Experts link forest fire severity to climate change

Experts link forest fire severity to climate change »Play Video
Flames burn alongside a home near Wenatchee on Sunday, September 9, 2012.
CLE ELUM, Wash. -- Experts are linking the severity of our state's recent forest fires to climate change. Top scientists are now certain climate change is warming the average temperatures 1.8 degrees over 100 years making normal droughts more severe, which leads to more fires.

"It is making a difference," said forest climate expert Ernesto Alvarado.

He says over time, small change matters.

"Sustained over long term, it can produce more fires, makes things drier on the ground in the forest," Alvarado said.

And fires are bigger, too. So far this year, U.S. fires are the biggest on record.

The Table Mountain fire near Cle Elum destroyed dozens of homes. Rancher Chane Roghair saved his.

"We'll, I think God had a part in that," he said.

People around here aren't so sure about global warming. They cite, as do scientists, the lack of logging and a century of putting out fires creates more stuff to burn.

"So I personally think that's a bigger factor," Roghair said.

The computer models project the rate of climate change is getting worse. Much worse. That average temperature is expected to warm three times faster in the next few decades. Scientists also say changing climate is also making the fire season a bit longer each year.