Just a few decades ago, the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming routinely saw no big wildfires in a given year.
However, due to global warming, there will be a big wildfire virtually every single year by 2050 and the area burned will be nearly 400 square miles. By 2075, the area burned is expected to exceed 1,200 square miles. (The entire Yellowstone park spans just under 3,500 square miles.)
All these claims are from projections of study led by Professor Anthony Westerling of the University of California, Merced. It will appear in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
The scientists in the study used climate data from 1972 to 1999 to and compared it to the occurrence and size of large wildfires in the northern Rocky Mountains. They then combined that information with the projected temperature increase at Yellowstone to come up with their wildfire projections.
The impact of the increasing occurrence of wildfires will be significant, according to the scientists.
It's expected to eliminate entire populations of trees and open up more woodland, grass, and shrub vegetation. The average age of the trees will be younger and certain species will disappear altogether (due to both the fires and rising temperatures).
The entire ecosystem, including animal life, is also expected to change dramatically.
While environmentalists are alarmed at studies like these, critics of global warming point to the ability of nature to adapt to changes.
Indeed, throughout the earth's history, the climate has swung to many extremes. Yet each time, nature has adapted and life on earth has thrived. Such changes always lead to the extinction of many species but give rise to the emergence of many new ones.