There has been three consecutive years of record breaking fires in California — but they might become the norm in a warming world, researchers say.
The question for scientists now is how to live in an ecosystem that is primed to burn, The New York Times reported.
"I think the perception is that we're supposed to control them. But in a lot of cases we cannot," John Abatzoglou, an associate professor at the University of Idaho, told the Times.
"And that may allow us to think a little bit differently about how we live with fire. We call it wildfire for reason — it's not domesticated fire."
According to the National Climate Assessment, the government report that summarizes effects of a warming climate, fire is a growing problem. Climate change will lead to more wildfires nationwide as hotter temperatures dry out plants, making them easier to ignite.
The Times reported the total area burned in a single year by wildfires in the United States has only exceeded 13,900 square miles — an area larger than the country of Belgium — four times since the middle of last century. All four times happened this decade.
Prescribed burns, or planned fires, are often seen as part of the solution, the Times reported.
Earlier this year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched a mission to learn more about wildfire smoke, the Times reported.
By taking samples during an active fire, scientists hope to understand what is in the smoke, and how the chemical makeup changes over time. The hope is, over the long term, the smoke models will be as sophisticated as weather models, the Times reported.
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