Quietest in Decades in Mainland U.S., While Canada Faces Unprecedented Destruction
Wildfire Contrasts: U.S. Witnesses Quietest Season, Canada Faces Record Destruction in 2023
According to source, the 2023 wildfire season in the mainland U.S. has been notably quiet, witnessing only 2.5 million acres burned, the fewest since 1998. The wet winter in California and cool temperatures in Western states, including California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, have significantly influenced the tranquility of the 2023 wildfire season by keeping fuel flammability and fire spread potential low. In contrast, Canada experienced its worst wildfire season on record, with 45.7 million acres burned, highlighting the severity of conditions, including dry and hot weather, lightning storms, and early-season warmth and dryness.
The catastrophic wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, in August marked the most memorable event of the 2023 wildfire season, claiming at least 99 lives. Factors contributing to the devastation during the 2023 wildfire season included an abundance of flammable grasses, a flash drought in May, and downslope winds from Hurricane Dora in August.
Looking ahead, the severity of the next 2023 wildfire season will depend on winter precipitation, snowpack, and spring and summer temperatures, with a large snowpack and cool temperatures expected to dampen fuel flammability.
2023 Wildfire Season: Lower Acreage, But Climate Change Fuels Long-Term Risk
The variability in annual acres burned in California and the Western U.S. can fluctuate widely, with this 2023 wildfire season’s total of 319,000 acres being significantly lower than 2020’s 4 million acres.
However, over the long term, there is a significant upward trend in annual areas burned during the 2023 wildfire season, attributed to higher temperatures and drier air caused by increasing greenhouse gasses from human activities. This underscores the impact of climate change on wildfire risk during the 2023 wildfire season, even if individual seasons exhibit variability.