Jul 13, 2023 - News

Wildfire weather has increased in Austin since the '70s

Fire weather days in the Austin area
Reproduced from Climate Central; Chart: Axios Visuals

The latest heat wave slamming the state isn't just dangerous for our health — it raises the risk of wildfires.

Driving the news: Fire weather days in Austin increased by 2.4 days annually on average between 1973 and 2022, per an analysis from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate science research organization, Axios’ Andrew Freedman and Kavya Beheraj report.

The big picture: The report found that wildfire seasons are getting longer and more intense, especially in the West and Southwest. Parts of the East have also seen increases in fire weather days that put more people at risk.

Why it matters: The trend in fire weather days — featuring a volatile mix of low humidity, strong winds and high temperatures — is tied to human-caused climate change, per Climate Central.

  • This is because climate change is resulting in higher temperatures and drier conditions in many areas, which is leading to more frequent and larger fires.

Zoom in: Southern California, Texas and New Mexico have experienced some of the greatest upticks in fire weather days each year.

  • San Antonio, Houston and Austin all saw increases of 2.4 fire weather days in the nearly 50-year time frame analyzed by Climate Central.
  • Meanwhile, Dallas had an increase of 16.8 days.

What's happening: Austin's heat advisory, which began Sunday, was extended through Thursday evening. Temperatures are expected to reach as high as 107° today, according to national weather forecasters.

  • Hays, Burnet, Blanco and Llano counties all reinstated burn bans this week with no measurable rain expected in the area over the next 14 days.
  • Fire crews responded to a 50-acre wildfire north of San Marcos last weekend.
  • The Texas A&M Forest Service rates most of the state in a moderate wildfire risk, meaning a fire can start from most accidental causes and a fire in an open grassy area will burn and spread quickly on windy days.

What's next: As climate change continues, it is expected that fire weather days will continue to spike, particularly across the West and Southwest.

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