Satellite photos have revealed severe damages caused by the record wildfire season this year in the US states of California and Colorado, a new study said, adding that the “high severity” infernos might create bleak, barren landscapes in the future.
“As more area burns at high severity, the likelihood of conversion to different forest types or even to non-forest increases,” Xinhua news agency quoted the author of the study, Sean Parks, a research ecologist with the US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS).
In the study “Warmer and Drier Fire Seasons Contribute to Increases in Area Burned at High Severity in Western US Forests From 1985-2017”, which was published on the RMRS’s website, researchers tried to draw correlations between heat and fire intensity with potential forest regrowth.
Using satellite imagery, the study has received international attention, as the duo analyzed “high severity” burn areas over a 35-year period in America’s West for the first time.
Those fires are more likely to significantly impact forest ecosystems, human safety and infrastructure, said Parks.
The 2020 fire season is finally winding down as snow has blanketed Colorado and cooler temperatures in California, however, data shows that the damage has already been done.
According to the latest data updated by the National Geographic Area Coordination Center on Thursday, nearly 14 million acres have burned across the United States, twice the 10-year average and the most acres burned since reliable record-keeping began in 1983.
In addition, five of the six largest fires in California history and three of the four largest in Colorado history were reported this year.
Six weeks ago, Colorado’s Cameron Peak fire, engulfed over 200,000 acres, becoming the largest wildlife in the state’s history.
The previous largest wildfire in Colorado also occurred this summer near the Utah border, which engulfed 139,000 acres.
Meanwhile, California has also seen worse devastation, with 4,359,517 acres scorched by a staggering 9,485 fires, with 10,488 structures destroyed or damaged and at least 31 fatalities.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 2020 was the largest wildfire season recorded in the state’s history.
As a result of the more severe fires in recent years, a 2019 study found that up to 15 per cent of inter-mountain forests in the western US were at risk of disappearing.
In drier regions, like the deserts of the southwestern states, that number increases to 30 per cent because fires tend to burn there under even more extreme weather.