Severe drought and record-breaking wildfires this season

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The West is experiencing the worst drought on record — which means more water restrictions and more wildfires.

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest report shows that 76% of the western United States is in the middle of a severe drought, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: As forests dry up, they become vulnerable to fires. Prescribed burns usually help take care of the problem, but this year, a burn went out of control, igniting more than 300,000 acres and making it the biggest fire in New Mexico’s history, the report stated.

What experts predict: “From a fire perspective, the dice are now loaded for another big fire year in 2022,” said Park Williams, an associate professor in geography at the University of California, according to a recent NPR report. “It’s likely that 2022 is going to go down as another year that reminds us that fire is inevitable.”

  • “There are too many trees and it’s too warm and things are drying out and we’re getting a lot of fire.”

Details: Wildfires are currently burning in 18 states, with the most dire situations in New Mexico, where five fires have burned more than 700,000 acres, and Texas, where one fire has burned more than 400,000 acres.

Worth note: While the U.S. Forest Service halted prescribed burns nationwide after the incident in New Mexico, James Biggs, who teaches wildfire ecology and fire behavior at New Mexico Highlands University, said that the record-breaking wildfires in the West should be an indication to increase the program, according to NPR.

  • “There are thousands of prescribed burns in the West every year, and they’re done to improve these conditions in the forest in an attempt to reduce the threat of these large, catastrophic events,” Biggs said.
  • “And if we don’t do this, then we’re going to see this pattern (of catastrophic fire) repeat itself over and over,” he added.

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