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Will global warming produce more frequent and more intense wildfires?

There isn’t a direct relationship between climate change and fire, but researchers have found strong correlations between warm summer temperatures and large fire years, so there is general consensus that fire occurrence will increase with climate change.

Hot, dry conditions, however, do not automatically mean fire—something needs to create the spark and actually start the fire. In some parts of the country (like Alaska), most fires are ignited by lightning. In other regions (like California), most fires are ignited by humans.

Climate models tell us that average summer temperatures will continue to increase through this century, but ignition is the wild card. What will happen in the future is a more complicated story because we don’t understand what will happen with convective storms and the lightning.