As large swaths of the West dry out and burn, scientists say climate change is playing an increasing role in the earlier fire seasons, the deadly heat waves and the lack of water.
The record-high temperatures that assaulted the Pacific Northwest in late June and early July, for instance, would have been all but impossible without climate change, according to a team of researchers who studied the deadly heat wave.
Heat, drought and fire are connected, and because human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases have raised baseline temperatures nearly two degrees Fahrenheit on average since 1900, heat waves, including those in the West, are becoming hotter and more frequent.
“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan, recently told The New York Times. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”
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