It’s been so wet in New Hampshire since May that it’s easy to think we’re protected from wildfire risk, but looking north shows that this is foolish. Eastern Canada is a place where raging wildfires didn’t happen until suddenly they did, and there’s no reason we couldn’t be next as the Earth heats up (June was the hottest June, globally, on record).
I’ve made this argument several times (like here) but it’s worth repeating. New Hampshire Bulletin did just that with this article, noting that the National Interagency Fire Centers annual report cautions about increased risk in the Northeast.
Wildfire is a natural part of forest ecology. But the size and number of recent wildfires is not the norm. As climate change brings hotter, drier weather, wildfire seasons are getting longer and more intense. And some of the fires are burning hotter and longer because there is so much dry fuel available to feed the flames.
“By generally any metric we look at around the world, wildfires are getting worse, burning larger areas more severely at higher elevations, and burning over longer periods of the year.” said Kristina Dahl, the principal climate scientist for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
It is not a linear trend, since some years are better than others. But the area burned by wildfires has doubled in Canada since the 1970s and quadrupled in the Western United States in that same time. Longer, drier summers have erased the concept of a “fire season” and turned it into a “fire year” in some parts of the arid West.