Scientists say the outlook for this year’s fire season in the Western United States is grim because it’s starting far drier than last year’s record-breaking season.
Measurements show soil and plants are much drier than a year ago, making trees and brush more likely to ignite and fire to spread.
A megadrought fueled by climate change is part of the problem. From the Rockies westward, 2021 had the second-driest April on record with more than 77% of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico now in either extreme or exceptional drought.
Juniper trees are dying in those areas, and fire officials say their canopies of dead needles are like having gasoline out in the national forests.