Science

The blame game: How much are we responsible for recent wildfires?

Humans are at least 68 percent responsible for the wildfires in the Western US. ...
Image of a wildfire at night.

Enlarge (credit: Kevin Key / Getty Images)

This summer, the Western United States saw a truly devastating wildfire season. Across the country, more than 48,000 wildfires raged, damaging more than six million hectares of land. It would be nice to think that humans weren’t the primary cause of these events and that natural changes in weather patterns contributed to how dry and fire-prone parts of the world have become.

But the reality isn’t so nice. Climate change is likely the cause of the wildfires, according to new research that aimed to quantify just how much blame we can lay at the feet of natural causes when it comes to the increasing rates of wildfires in the US’s West. “We want to know how much this increase in fire weather is just changing weather patterns and how much cannot be explained by changing weather patterns,” Rong Fu, one of the paper’s authors and a professor at UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, told Ars.

The research began around a year ago. Fu and some of her colleagues live in California and were all impacted by the wildfires, so they wanted to investigate what is causing them.

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