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Sierra Daily

Aug 22, 2011

Hot Enough For You?

This spring's devastating wildfires in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico were fed by precisely the conditions that climate scientists predict for a warming Southwest: drought combined with extreme heat. In South Texas, searing temperatures arrived in June, creating a nightmare scenario in which the winter-spring fire season merged with the late-summer fire season. In Arizona, the Wallow fire burned 840 square miles, making it the largest in the state's history. The map below at left shows the number of days in which temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 1961-1979. The map at right shows the number of scorchers predicted for 2080-2099 in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's "high emissions" climate-change scenario (atmospheric CO2 at 850 parts per million by 2100)—a level we are on track to reach.

--Paul Rauber

Illustration by Peter and Maria Hoey (Source: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009)

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