Drought Conditions Heighten Wildfire Risk

A heat wave covering much of the United States continues to bring record temperatures and worsening drought conditions in many areas.

The Capital Weather Gang blog at the Washington Post reports that already during July, some 882 record high temperatures have been tied or set across the U.S., while drought is more extensive than any time since at least 2000.

It cites the U.S. Drought Monitor released last Thursday, showing some 29 percent of the country in drought, and 12 percent of the country in exceptional drought – the largest extent on record (though records only go back to 2000).

A link to a New York Times graphic shows dry/moderate to exceptional drought conditions across the U.S. and over time.

Warmer temperatures and drier conditions raise the potential for wildfire activity. In 2010 catastrophic wildfires caused $210 million in insured losses and $314 million in total economic losses, according to Munich Re.

Aon Benfield’s latest edition of its Monthly Cat Recap report, wildfires in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida erupted in the U.S. in June which led to two fatalities. In Texas, a large fire destroyed significant amounts of timber which could cost the state $500 million in lost productivity, it says.

The National Interagency Fire Center has the latest fire outlook for July through October.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on wildfires.

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