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Wildfires of the United States: human or climate caused?

14 Jun 2023 | Science Notes

From the CO2Science archive: Noting that the economic and ecological costs of wildfires in the United States have risen substantially in recent decades, Balch et al. (2017) describe how they studied over 1.5 million government records of wildfires that had to be either extinguished or managed by state or federal agencies from 1992 to 2012. And what did they learn by so doing?

Paper reviewed: Balch, J.K., Bradley, B.A., Abatzoglou, J.T., Nagy, R.C., Fusco, E.J. and Mahood, A.L. 2017. Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States. Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Science 114: 2946-2951.

The six scientists report that “humans have vastly expanded the spatial and seasonal ‘fire niche’ in the coterminous United States, accounting for [1] 84% of all wildfires and [2] 44% of total area burned,” that (3) “during the 21-year time period, the human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season,” and that (4) humans “added an average of 20,000 wildfires per year across the United States.”

And so we find that people, not nature (as in climate change) have been responsible for the increasing number of yearly U.S. wildfires over the past two decades, which makes one wonder if the same might also be true of many of the other deleterious weather phenomena that climate alarmists claim to be caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

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