NCAR Fire and Climate Change

Dr. Daniel Swain of NCAR and UCLA said climate change is complex and ongoing urban wildfires often have multiple contributing factors.

BOULDER, Colo. – Another fire in Boulder County is fueling questions and discussions about the impact climate change may have on urban wildfires, especially as the latest wildfire, the NCAR Fire, does not occur until about three months after the Marshall fire.

On Monday, the NCAR fire was 68% contained. Direct firefighting kept the fire away from homes, despite being within 500 feet of them.

RELATED: Boulder County NCAR Fire Now 68% Contained

Incident commander Brian Oliver said the flames were seen weaving around the snow and finding a path through drier grass.

Climatologist Dr Daniel Swain, who works with UCLA and NCAR, said the dry grass was not influenced by the region’s recent snowfall and precipitation, which broke records for the start of the month. year.

Plants and vegetation can only absorb moisture so quickly, so they have been responding to the state’s drought conditions since last fall and summer. Most of the vegetation does not react immediately to recent weather conditions which have provided more precipitation.

RELATED: Even With Record Snowfalls, Wildfires Can Still Spread

Swain said that because the state has been in a drought for most of the past year, grass and vegetation provide better fuel for a fire. This means that there really isn’t a “fire season” anymore.

“In the West, there really isn’t a separate fire season anymore. We can see fires all through the winter,” Swain said.

Winter is also the season with the most extreme winds, which makes arid conditions more complex.

“We were lucky that this fire happened at a time when, although it was windy, the winds were pushing the fire mostly away from homes. The outcome could have been very different,” Swain said. .

RELATED: Families return home after NCAR fire evacuations lift

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Teresa H. Sadler