'We are out of time:' Destructive wildfires in Colorado will grow worse as season lengthens, scientists warn


Firefighters in Colorado are battling explosive wildfires at a time of year when things are normally quieter as NPR's Lauren summer reports, climate change is extending the fire season across the West. Mike Morgan is using the word unprecedented a lot this year, and that's after a 30 year career in fire. Fighting this year has just been unbelievable. We're just seeing fire girl just like we've never seen before. Morgan is director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, the largest and now second largest fires recorded in state history are still burning. Normally in October. Cool, wet weather is tamping down the fire season. Most of our folks are usually trying to use up their vacation time to go hunting right now, and they're all out fighting fires. When Morgan started his career fires in Colorado's high elevation forest didn't spread much. The warming climate has helped change that. Unfortunately, none of this seems like a surprise. Jonah Pots of glue is a climate scientists at the University of California, Merced said. He says most of the West is in a drought right now, and hotter temperatures make it worse by drying out the vegetation even more. That's really sort of extending the fire season out and allowing fires to burn longer in places they don't typically burn this time of the year. It's sort of testing out what we sort of traditionally have thought of it in terms of fire season. Wildfires are also happening in places where they're not. Not comin like the damp forests of the Pacific Northwest. Erica Fleischman is a professor at Oregon State University. So historically, they've burned roughly every couple of 100 years. It takes really extreme conditions for those for us to burn because they are so wet this year conditions have been extreme. But even in years with a normal amount of precipitation, climate change can still extend the fire season. More rain falls instead of snow, which means a smaller snowpack that melts sooner, providing less run off through the spring and summer. All of that means that the same amount of water is not available to plants or soils for as long so that exacerbates the drought. And all of that is projected. Tio. Unfortunately, continue happening. Climate continues to change. Fleischman says The lesson is that communities need to prepare by clearing, flammable brush, improving houses and preparing evacuation plans. Because wildfires will keep

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