Without the North American Monsoon, Reining in Wildfires Gets Harder

Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Wildfires in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson June through July 2020. Photo courtesy: Chris Richards

New research shows that while winter rains can temper the beginning of the wildfire season, monsoon rains are what shut them down. This monsoon season was the second-driest on record, leaving Southern Arizona dry and vulnerable.

The North American monsoon has dictated the length of wildfire season for centuries in the U.S.-Mexico border region, according to new University of Arizona research that can inform land management amid global climate change. 

But this year was anything but normal. The 2020 monsoon season was the second-driest on record, and many high-profile wildfires swept across the Sonoran Desert and surrounding sky islands. Putting an end to severe fires may only become harder as climate change makes monsoon storms less frequent and more extreme, say the authors of a new study published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire.

The U.S. may be able to learn from Mexico's wildfire management strategy, the researchers say.

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Rosemary Brandt
Media Relations Manager, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences
520-358-9729