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Sierra Daily

Jun 28, 2012

Climate Change Fuels Western Wildfires

Contuslsta_tmo_2012169Take a good look at this satellite image [click to enlarge], courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory. The colors indicate "heat anomalies," ranging from -12 degrees cooler than the 2000-2011 average for this week in June (blue), to +12 degrees warmer (red).The intense heat wave visible over Colorado shows what's fueling the horrific Waldo Canyon fire, which has thus far destroyed hundreds of homes and caused 32,000 people to evacuate. While many media reports of the fire somehow fail to mention the words "climate change," Earth Observatory hits it on the head:

This heat wave, like all extreme weather events, has its direct cause in a complex set of atmospheric conditions that produce short-term weather. However, weather occurs within the broader context of the climate, and there’s a high level of agreement among scientists that global warming has made it more likely that heat waves of this magnitude will occur.

Maybe now that we've sorted out that health-care issue we can get back to addressing this little problem.

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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