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Rising season temperatures and spring’s increasingly earlier arrival are linked to the increase of large western United States wildfires, says a study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Western U.S. wildfires have garnered attention in recent years due to the severity and span of affected areas, including hundreds of homes burned and damage to natural resources.

According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the study’s researchers analyzed a database of large western wildfires since 1970 and compared it with climate and land-surface data from the region. The new findings, published in a recent issue of Science Express, point to climate change as the primary driver of recent increases in large forest fires. Results indicate that wildfires were four times more prevalent in the mid-1980s when compared to the 1970s and early 1980s. Also in the mid-1980s, the length of the yearly wildfire season (March through August) extended by 78 days, a 64 percent rise when comparing 1970-1986 with 1987-2003.

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