Researchers found that a non-native species of grass in the Great Basin fueled some of the largest U.S. wildfires in the West.
A research team that included members from the Pennsylvania State University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of California-Santa Barbara and University College London studied satellite imagery over a period of 10 years to learn how cheatgrass has changed the fire activity across the Great Basin, according to live.psu.edu.
The team found that the grass influenced 39 of the 50 largest wildfires during the last decade. Cheatgrass can spread rapidly and fill in the ground between other plant species. As a result, areas where cheatgrass fires have occurred have a shorter fire-return interval (the time between fires in a region) than other native plant species.
Cheatgrass was accidentally introduced to the area by settlers to the West during the 1800s. The grass grows during the wet seasons and is very dense. Currently, the grass is covering an area larger than 40,000 square kilometers (more than 24,000 square miles), an area more than 100 times the size of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The average size of fires involving cheatgrass grasslands in the Great Basin area was significantly larger than fires in areas that were dominated with other plants such as pinyon-juniper, montane shrubland or agricultural land.
Cheatgrass fires over the last decade have affected parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, California and Oregon.
The researchers are looking at possible solutions to the cheatgrass problem, including using a fungus to attack the grass seed, the BBC reports.
Episodes of snow and slippery travel are forecast prior to the departure of arctic air this weekend around Detroit.
Episodes of snow and slippery travel are forecast prior to the departure of arctic air this weekend around Cleveland.
Dense fog encompassed the city of London Wednesday morning, delaying flights and halting the morning commute.
Yet another blast of Arctic air will roll southeastward this week over the Midwest and will reach the Northeast.
After a severe ice storm knocked out power for thousands last weekend, the weather ahead is looking brighter for the city.
Episodes of snow and slippery travel are forecast prior to the departure of arctic air this weekend around Pittsburgh.
The West (1995)
Monster storm slams into coast. Winds gusted to nearly 120 mph at Sea Lion Caves, OR. 80 mph winds at San Francisco, CA. 12.25" of rain fell in Marin, CA. 1.5 million people in the Bay area without power.
First of three large snowstorms that winter. Over a foot of snow from mid-Atlantic states into New England: Nantucket Island 15.7" Philadelphia, PA 14.6" Baltimore, MD 14.1" Avoca, PA 11.1" Newark, NJ 20.4" Central Park, NY 19.6" Boston, MA 18"
Second severe storm in 10 days hit settlers.