A drought has many causes. High temperatures, too little rainfall causing dry lands, increased water demands and water shortages are more or less the perfect storm contributing to droughts.
This past summer has been the absolute worst for the western states, with most of California, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico experiencing drought conditions that range from “severe” to “exceptional” for months at a time.
Droughts become more frequent and longer lasting driving some states to put limitations on their water usage. Over the last two months, 85% of the western states have had to force nearly 15 million people to live under water rationing while thirty communities in Texas predict that they will be completely out of water by the end of the year.
But droughts are not the only epidemic spreading like wildfire this summer. The dry conditions of our western forests are literally causing rampant wildfires that the US is having trouble containing and extinguishing.
2013, thus far, has been a sad and long story for our forests. Wildfires are consuming more acres than ever before in history. 31,900 fires have hit 3 million acres in the United States so far this year, with 40 active fires still burning in more than 6 states. One of the largest blazes is located on the western boundary of Yosemite National Park in California. The fire has been ravaging the land burning more than 288 square miles and threatening 5,000 homes nearby, resulting in California’s governor to declare a state of emergency in San Francisco, located 150 miles away.
The California “Rim Fire,” which began August 17th, has already been labeled as one of the largest wildfires in California history, and it’s still spreading. More than 4,000 firefighters are currently working on quelling the blaze, and they expect to have it contained by September 20th. However, it is impossible to predict how much destruction there will be by then.
Researchers believe that wildfires will soon become more common as the temperatures get warmer and forests begin to lose their moisture. Once trees dry up, they lose their ability to resist the effects of fire and unable to protect themselves. As droughts continue to last longer what water will there be to help firefighters attack these wildfires?
There is no mistaking the correlation between rising temperatures, global climate change, increasing droughts and raging wildfires. There is also no mistaking the dependency on water to extinguish these fires.