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Drought Could Be Due to Global Warming

Drought Could Be Due to Global Warming

Posted - Jul. 2, 2003 at 5:13 p.m.



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John Daley ReportingThe United States is heading into what could be its worst summer ever for wildfires, and a five-year drought in Utah has created extremely dangerous fire conditions.

Now, some scientists who attribute drought and wildfires to global warming are calling for global warming to be brought under control.

Two leading researchers say the underlying problem is global warming. They say it is helping to worsen drought, which increases the risk of fires, which in turn causes serious risks to property and health including the bad air we get when the fire season comes.

Now in its fifth day the Apex Fire in the Beaver Dam Mountains near St. George spread to 28-thousand acres and was only 35 percent contained.

This blaze is the latest in what some researchers call a dangerous trend--extreme fire behavior--caused by global warming.

Dr. Paul Epstein, Harvard Medical School: "Global warming or climate change is associated with more extreme weather. Lands get dried out and that makes forests, no matter their conditions, more vulnerable to fires."

Researchers at the non-profit Civil Society Institute say as wildfire danger grows so will health problems like asthma and respiratory problems linked to fire-caused haze pollution.

Dr. Paul Epstein, Harvard Medical School: "And this problem of fires, haze and respiratory disease is expected to worsen as we continue to warm the globe."

The big problem scientists say is that carbon dioxide is rising in the earth's atmosphere and there is broad scientific consensus that the planet is getting warmer as a result.

William Schlesinger, Duke University: "We are altering the climate of the earth to a point that we've never experienced before in human society. And this has consequences for sea level rise, for the frequency of fire and for drought that could very well impact the occurrence of fire."

A University of Utah researcher says fires are getting more dangerous as more people built homes in the so-called urban/wild land interface.

The latest example was the roaring blaze on Mount Lemmon near Tucson Arizona, which wiped out hundreds of homes nestled into the trees high on the peak.

Tom Cova, Professor of Geography/Univ. of Utah: "It's hard to predict anything except for increased loss of life and property over the long run."

The Washington County Sheriff today said the Apex Fire was sparked by two teenagers playing with matches. He's recommending no criminal charges; he says he's leaving that up to the county attorney.

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