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Is climate change a cause of longer, more active fire seasons?

Posted at 11:25 AM, Nov 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-22 13:25:02-05

Wildfires in California have been in the news a lot in recent years.

Last year was the state’s most destructive on record, and the Mendocino wildfire in July of this year was the largest ever on record — until the Camp Fire, which is still raging, took that distinction.

The link seen by many scientists for the recent rash of wildfires is drought, which many of those scientists blame on global climate change.

Higher temperatures, shorter rainy seasons, a shift in the Santa Ana Winds — all in some way are thought to be associated with a change in the climate according to a recent article from Yale University.

But could something similar happen here in Montana?

The trends are there.  During the summer months since 1970, Bozeman and Butte are both seeing more days with highs above average.  The winters are seeing a similar trend.

From 1970 through last year, Bozeman has had a 2.3º rise in temperature.  The Mining City is not far behind with winter temperatures increasing an average of 2.1º.

And while our winter snowpack in Montana this past winter was well above average, that isn’t always the case.  Annual snowpack in the western United States has struggled to see snowpack above the median normal.

The bottom line is that if these trends continue, Montana could easily see drought conditions get worse and wildfire seasons get longer in the coming years.

These trends continue to catch the eyes of scientists and bring more detailed research to the subject of climate change.

-Matt Elwell reporting for MTN News