Wildfires are burning up thousands of acres in the western U.S., a fact the Obama administration points to as evidence that Washington needs to get serious about addressing global warming.
However, government data show that wildfires are at a 10-year low.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were 13,115 fires between January 1st and May 3rd of this year, which burnt a total of 153,277 acres — about half as much as burned last year. This is lowest spring for wildfires since 2004, according to NIFC.
“Wildfire activity remains light throughout the US. Two new large fires were reported this week and one was contained,” according to the latest update from NFIC.
“People who claim that the climate is getting more severe simply have not studied the history of climate,” said Steven Goddard, a climate skeptic blogger who pointed out the data, in an email. “This year has been very cold, with record amounts of spring snow.”
“NOAA’s raw temperature data shows that March/April were the coldest on record in the US, so the combination of cold temperatures and late snow has kept fires down to an historic minimum. Heavy rain is forecast for much of the southwest and California this week, so that should reduce the fire danger on the west coast,” he said.
“Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address. “Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.”
A recent federal report predicted that global warming would double the risk of wildfires in forests, and some regions, like western Colorado, could see a fivefold increase in the number of acres burned if global temperatures continue rising.
“It’s just unprecedented things happening. We’re getting into extreme events that seem to be having more and more effects across broader landscapes,” said David Peterson, a U.S. Forest Service biologist and coauthor of the report.
California and Colorado have seen intense wildfires consume parts of each state. California’s fire authority Cal Fire has reported 15 major fires so far this year, with all but two of them being 100 percent contained. The largest of the fires is a 28,000 acre blaze currently being contained in Ventura County.
Last year, the U.S. saw 18,176 fires which consumed 375,941 acres. In 2011, 23,833 fires burned 2,399,729 acres — the high for number of acres consumed by fires. The year with the most fires in the last decade was 2009 with 32,297 fires.
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