Wildfires: the Natural Disaster Outbreak no One Wanted to Expect

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Updated: Mar 24, 2022
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There is nothing scarier to imagine than having to flee your home due to a fire. Just imagine for a second having to escape the place you reside because it is burning to the ground with everything you cherish, and possibly the people you love inside. In recent years, this has happened more and more to an unacceptably large amount of people. Because of climate change, wildfires have increased rapidly in the Western United States. Some may argue that the wildfires are caused by mismanagement of the land.

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Even our president represented this side of the argument, according to a Newsweek article from 2018 titles “Trump Suggests Not Raking Leaves is Bigger Cause of California Wildfires Than Climate Change”.

A wildfire that took place in Utah in 2012 was so serious that 9,000 people were forced to evacuate. According to an article titled “Too many wildfires caused by gun owners, says Utah governor”, this fire was caused by careless target shooters whose sparks from their bullets landed on dry grass. Governor Gary Herbert had this to say about the incident: “Now is not a good time to take your gun outside and start shooting in cheat grass that’s tinder dry.” While these fires were started by people, the damage was so widespread because of the dry weather climate change has brought to pass. The situation in California is similar. While it may have been started by carelessness, the tremendous impact was because of our warming Earth. The fires of California are climbing to state records and destroying thousands of houses. According to an article in the New York Times titled “California Fire Now the Largest in State History: ‘People Are on Edge’”, the recent fires have burned acres upon acres, and even caused dozens of deaths.

The article also states that the fires are due to high temperatures from climate change, and dry vegetation. The same article includes a quote from Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University: “You combine drought and heat, you get record wildfires. It’s not rocket science”. Michael Mann isn’t the only one who agrees climate change is a contributor to these natural disasters. In a Wired UK article from November 2018 titled “The California Wildfire Could Create a Climate Change Death Spiral”, the author quotes Thomas Smith, who is an environment geography assistant professor at LSE. Smith claims the following: “Climate change is certainly leading to conditions that favour more extreme fire behaviour. In California, this climate change influence is manifested by earlier snowmelt, an earlier dry season, and later summers.” Meaning that climate change is having a huge impact on these disastrous, wide sweeping burns. The specifics of the “Camp Fire”, which is the most prominent of the recent fires in California, are mind-boggling. The website for fire in the state claim that over 150,000 acres were burned. That includes over 13,000 residencies, 528 commercial buildings, and 4,293 other buildings. This includes the most heart-breaking statistic: 85 innocent individuals perished because of this disaster, and three firefighters were injured while protecting the land and the people who inhabit it.

Although 150,000 acres is enormous, that number is nothing compared to the Yellowstone Fire of ‘88. One of the most famous and largest fires of all time took place in Yellowstone National Park during the summer of 1988. The fire burned more than 700,000 acres, and cost the park $120 million in damage, according to an article published in 2006 in Science Mag titled “Is Global Warming Causing More, Larger Wildfires?” The article also mentioned that at the year it was published, “the length of the active wildfire season (when fires are actually burning) in the western United States has increased by 78 days, and that the average burn duration of large fires has increased from 7.5 to 37.1 days” (Running). According to the same article, the trend of higher temperatures directly correlates with lower moisture, which causes more fires. That traumatizing event wasn’t the last time Yellowstone has seen wide sweeping fires. According to an article titled “YOUR LIFE”, these forest fires will only get worse as temperatures continue to rise due to global warming. The article reports that by 2050, the entire ecology of the park could be altered by the large fires that have been causing serious damage to the wildlife of the park. A piece written by Justin Worland in 2018 for Time magazine discusses the wildfires in California and the causes of these events. In the last year, 1.2 million acres have been burned, and the author of this article says it’s all because of climate change, which many believe only have one species to blame-humans.

Climate change is almost impossible to deny with all the research being done. In an editorial titled “Confronting Climate Change in the Age of Denial” written by Liza Gross, she presents a graph with evidence of rising temperatures from four separate institutions. The author of the article claims that there is an “overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real” (2018). As mentioned earlier, these higher temperatures create more dry ecosystems, causing large wildfires as a result. In the book, The Warming Papers, edited by David Archer and Raymond Pierrehumbert, they have collected many accounts of conclusive evidence in favor of climate change. Included in these studies, there is a graph of temperature over the past two centuries in both Western Europe and New York. The graphs show a rise in temperature of just a few degrees.

While it may seem like a small amount, but the effects can become nothing less than detrimental (268). Because of these higher temperatures, the dry ground becomes perfect fuel for a spark to become a monumental fire. On the California OEHHA website, climate reports are posted yearly. According to this years report, “A universally used indicator of drought — the Palmer Drought Severity Index — shows that California has become drier over time.” Coupled with this, the reports also states that the temperature has become drier all the time, a trend we also see all over the country, and the world. It’s no coincidence that the temperatures are rising at the same time. The same report states that the warmer makes snowpack and low precipitation worse, and creates conditions for “extreme, high severity wildfires that spread rapidly”(Zeise, Brown, & Rodriguez 2018).

It’s clear that climate change has a very large impact on these fires in the west. It blatantly obvious to see that climate change is the culprit for these tremendous infernos. The rising heat leads to drier air, which causes fires to spread quicker, and wider. The Western United States is suffering because of this. Thousands of people’s homes are burning, and too many are losing their lives. It’s not irreversible, although it may seem that way. By reducing impact and being more mindful of the way this planet is being treated, humans can save the Earth (literally). 

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Wildfires: The Natural Disaster Outbreak No One Wanted to Expect. (2022, Mar 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/wildfires-the-natural-disaster-outbreak-no-one-wanted-to-expect/