The new ancient fire research of SMU fire anthropologist Christopher I. Roos was covered by the international wire service United Press International. In a May 18 entry, UPI reported that Roos found that U.S. megafires in the U.S. Southwest region are unique and exceptional when compared to the past 1,500 years.

Roos and co-author Thomas W. Swetnam, the University of Arizona, constructed and analyzed a statistical model that encompassed 1,500 years of climate and fire patterns to test, in part, whether today’s dry, hot climate alone is causing the megafires that routinely destroy millions of acres of forest.

The researchers found that even when ancient climates varied from each other — one hotter and drier and the other cooler and wetter — the frequencies of year-to-year weather patterns that drive fire activity were similar.

The findings suggest that today’s megafires, at least in the southwestern U.S., are atypical, say Roos and Swetnam. Furthermore, the findings implicate as the cause not only modern climate change, but also human activity over the last century, the researchers said.

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DALLAS, May 16 (UPI) — Today’s mega forest fires in the U.S. Southwest are truly unusual compared to the long-term record and may be the result of human activity, researchers say.

A study that examined hundreds of years of ancient tree ring and fire data from two distinct climate periods suggests today’s dry, hot climate is not the lone cause of the megafires that routinely destroy millions of acres of forest, researchers from Southern Methodist University reported Tuesday.

Human activity over the last century in terms of dealing with fires is at least partly to blame for today’s megafires, they said.

“The United States would not be experiencing massive large-canopy-killing crown fires today if human activities had not begun to suppress the low-severity surface fires that were so common more than a century ago,” said Christopher I. Roos, a professor in the SMU Department of Anthropology.

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