By Alyson Kenward
(The full version of this Op-Ed is on LATimes.com)
Over the summer and on into the fall, images of flames, smoke plumes, firefighting teams and ruined homes have been on replay, and with good reason: As of Aug. 31, this year tied the record for total acreage burned by wildfires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. More than 8.4 million acres have burned to date — an area larger than the state of Maryland up in flames.
But as intense as the wildfires have been this year, they provide just a glimpse of the future of the American West.
In a new study, my colleagues and I analyzed more than four decades of fire data from the U.S. Forest Service. We found a clear long-term trend toward more and larger fires in 11 Western states.