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Local officials point to climate change playing major role in wildfires

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 10:20 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - With larger and fiercer wildfires popping around the globe, including the Western United States, the debate resumes on the topic of climate change.

South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist Darren Clabo says that climate change can directly impact wildfires in a few ways, the first being rising temperatures.

If the temperatures get warmer with no corresponding increase in precipitation, it dries out the fuels in the forests, which he says is what we’re seeing across the United States right now.

The immediate flames aren’t the only problem, the smoke from the fire also causes problems for people’s health, and Clabo says we’ll be seeing long term effects from massive wildfires.

“I think the long-term effects of all these fires are there’s going to be some places that have fundamental ecological shifts,” says Clabo. “Which basically means that the ecosystems that are there currently aren’t going to exist in those areas anymore, our climates shifted too far away from where those ecosystems can naturally exist and so I think we are going to start seeing some very large broad landscape-level changes out there.”

One problem Clabo says South Dakota has seen is a rise in overnight temperatures, which can have wide-ranging impacts affecting agriculture.

Copyright 2020 KOTA. All rights reserved.

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