US wildfires - a monster season

Monday 07th Sep 2015 by theWeather Club

An explosion of wildfires has occured accross the west coast of the United States, including Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and California - Washington State is experiencing the largest fire in its history. Many residents have been forced to flee their homes and a number of people have lost their lives. One blaze, the Soda Fire near Nampa in south-west Idaho, burned 265,000 acres, becoming the largest blaze in the nation.

Many fires were sparked by lightning strikes and fuelled by severe drought - now into its 4th year for this part of the US. These are execcebated by strong winds, which are posing problems for fire fighters trying to contain the flames. Indeed, emergency workers from Australia and New Zealand were deployed to the US to assist with the fire fighting. The US Forest Service is currently spending about $100m a week fighting the wildfires.

The elevated risk of wildfires in this part of the world is not unusual in summer due to hot and dry weather, but so far 2015 has seen 43,819 fires which has charred 8,202,557 acres - over two million more than 10-year average.

A NASA analysis of 35 years of meteorological data found that many parts of the West face longer wildfire seasons than they did a few decades ago, likely due to climate change.