This summer, huge wildfires burned across the U.S., especially in dry western states. Though there were fewer fires than usual, they were uncommonly large. Fire scientists say these "mega fires" are becoming the new normal, and climate change that dries out these regions is making the situation worse. They're not sure these fires can be stopped, and the forests of the American Southwest may soon be lost.
In a five-part series on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR's Christopher Joyce reports on the vast changes that are turning the American Southwest into a tinder box. Series highlights:
- A Century of No Fires - Morning Edition; Thursday, August 23 - For centuries, the Southwestern Ponderosa pine forests burned every few years. It was a natural process for the most part, and it kept the ecosystem stable. Suddenly, the fires stopped -- for the past 100 years. But now that legacy has come back to haunt the Southwest, as mega fires beyond imagination are wiping out those forests and changing the face of the land. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports.
- The New Normal - All Things Considered; Thursday, August 23 - Fire scientists are calling it "the new normal," as the vast Ponderosa pine forests of the Southwest are going up in smoke. These "mega fires" were once rare; now they are becoming commonplace. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports.
- Climate, Drought and Fire - Morning Edition; Friday, August 24 - Climate scientists are leery of attributing any single event to climate change. But the pattern of heat waves and drought in the Southwestern U.S. leaves them with powerful evidence that climate change is at work, and taking a huge toll. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports.
- Living With Fire - All Things Considered; Friday, August 24 - Mega fires in the Southwest, created by climate change and decades of allowing forests to overgrow, are changing the ecosystem. Scientists and policy makers know they can't stop these fires once they've started, so theyâ€™re trying to figure out how to live with the new normal. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports.
- How A Tree Dies - Weekend Edition; Saturday, August 25 - The punishing and prolonged droughts of the 21st Century in the U.S. and around the world are killing trees. Yet scientists really don't know much about how that happens. They are struggling to understand how a warming climate is involved. Their predictions thus far are grim: if things keep getting warmer, forests could die out, changing the landscape for centuries. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports.
Hear the entire series on NPR's newsmagizines on witf, your home for NPR News and All Things Regional.