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Climate change plays a role in U.S. fires, climate expert says

The wave of devastating forest fires currently sweeping parts of the western United States is, in part, a result of man-made climate change, an expert at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said on Friday, September 18, 2020.

Kirsten Thonicke
Kirsten Thonicke

“Man-made climate change had contributed significantly to an increase in drought-stricken areas and extremely dried-out vegetation in the western U.S.,’’ the institute’s wildfire expert, Kirsten Thonicke, told dpa.

According to Thonicke, small spark and extreme winds were enough to set off ferocious blazes, which can cause considerable damage.

“Through this chain of events, climate change contributes to the fact that forest fires take on such proportions, with these results,’’ she added.

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According to U.S. President Donald Trump’s assessment, it is not climate change but faulty forest management is the main cause of the forest fires.

However, Thonicke pointed out that California is very experienced in setting controlled fires to remove dead wood and litter as well as reduce the effects of subsequent forest fires.

“This was only of limited use in the current extreme situation.

“Extremely high winds in a mountainous area that has been severely dried out by the drought simply have a much stronger effect.

“And these are becoming more frequent and stronger due to climate change, meaning that the fire season lasts longer,’’ Thonicke noted.

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