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A firefighter hosing flames during the Creek fire in Madera County, California, in September 2020. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

More than 57,ooo wildfires have torched roughly 10,357,000 acres — around 16,000 square miles — in the United States to date this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Why it matters: 2020 was one of the most active fire seasons on record in terms of total number of fires and acres burned, coinciding with drought conditions driven increasingly by climate change across much of the Western U.S., and one of the hottest years on record.

By the numbers: In the last decade, 2010 was the least active season with 3.4 million acres burned and 2015 was the most active with 9.9 million acres.

  • As of Dec. 21, the country has spent approximately $3.6 billion on suppressing large fires, according to NIFC. Wildfires also destroyed roughly 18,000 structures this year.

The big picture: California accounted for approximately 3.9 million acres alone, the most land burned by wildfires in the state in a year.

Of note: Wildfires in American West may already be altering the future of forests there, Axios' Alison Snyder reports.

  • Scientists are attempting to determine how forests are responding to severe fire and whether they can regrow or be rebuilt to withstand future fires.

Go deeper: The American West needs more aggressive prescribed burning

Go deeper

Dec 2, 2020 - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.