Human, Climate Change Help Create Record-Breaking New Mexico Megafire

At 30% containment, the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history continues to burn, having already charred 271, 000 acres, an area larger than New York City. Known as the Whitewater-Baldy Fire Complex, it is part of a series of  American western “megafires” due to an unprecedented combination of drought conditions, climate change, and land-management practices, reports Andrew Freedman at Climate Central. The fire has surpassed New Mexico’s record fire, last year’s Las Conchas fire, which was roughly half the size of this 3-week old fire. The fire season is likely to continue the trend of severe southwest wildfire seasons, due largely to the prevalence of regional long-term drought conditions, predicted to be more extreme under climate change. Long-burning, massive wildfires have become more common in the US in recent years. A recent study finds that the recent Southwestern megafires are unusual even over the past 1,500 years. Land-management changes, such as years of fire suppression activities that stifled small fires, thereby priming forests for larger blazes, have combined with climate change to create forests that are altogether different — and burn differently — from what existed historically.

Sources:

New Mexico wildfire now a record-setting ‘megafire’. The largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history has become another in a series of “megafires” to torch the American West due to an unprecedented combination of drought conditions, climate change, and alterations in land-management practices. Climate Central http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/new-mexico-wildfire-continues-to-grow/

Current tracking of the fire is at: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/article/2870/14134/

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About melharte

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte is a biologist (PhD) and climate change educator. She co-authored the free online book, COOL THE EARTH, SAVE THE ECONOMY, available at www.CoolTheEarth.US, and writes the CLIMATE CHANGE THIS WEEK column at the HuffingtonPost. Living summers in the alpine Rockies, she is on the frontlines of watching what climate change can do. Her diagnostic digital photographs of wildflowers have appeared in numerous publications.
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