Fires in Colorado

On June 26, 2012, lightning sparked the Flagstaff Fire above the NOAA building in Boulder, CO. The timelapse video below was taken by Dustin Henderlon shows the view from Boulder from 3 pm, June 26 to 10 am June 28th.

The fires in Colorado and elsewhere in the US have people asking what is causing this and is this more extreme than usual?

A good discussion on some of the factors leading to the large loss of property and 3 lives is here:

Red Zone: Colorado’s Growing Wildfire Danger

How does this compare to the historical record

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, through July 3, the acreage burned and number of fires are

  • Acreage - 2,199,484
  • Number - 28,420

This compares to the average over the period available 2003-2012

  • Acreage - 2,461,795
  • Number - 39,502

So far this year, the U.S is slightly below average for acreage and considerably below average for number of fires. To compare with a relatively bad year over this short period, 2006 had

  • Acreage - 3,779,450
  • Number - 57,609

In this 10-year record, on a most-to-least scale, so far 2012 ranks fourth out of ten for acres burned and ninth out of ten for number of fires. So while CO has experience severe fire loss, the US fire season as a whole has not been exceptional to date.

A recent web chat was held between weather and climate experts and communicators (including Marty Hoerling from NOAA/ESRL/PSD) on the fires and other extreme events of June. The video below provides more information on the possible causes of these events:

Other links of interest

Politics of Fire and Ice by Chris Mooney

Andy Revkin's Dot Earth blog