SEATTLE – Megafires could be the new normal if climate models are on target.
John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Idaho, presented findings from a review of 20 different climate models at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, held at the University of Washington this week.
The models looked at weekly temperature and wildfire data over time.
“The models all tend to show increases in the probability of very large fires and an extension of the window over which these fires might be expected to occur,” Abatzoglou said.
Scientists rely on modeling to use historical data as a means of making predictions about the future. Megafires are fires that burn more than 30,000 acres.
More than 1.3 million acres have burned in the Northwest each year for the past three years.
This summer the Carlton Complex fire burned 250,000 acres in Okanogan County, making it the largest fire in recorded history in Washington state.
“Wildfire is a perennial visitor to the Northwest. It’s also part of the natural ecosystem,” Abatzoglou said. “However over the past few years wildfire has been like an unwanted house guest that tends to stay too long.”