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Articles on Wildfires

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In heat and drought like the western U.S. and Canada are experiencing in 2021, all it takes is a spark to start a wildfire. Jim Watson/Getty Images

Skip the fireworks this record-dry 4th of July, over 150 wildfire scientists urge the US West

Every year, the number of wildfires caused by humans spikes on Independence Day. There are safer ways to celebrate amid the heat and drought.
Low-lying communities near rivers and bays face increasing risk of flooding. RoschetzkyIstockPhoto

‘Managed retreat’ done right can reinvent cities so they’re better for everyone – and avoid harm from flooding, heat and fires

Managed retreat doesn’t always mean leaving. It’s about preserving the essential while redesigning communities to be better for everyone. Here’s what that can look like.
Colorado’s East Troublesome Fire jumped the Continental Divide on Oct. 22, 2020, and eventually became Colorado’s second-largest fire on record. Lauren Dauphin/NASA Earth Observatory

Rocky Mountain forests burning more now than any time in the past 2,000 years

Scientists studied charcoal layers in the sediment of lake beds across the Rockies to track fires over time. They found increasing fire activity as the climate warmed.
Satellites can quickly detect and monitor wildfires from space, like this 2017 fire that encroached on Ventura, California. NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens

Bringing tech innovation to wildfires: 4 recommendations for smarter firefighting as megafires menace the US

Satellites can already spot a new fire within minutes, but the information they beam back to Earth isn’t getting to everyone who needs it or used as well as it could be.
Mark Poindexter puts a tarp on the damaged roof of his home in Gulf Breeze, Louisiana, on Aug. 29, 2020, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods – whatever your local risk, here’s how to be more weather-ready

Federal weather scientists are pushing to make the US more ‘weather-ready,’ which could mean prepping for fires, flooding or storms depending on where you live. The common factor: thinking ahead.
Heat and dryness are leaving high mountain areas more vulnerable to forest fires. David McNew/Getty Images

Western fires are burning higher in the mountains at unprecedented rates – it’s a clear sign of climate change

As the risk of fires rises in areas once considered too wet to burn, it creates hazards for mountain communities and for downstream water supplies.
Dry conditions across the West follow a hot, dry year of record-setting wildfires in 2020. Communities were left with scenes like this, from California’s Creek Fire. Amir Aghakouchak/University of California Irvine

Another dangerous fire season is looming in the Western U.S., and the drought-stricken region is headed for a water crisis

Drought conditions are so bad, fish hatcheries are trucking their salmon to the ocean and ranchers are worried about having enough water for their livestock.
A helicopter drops water on a forest fire in Alaska. Michael Risinger/U.S. Army National Guard

As extreme fires transform Alaska’s boreal forest, deciduous trees put a brake on carbon loss and how fast the forest burns

A new study finds more deciduous trees like aspen are growing in after severe fires in the region, and that has some unexpected impacts.
In a year tied for the warmest on record globally, the U.S. was hit with costly hurricanes, wildfires, storms and drought. AP Photo/Noah Berger and Gerald Herbert

After a record 22 ‘billion dollar disasters’ in 2020, it’s time to overhaul US disaster policy – here’s how

NOAA released its list of climate and weather disasters that cost the nation more than $1 billion each. Like many climate and weather events this past year, it shattered the record.
Sampling wildfire smoke sometimes means sticking a tube out the window of an airplane. Brett Palm/University of Washington

Wildfire smoke changes dramatically as it ages, and that matters for downwind air quality – here’s what we learned flying through smoke plumes

Thousands of chemical compounds in wildfire smoke are interacting with each other and sunlight as the smoke travels. For people downwind, it can become more toxic over time.
Heat-damaged plastic pipes can continue to leach chemicals into water over time. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Plastic pipes are polluting drinking water systems after wildfires – it’s a risk in urban fires, too

A new study shows how toxic chemicals like benzene are leaching into water systems after nearby fires. The pipes don’t have to burn – they just have to heat up.

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