Wildfire Season of 2022: A Look at the Numbers
Every year, it seems that wildfire season is getting longer and more intense. This was certainly true in 2022, when the number of reported wildfires nationwide skyrocketed compared to 2021. While the total acres burned across the nation didn’t change dramatically, there were significant increases in certain Geographic Areas. So what does this all mean for us? Let’s take a closer look at the data from this past wildfire season to get a better understanding of what happened and why.
The Numbers Tell a Story
Nationally, 68,988 wildfires were reported in 2022, compared to 58,985 wildfires reported in 2021. Reported wildfires consumed 7,577,183 acres nationally, compared to 7,125,643 acres in 2021. Of the 68,988 wildfires, 7,467 were caused by lightning as compared to 6,344 in 2021. While these numbers are disturbing on their own—they don’t tell the whole story. It’s important to look at changes over time as well as variations among different geographic areas.
When we compare these numbers to 10-year averages (2011-2020), we see that both the number of fires and acres burned are higher than usual nationwide. However, when we break down the data by region, we see some significant differences between regions like Alaska and Southern Areas—two Geographic Areas that often account for large percentages of total acreage burned nationally—and other regions like Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Area which saw decreases in both fires and acres burned compared to their 10-year averages. In particular, Alaska saw an increase of 170% on average acreage burned from their 10-year average!
What Does It All Mean?
So what does all this mean for us? Well first off it means that fire season is getting longer and more intense every year—which is concerning for obvious reasons. But it also means that different areas are affected differently by climate change—so it’s important to not just look at national statistics but also regional ones when trying to understand how wildfires affect each area differently. Finally, it means that we need to be prepared for future wildfire seasons and take steps now to ensure that our communities stay safe during future fire seasons!
Wildfires can have devastating consequences on our ecosystems and communities alike—which is why it's so important to keep track of changes over time so we can better prepare ourselves for future fire seasons. The data shows us that the number of reported wildfires nationwide has increased significantly since 2021 while total acres burned has varied little from its 10-year average; however there was considerable variation among Geographic Areas with some regions seeing an increase while others saw a decrease in fires or acreage burned. By paying attention to regional data as well as national data, we can be better prepared for future fire seasons and help protect our communities from harm's way!