Wildfire smoke is changing the quality of life in the west

It’s the same every day in summer. I fire up the laptop. I check the surface map. I scan the Doppler.

Then I pull up NOAA’s Hazard Mapping System Fire and Smoke Product. And most days over the past two summers it looks something like this. A massive smoke plume covering most of the U.S. from dozens of western wildfires.

NOAA

Smoked in

We know about being snowed in here in Minnesota. But imagine being forced to keep your kids inside to play for much of the summer because the smoke-filled air in your backyard is dangerous to breathe.  This Guardian piece by Emma Marris hits home for many across the west.

Health impacts

Wildfire smoke is not just a nuisance. The components of wildfire smoke pose serious health impacts.

Climate change connection 

Climate scientists like Michael Mann see clear connections between a hotter drier climate and increased wildfires.

Science continues to find increased links between climate change and wildfire activity.

Changing landscapes 

If you have traveled to the west or Alaska, you have probably seen the stark landscape changes brought on by increased wildfire activity in the past few decades.

Other factors?

Increased development in fire-prone areas in the west certainly put more people and homes in harm’s way. Aggressive forest management practices have created high fuel levels in some areas. But you can’t replicate the levels of fire activity and damages without one critical factor. A hotter and drier climate that favors extreme fire behavior.