Wildfires burned more acres this year in the U.S. than ever before in modern records, E&E reports based on data published by the National Interagency Fire Center. Extreme heat, fueled by climate change caused by extracting and burning fossil fuels, dries vegetation. That heat turns vast swaths of forest into a tinderbox. “In 2020 we saw some of the hottest months on record, and large portions of the western U.S. were in severe drought,” University of Colorado fire scientist Jennifer Balch told E&E.

California, also hit by two exceptionally severe heat waves this year, more than doubled its previous record of acreage burned and its ecosystems will likely be changed for centuries. “We can no longer ignore the link between warming and wildfires. We will see more fire seasons like 2020 in the future,” Balch told E&E. (National record: E&E $; California future: LA Times $; Climate Signals background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season, Living with Smoke and Fire Webinar)