

Salt Lake Community College


Class Project: Wildfires Across the Western U.S. 2

Abstract

My research topic for this paper is centered around Wildfires Across the Western U.S. Some of

my research questions I plan to address in this paper are: How are wildfire trends expected to

change in the future? What are some of the possible causes behind these changing trends? What

are some of the potential repercussions of increased wildfires? My methods of obtaining my

research was by reading two different articles about recent U.S. Wildfire trends, the results I

acquired were sensible, and the data was trustworthy. Both of the articles I read to do my

research were written by The Union of Concerned Scientists. I believe the conclusions and

personal opinions Ive formed from my research stem from a bleeding heart. To change the

unfavorable results, people have to take a stand and change their ways of life.

Keywords: Wildfires, climate, risks, snowmelt


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Wildfires are a problematic epidemic across America. Especially, in desert states across

the western U.S. According to recent statistics, wildfires are notably growing in size, and have

been occurring more frequently. This makes these wildfires more hazardous to the surrounding

ecosystems than in the past. But why is this happening? Why are we seeing more of them now?

From the nineteen forties to nineteen seventy, wildfires were under control and burned for a

shorter period of time. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists once wildfires are

started by lightning strikes or human error, they will be more intense and long-burning.

Scientists, onlookers, and concerned individuals alike all suspect that there are multiple

reasons for wildfires getting larger and burning longer. The duration of the wildfire season is

expanding every year. And one of the largest impacts for this is climate change. Global warming

is another name for climate change, on a much grander scale. Its almost certain that this is one

of the many factors that influence wildfire risks.

Global warming is influencing the moisture and the precipitation levels to change

drastically, for the worst. Its causing the temperatures in Spring and Summer to rise every year,

bringing about dry climate conditions which encourage the flames to perpetuate and spread

across the land; Should a wildfire strike.

The warm temperatures in Spring and Summer trigger an early snowmelt, and also cause

the soil and vegetation to dry out for increased periods of time; This can risk a drought occurring.

To deal with snow melt, humans manufactured dams in the twentieth century made to handle and
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use the melt as a water resource for uses such as crop irrigation. When the water from the snow

melt is released too early, the surplus spawns a risk for water shortages ensuing in the upcoming

months.

Droughts can be problematic, however there is an upside. The Union of Concerned

Scientists, or UCS, which is what well refer to them as throughout the duration of this essay say

that while severe wildfires have been observed to occur more frequently and this trend is

projected to continue throughout the 21st century, it is worth noting that not every year has an

equal likelihood of experiencing droughts or wildfires.

Wildfires began increasing in the mid nineteen eighties, and have been occurring four

times as often than usual. Lasting five times as longer than in in the past, burning six times more

land. This means that wildfires increasing is not only being predicted, but is already happening.

These wildfires are on the rise, and its expected that it wont stop anytime soon.

"Anthropogenic [human-caused] climate change is occurring at a much faster rate than

species have evolved to handle" (Union of Concerned Scientists, Westerling and colleagues).

This quote brings attention to another cause of wildfires, people. With humans around, and

population increasing we observe people deforesting the land, clearing it out, developing,

mining, and conducting fire exclusion. Mining the land can including using explosives to go

further into the earth, and explosives can spark a fire.


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Aside from the risks of drought from water overages, there is also a large risk to the air

quality. Wildfires can cause pollution in the atmosphere that can cause difficulty of breathing.

With poor local air quality we could see possible lung diseases being exacerbated, those

breathing difficulties can affect even the healthiest of people. Everyone across the country would

face a risk to have to carry around an inhaler with them at all times.

This is a less important repercussion in my opinion, because money is not something that

has ever been a great deal of importance to me. I have always valued health and resources among

anything else. Without resources, it affects both people and the plants. Onto my point, wildfires

can be very costly.

The costs are so bad that it can be unbelievably crippling. When a wildfire reaches

homes, the property damages can average over six hundred million per year. And this was only

the statistic between the year of two thousand, and two thousand and nine. As things get more

expensive given this is twenty seventeen, it can be speculated that the costs of property damage

may have gone up since then. Unfortunately, the damages are only predicted to increase. Home

owners belonging to the wildland-urban interface in California, which has over 5 million

homes in the southern coastal area of California, the Bay Area, and north of Sacramento is

predicted to have an increase in wildfire risk near these areas.

These trends and the following repercussions of wildfires continuing to increase is

unsettling. Unsettling in the terms of families losing their homes as much as unsettling to the
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nerves. In conclusion, how can we solve these impending predictions from continuing, or let

alone getting worse? Its going to take work on everyones part. The government will have to

take action; Build buffer zones between human habitation and susceptible forests. And people

will have to take steps in their everyday lives to reduce their carbon footprints. But its not over

for us, theres still things we can do to prevent pivotal damage to our environment.

Works Cited

U. (n.d.). Early Spring's Domino Effect. Retrieved from

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/impacts/springs-domino-effect.ht

ml#.WjFsPN-nG01

U. (n.d.). Is Global Warming Fueling Increased Wildfire Risks? Retrieved from

https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/science-and-impacts/impacts/global-warming-and-wildf

ire.html#.WjFqEN-nG01