Federal officials expect climate-fueled heat and drought to drive a Western fire season at least as bad as last year, if not worse. “Starting in the Southwest and moving throughout the Western part of the United States, we’re seeing a higher level of risk, and an earlier level of risk, than we’ve seen in the recent past,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Thursday. Climate change is making droughts more likely to occur, and more severe when they do, and thus makes wildfires more extreme as forests and other fuel sources are turned into proverbial tinder boxes.
This year is nearly certain to be one of the 10 hottest years on record, and drought in the west has become so extreme that hatcheries in Northern California are trucking salmon to the ocean instead of releasing them into dangerously-low and -warm rivers. “We must confront the reality that a changing climate is fueling these fire disasters,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told reporters. (Fire risk: E&E $, AP; Heat: E&E $; Salmon: Reuters, San Francisco Chronicle; All: The Conversation; Climate Signals background: Drought, Wildfires)