Speed Reads

lucky break

Scientists predict above-average U.S. wildfire activity for 2020 after sharp drop in 2019

Last year brought the U.S. its lowest amount of wildfire destruction since 2004, but it's likely an anomaly in a period of increasing wildfire threats, according to a new analysis.

Despite climate change contributing to a longer fire season and drier vegetation, 2019 saw just 2.2 million acres burned in the U.S., compared to an average of 8.9 million from 2017 and 2018, E&E News reports.

The decrease trended nationwide, including in California — a welcome lull after 2018's Camp Fire was the deadliest in the country since 1918. Alaska was an exception, reports E&E News, though most wildfires there are in remote areas and do not threaten communities.

The sharp decrease was likely due to heavier rainfall, but it doesn't change the long-term patterns.

"We're already assessing 2020," Jessica Gardetto of the National Interagency Fire Center told E&E News. "So far weather patterns are lining up to culminate in above-average fire activity this year."

Research scientist Brandon Collins of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at the University of California, Berkeley told E&E News that wildfires will see up years and down years. "Sometimes I think it's just luck," he said.