In a June 12 show, The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist M. Sanjayan, who is CBS News science and environmental contributor, discussed the record-breaking megafires burning now in New Mexico and referenced new ancient fire research by Roos. The study by Roos found that U.S. megafires in the U.S. Southwest region are unique and exceptional for 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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