The 4.7 million acres that have burned in the U.S. so far this year is more than double the 10-year average of 2.3 million acres, according to the Interagency Fire Center. Both Arizona and New Mexico have seen their largest fires in recorded history, and Texas has seen the most acreage burned in recorded history. The Christian Science Monitor today quoted Grant Meyer, a geologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who studies the interaction of climate and weathering processes, as saying: "these big, severe fires are not unprecedented" in hot, dry intervals the region has experienced during the past 10,000 years. "But recent experience down here suggests that what we're looking at in the last few decades is at least as severe and maybe more so than anything we've seen since the last Ice Age." A build-up of fuels from forestry practices that emphasized fire suppression is partly responsible, he said, "but part of it as well--and the data are very good on this --it's climatic warming", as human industrial activity and land-use changes have pumped increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A long-term average decline in annual snow pack, which provides the bulk of the region's water, along with rising average temperatures have lengthened the fire season and dried out the fuel.
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