Last week, we had the opportunity to visit the site of Glacier’s infamous 2003 Robert wildfire. The impacted site stretched across the entire western shore of Lake McDonald and covered more than 57,000 acres.
The Robert fire was just one of many in a historically bad wildfire season that ended up burning through 13% of Glacier National Park’s total acreage. The fires began during an unusually dry and warm period of summer weather.
Wildfires are an important part of Glacier’s ecosystem, and they contribute to the area’s rich biodiversity. However, scientists are warning that climate change may be causing too much of a good thing.
The Union of Concerned Scientists predict that the annual burn area around Glacier will double with an additional 1.8°F rise in global temperature that is likely to occur before 2050. Other parts of the state fare even worse: Yellowstone’s ecosystem is predicted to experience a shocking 650% increase in burn areas during the same time frame.
Glacier’s 2003 fire season was dangerous and costly. Unfortunately, seasons like that may become the new normal.