Forests: Study says spruce beetle not a big factor in recent southwest Colorado wildfires


A major spruce beetle outbreak has been spreading across forests of southwest Colorado, but that hasn’t been a big factor in recent wildfires in the region, according to CU-Boulder research.

Climate, topography likely more significant, researchers say

Staff Report

Colorado researchers have added another chapter to the long-running debate over beetle-kill and wildfires, finding that spruce beetle infestations haven’t increased the severity of wildfires in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce bark beetles have affected roughly half a million acres of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forests across the state in recent years, with infestations documented across an additional 87,000 acres in 2014. Continue reading

Study shows nuances in Coloradans beliefs about wildfires and climate change

Focusing on local threats, not climate change, may be the best way to spur wildfire mitigation actions

Wallow-fire-USFS-Ap-sit-NF-inferno-5812328293_6d2fe9b6cc_b_0 (1)

Colorado residents believe that climate change affects the risk of wildfires, but those beliefs don’t necessarily affect their actions when it comes to wildfire mitigation. Photo via U.S. Forest Service.


Wildfires are getting bigger in Colorado.

Staff Report

Whether or not people are convinced that human activities are changing the climate doesn’t play a big role in their decisions about trying to reduce wildfire risks around their property, Colorado-based researchers wrote in a new paper that focused on the Colorado Front Range.

The researchers tried to take a close look at social factors that might motivate people to try and lessen wildfire threats. They found that a “belief” in human-caused climate change is not as significant as previously thought. Continue reading

Warmer climate means more fires — any questions?


More wildfires ahead as world warms up. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Study ties ancient wildfire surge in the Rockies to warmer climate phase

Staff Report

Offering yet more evidence that the West’s recent spate of megafires is linked with a warming climate, University of Wyoming researchers showed that a warm spell about 1,000 years ago also spurred more blazes. The study suggests that large fires will continue to increase as a result of a warming climate.

“What our research shows is that even modest regional warming trends, like we are currently experiencing, can cause exceptionally large areas in the Rockies to be burned by wildfires,” says John Calder, a Ph.D. candidate in UW’s Program in Ecology and the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Continue reading

Will Congress act on wildfire funding?

Budget ‘borrowing’ reaches $700 million as political gridlock prevents meaningful budget reform


A wildfire in Yellowstone National Park. Photo via National Park Service.

Staff Report

With wildfires still raging across the West, the U.S. Forest Service has already used up its firefighting budget for the year. This week, the agency notified Congress that another $250 million will be needed to cover the spiraling costs.

Subsequently, top cabinet officials sent a formal letter asking Congress to change the way the nation pays for firefighting so that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management can invest in forest and rangeland restoration, and make lands less vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire.

Continue reading

Forest Service maps development boom in fire-prone exurbs

Budgets aren’t keeping up with wildfire risks


Red zone development boom eats up firefighting budgets.

Staff Report

Sprawling exurban development across the U.S. has put more homes than ever at risk of catastrophic wildfires, according to a new U.S. Forest Service report that maps recent expansion of the so-called wildland-urban interface.

The incredible spurt in home building in that fire-prone zone has  direct implications for the cost of wildfire fighting. Increasing densities of people and infrastructure in the WUI makes wildfire management more complex and requires more firefighting assets to ensure an appropriate, safe and effective response, Forest Service officials said as they released new report. Continue reading

Rocky Mountain National Park warns of late season fire danger

Big Meadows fire Rocky Mountain National Park Arial view

The 2013 Big Meadows fire in Rocky Mountain National Park scorched more than 600 acres. Photo courtesy RMNP.

Drying grasses and shrubs up fire danger in parts of Colorado

Staff Report

FRISCO — Summer may be winding down, but the wildfire season is not over yet. In the past ten days, fire managers and park rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park have responded to four illegal, escaped campfires.

All four were quickly extinguished, each burning less than 0.25 acres, but park managers say they all had the potential to spread quickly and threaten lives and property. Continue reading

NASA to take big-picture look at Arctic climate change

Space-based data to help reveal ecosystem changes

Satellites have long been tracking sea ice loss in the Canadian Arctic, and new climate models suggest that glaciers in the region are also declining rapidly. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information.

Satellites have long been tracking sea ice loss in the Canadian Arctic, and new climate models suggest that glaciers in the region are also declining rapidly. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With more and more studies showing big climate-change impacts to Arctic and subarctic ecosystems, NASA is launching a research project to try and understand the bigger picture.

Some recent studies have shown how boreal forests are shifting quickly as temperatures in the high latitudes soar faster than than the rest of the planet. Biologists are trying to project how global warming will affect wildlife in the region, while another study projects that the “green-up” of the Arctic will amplify global warming.

NASA’s 10-year Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) will bring together on-the-ground research in Alaska and northwestern Canada with data collected by NASA airborne instruments, satellites and other agency programs, including SMAP, OCO-2, and upcoming ICESat-2 and NISAR missions. Continue reading


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