A new study confirms what many wildflire managers have already feared: Climate change is to blame for worsening fires that have increased at a rate of seven fires a year between 1984 and 2011.
The new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, studied fires greater than 1,000 acres in 17 Western U.S. states.
And the authors concluded that man-made climate change was definitely a factor.
"We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, but in each case it was less than 1 percent," wrote lead author Philip Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah.
The total area damaged by wildfires increased by a rate of nearly 90,000 additional acres per year between 1984 and 2001.
The researchers found that most areas that saw increases in fire activity also experienced increases in drought severity during the same time period.