Smokey Bear fire danger signs will read “high” to “extreme” 22 to 30 days a summer, instead of the current 15, by 2040. Last week, scientists in Missoula, Montana held workshops to address changing conditions in forests.
For the past 2 1/2 years, team members have been poring over a century’s worth of data – forest fire records, snow-depth logs, dates of first and last frosts, spring runoff peaks, plant inventories and wildlife surveys. They’ve looked for patterns that repeat over the years or decades, and conditions that help some things and hurt others.
“We’re trying to explain that these things are already with us,” said Penny Morgan, a fire ecologist with the University of Idaho who led the Northern Rockies research team at the workshop. “This is a chance to communicate how does it play out in the Bitterroot Valley or around Missoula? We’re trying to show people what’s vulnerable to change.”