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Articles on US West

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Sign at a boat ramp on Lake Mead, near Boulder City, Nevada, Aug. 13, 2021. The lake currently is roughly two-thirds empty. AP Photo/John Locher

As climate change parches the Southwest, here’s a better way to share water from the shrinking Colorado River

A Western scholar proposes allocating water from the Colorado River based on percentages of its actual flow instead of fixed amounts that exceed what’s there – and including tribes this time.
Lightning during a monsoon storm in southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park. Pete Gregoire, NOAA

Monsoons make deserts bloom in the US Southwest, but climate change is making these summer rainfalls more extreme and erratic

Monsoons are weather patterns that bring thunderstorms and heavy rains to hot, dry areas when warm, moist ocean air moves inland. They’re challenging to forecast, especially in a changing climate.
In some drought-stricken parts of the Southwest, water arrives by truck. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Avoiding water bankruptcy in the drought-troubled Southwest: What the US and Iran can learn from each other

Cities and farmers in the Southwest are resorting to unsustainable strategies to pull in more water. Iran has tried many of these strategies and shows how they can go wrong.
Before satellites, fire crews watched for smoke from fire towers across the national forests. K. D. Swan, U.S. Forest Service

Big fires demand a big response: How 1910’s Big Burn can help us think smarter about fighting wildfires and living with fire

The US has learned that it cannot suppress its way to a healthy relationship with fire in the West. That strategy failed, even before climate change proved it to be no strategy at all.
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 and at unprecedented rates as the climate warms

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.
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.
Snow melts near the Continental Divide in the Bridger Wilderness Area in Wyoming, part of the Greater Yellowstone Area. Bryan Shuman/University of Wyoming

Yellowstone is losing its snow as the climate warms, and that means widespread problems for water and wildlife

The area’s iconic national parks are home to grizzlies, elk and mountain snowfall that feeds some of the country’s most important rivers. A new report show the changes underway as temperatures rise.
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.
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.
Australia’s dingo fences, built to protect livestock from wild dogs, stretch for thousands of kilometers. Marian Deschain/Wikimedia

Fences have big effects on land and wildlife around the world that are rarely measured

Millions of miles of fences crisscross the Earth’s surface. They divide ecosystems and affect wild species in ways that often are harmful, but are virtually unstudied.
Won’t you be my neighbor? Dennis Fast/ VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Will Colorado bring back wolves? It’s up to voters

For the first time in the US, a ballot measure will ask voters whether to restore wolves to a place where they’ve been eradicated. Coloradans have strong views on both sides.
A mixed-conifer forest in the central Sierra Nevada after restoration, with unthinned forest in the background. Roger Bales

Restoring California’s forests to reduce wildfire risks will take time, billions of dollars and a broad commitment

Restoring western forests – thinning out small trees and dead wood – is an important strategy for reducing the risk of massive wildfires. But these projects aren’t fast, easy or cheap.
An airtanker drops retardant to help stop the spread of the 2015 Eyrie Fire in the foothills of Boise, Idaho, which was ignited by sparks from construction equipment. Austin Catlin, BLM/Flickr

Humans ignite almost every wildfire that threatens homes

Wildfires aren’t always wild. Many of the most expensive and damaging fires happen in suburban areas, and nearly all blazes in these zones are started by humans.

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