Scientists have been worried for years that the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone will explode, but there’s a more immediate concern about the health of that beautiful national park: Fire. Climate is changing fire patterns in the west in a way that could increase the frequency of large fires in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to a point that sparks dramatic shifts in the vegetation there.

It turns out these fires are a regular part of nature–they’re just inconvenient now that the land has become a National Park. And climate change is likely to make them worse than ever. Researcher Monica Turner says, "Large, severe fires are normal for this ecosystem. It has burned this way about every few hundred years for thousands of years. But if the current relationship between climate and large fires holds true, a warming climate will drive more frequent large fires in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the future."

Fires larger than 500 acres will likely be an annual occurrence by 2050, with the time span over which the entire landscape burns reduced from a historic range of 100 to 300 years to less than 30 years. Will Yellowstone become a blackened wasteland that no one will want to pitch a tent in? Alas, that’s the prediction. (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show). The Master of the Key said it would happen and it looks like it is. 

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