In a new EOS Opinion Article, MAPP Drought Task Force leaders Rong Fu, Andrew Hoell, Justin Mankin, and Isla Simpson, working with NIDIS staff member Amanda Sheffield describe the disastrous impacts droughts, heat waves, and fires have in the United States and world, and new MAPP- and NIDIS-funded research that’s tackling the challenges of a drier, hotter, more fire-prone future.

With wildfires in the western United States burning nearly 3.56 million hectares (8.8 million acres) in 2020, or about 75% more area than expected in an average year, it’s important to know how droughts, wildfires, and heat waves interact. How do they shape each other’s likelihoods, magnitudes, and impacts?

Research shows that simultaneous droughts and heat waves can substantially increase fire risk and the scale of burned areas. However, the degree of their impacts varies between different fire regimes and histories. What’s less clear is how largely-burned landscapes will shape atmospheric conditions favorable to droughts and extreme heat in coming years.

Researchers note that with La Niña and warm North Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies lasting into early 2021, drought-favorable conditions are likely to persist over much of the western United States. This raises the question, “Will drought or extreme heat be established more quickly and intensely in newly burned regions or cause fire-favorable weather elsewhere?”

Read more at the link below.