About 2.5 Million Acres in Alaska Have Burned. The State's Wildfire Seasons Are Getting Worse, Experts Say
The fire season in Alaska has been starting earlier and ending later in the year, lengthening the fire season. High temperatures and dry vegetation have increased the amount of fires occurring every fire season and have also increased the amount of time that fires are ablaze. Climate change is likely a factor in the increased frequency of wildfires, and the smoke released from them puts more carbon into the atmosphere and exacerbates this warming. Major fire years (in which more than a million acres burn) are nothing new in Alaska, however the current frequency of major fire years is increasing. A warmer and moister climate may also generate more lightning strikes, a huge cause of wildfires. With the increase of climate warming comes more wildfires which emits more carbon into the atmosphere contributing to additional warming, creating a vicious feedback loop. In an interview with TIME, Alaska CASC University Director Scott Rupp and Alaska CASC-funded researcher Peter Bieniek provide input on how climate change is impacting wildfires in Alaska. "Alaska is warming at about 2.5 times the rate of the lower 48 states," Rupp says.