Harnessing big data and machine learning to forecast wildfires in the Western U.S.

  • Source: PHYS.org
  • Published: 07/11/2019 12:00 AM

The area burned by wildfires each year across the Western United States has increased by more than 300 percent over the past three decades, and much of this increase is due to human-caused warming. Warmer air holds more moisture, and the thirsty air sucks this from plants, trees, and soil, leaving forest vegetation and ground debris drier and easier to ignite. Future climate change, accompanied by warming temperatures and increased aridity, is expected to continue this trend, and will likely exacerbate and intensify wildfires in areas where fuel is abundant. Park Williams, a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory associate research professor and a 2016 Center for Climate and Life Fellow, studies climatology, drought, and wildfires. He has received a $641,000 grant from the Zegar Family Foundation that he'll use to advance understanding of the past and future behavior of wildfires.


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