By Dan Michels, Boulder, Colorado
The past few months, wildfires have plagued many western states. Colorado was by the worst hit. Wildfires have burned well over 692,515 acres and have cost at least $222.38 million. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and families have been displaced.
There are a few reasons these wildfires were so prevalent this summer. Climate change is the elephant in the room. It never seems to be at the top of the discussion but nonetheless is foundational. Climate change does four things to increase the potential for wildfires. First, it adds heat. July was the hottest month on record in Colorado. Second, it adds drought. The dustbowl conditions of the 1930s are said to be coming back. Third, climate change causes lower percentages of snowpack. As of June 1st, Colorado snowpack was 2% of its average. And finally, thanks to pine beetles - insects that are especially thriving in the West due to warmer winters than ever before - the number of dead trees (kindling for the raging wildfires) is on the rise. Pine beetles can destroy up to 90% of forests!
There are currently wildfires still raging across Colorado. Firefighters from across the country have been coming in to protect our homes, communities and of course, our forests, trees, and our natural areas.