How Climate Change Impacts Forest Fires

By Chuck Ray | Posted: 01/22/2014 4:24PM


Chuck Ray, PennState, Associate Professor of Wood Operations Wondering why we're having all these huge forest fires out in the western United States in recent years? Has Smokey Bear retired?

Actually, Smokey did his job too well. And in combination with the recent long, warm summers, fires, BIG fires, are the result, as Matt Hurteau, Penn State scientist and director of the Earth Systems Ecology Lab here in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, explains. And the possibility is that these fires could get worse in coming years.

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Which is why I say, let's cut more timber while the cutting is good! Well-managed timber stands are far less likely to be consumed by fire than unharvested, fire-suppressed wilderness. Furthermore, living, working forests are more likely to meet societal needs than fire-ravaged wilderness. And the recurrent regeneration of the harvested forests will help reduce local climatic variation and dampen global climate change as the young saplings soak up all that bad carbon dioxide out there.

Let's make wood.


About the Author

Chuck Ray, PennState, Associate Professor of Wood Operations

Chuck Ray

Dr. Charles D. “Chuck” Ray is Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Pennsylvania State University. His specialty is in the area of operations research, specifically those operational issues that confront the majority of the wood products sector. He previously spent 15 years in research and quality management for two large building products corporations, Temple-Inland Forest Products and Louisiana-Pacific. Ray is the sixth generation of his family to work in the sawmill industry, the Ray Brothers Lumber Company, established in East Texas before the turn of the last century. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @ChuckDRay. He maintains an Extension website for Penn State at and also writes a blog on all wood issues called Go Wood which can be found at

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