“As the spring is arriving earlier because of warming conditions, the snow on these high mountain areas is melting and running off. So the logs and the branches and the tree needles all can dry out more quickly and have a longer time period to be dry. And so there’s a longer time period and opportunity for fires to start,” Swetnam says
“The spring comes earlier, so the fire season is just longer,” Pelley remarks.
“That’s right. The fire season in the last 15 years or so has increased more than two months over the whole Western U.S. So actually 78 days of average longer fire season in the last 15 years compared to the previous 15 or 20 years,” Swetnam says.
Swetnam says that climate change — global warming — has increased temperatures in the West about one degree and that has caused four times more fires. Swetnam and his colleagues published those findings in the journal “Science,” and the world’s leading researchers on climate change have endorsed their conclusions.
But what was news to the scientists is something Tom Boatner has noticed for about ten years now. “This kind of low brush would normally be really moist and actually be a fairly good barrier to fire. But as I look at this I just see wilted leaves everywhere. There’s no moisture left in them. They’re dead,” he points out.