This week, a group of scientists released a comprehensive report on climate change, titled the National Climate Assessment. One of its authors is a Texas professor, who, looking at wildfires in Texas, points to the past to predict the future.
The report from the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program predicts “record-setting temperatures in Texas.” It concludes: QUOTE “climate change is exacerbating the major factors that lead to wildfire – heat, drought, and dead trees.” Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a professor at Texas Tech, is one of the lead authors.
“So in terms of wildfires, we know that when you have very hot, very dry, and very windy conditions, those fires can spread and that’s when we get the big blazes like we did back in 2011.”
In 2011, more than 31,000 wildfires in Texas scorched about 4 million acres. Most notable were the Rockhouse Fire, near Marfa, in the Spring — and the Bastrop Fire, near Austin, in the Fall. By Texas standards, the Rockhouse Fire is considered one of the largest geographically, and the Bastrop Fire, one of the most catastrophic.
“Now that summer, the summer of 2011, when we had all those massive wildfires all across the state of Texas, that is the type of summer we expect to be typical of our region, within 20 to 30 years, if we continue our current pathway in terms of all the carbon dioxide we are dumping into the atmosphere.”
Dr. Hayhoe explains that, just before this drought began, there was a record wet year in Texas. And the pattern for the future is exactly this: more extreme weather cycles.
“Now living here in Texas, we know that we’ve had droughts as far back as you can go in the record. What’s happening is, climate change is interacting with and exacerbating these natural cycles of drought and flood, making them worse. And so in the future, what we’re seeing is a picture, a very stark picture of feast or famine.”
You can hear the full KRTS News interview with Katharine Hayhoe in our Talk At Ten archives.