Burned tree stump

William Anderegg grew up camping and fishing in the forests of Colorado. But in the years since, fires have ripped through much of the land.

Anderegg: “One of the reasons I got into science is I realized that a huge amount of area that I had camped in as a kid, these forests were now dead. It looked like a moonscape.”

Now Anderegg is a professor at the University of Utah and studies the effects of climate change on forests.

He says rising temperatures mean less snow, earlier snow melt, and drier springs. When combined with hot, dry summers, these conditions can turn a forest into a tinderbox.

Less snow, earlier snow melt, drier springs, plus hot, dry summers, can turn a forest into a tinderbox. Click To Tweet

Anderegg: “What we see are longer fire seasons, longer individual fire durations, more big fires, and in some cases more intense fires that can burn hotter.”

A recent study found that over the past 30 years, the area burned in Western wildfires is almost two times larger than it would have been without the influence of climate change.

Anderegg: “It’s really pretty scary. It seems like every summer there is new plumes of smoke and new fires and you sort of wonder when’s the next one going to come near me.”

Reporting credit: Rachel Gulbraa/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Species & Ecosystems