State climatologist: climate change plays role in wildfire increase impacting air quality
Eastern North Carolina’s air quality is being impacted this week by Canadian wildfires; officials there say more than 400 wildfires are currently burning and nearly 240 of them are out of control.
Dr. Kathie Dello is the state climatologist of North Carolina.
She said, “Climate change exacerbates the conditions that lead to wildfire. So, up in Canada, they have had a really dry, warm spring and their vegetation has dried out. So, it was ready to go, and climate change can make this more likely.”
While climate change doesn't directly cause fires, she said it creates the conditions that lead to it.
"To start the fire, we either need lightning or humans,” she said, “So, while climate change doesn't directly cause fires, it creates the conditions that lead to fire.”
Dr. Dello says climate change and dry conditions also contributed to the Great Lakes Fire in the Croatan National Forest.
“We have seen drought conditions on the North Carolina coast for the past couple of years, even though it's been rainy on the weekends, it's been pretty dry overall out that way,” she said.
While there were several bigger rainfall events in eastern North Carolina this spring, Dello said there were also a lot of dry days.
“With the changing climate in North Carolina, we're seeing rainfall come in bigger events but punctuated by longer dry periods,” she explained.
Most of eastern North Carolina is under a Code Yellow alert on Friday, with moderate particulates in the air; Wake County remains under a Code Orange, as do some other central North Carolina counties.