The Cameron Peak fire, a few miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, has engulfed over 200,000 acres and it’s still growing. It has now become the biggest wildlife in Colorado history.
What’s more astounding is that the Cameron Peak fire is the second fire in 2020 to hold the title of largest wildfire in Colorado history. The Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction briefly held that title, but for only 7 weeks, having burned 139,000 acres in late summer.
Looking at this in a vacuum, you might think of it as mere coincidence. But zooming out, you need only look two states away in California to find evidence of more unprecedented fires. Six of the 7 largest wildfires in California history have, and , became the state’s first ever gigafire — meaning it burned over 1 million acres, scorching more acreage than the state of Rhode Island.
This year Mother Nature has supplied us withto prove what climate scientists have been warning about for decades. The scorched-earth impacts of have arrived.
In a letter the editor published in the journal Global Change Biology, two of the world’s foremost experts on wildfires conclude that the “[r]ecord-setting climate enabled the extraordinary 2020 fire season in the western United States.”
“Our 2020 wildfire season is showing us that climate change is here and now in Colorado. Warming is setting the stage for a lot of burning across an extended fire season,” says Dr. Jennifer Balch, professor of fire ecology and director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.
According to Balch, Colorado in the 2010s saw a tripling of average burned area in the month of October, compared to the prior three decades of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. “We do see fall fire events in Colorado, related to fast, downslope winds. But to see multiple events start this late, in the middle of October, is very, very rare.”
Perhaps it’s rare, but as of Monday 10 notable fires are burning across the state. The Cameron Peak fire’s eastern extent is just 5 miles from Fort Collins and Loveland.
Two of the most concerning new fires are burning in Boulder County and forcing evacuations. The CalWood fire — the largest fire ever in Boulder County — and the Lefthand fire have both exhibited extreme fire behavior, shocking even seasoned climate scientists.
“Even as a scientist studying extreme weather & wildfire in a warming climate, I was shocked by how fast #CalwoodFire roared down