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Washington: Warming and Fires

Climate Central

In this Climate Central-produced video scientists in the state of Washington explain a variety of factors related to overall warming trends that have led to increased forest fires in the state and the resulting impacts on habitats and the state economy.



This is a medium length video in a PBS News wrapper that presents scientific, social and economic impacts of forest fires in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State and focuses on the Tripod Fires of 2006 that burned 180,000 acres.


Dr. Susan Prichard reviews the causes of wildfires in Washington state, including the relationships between warming trends, pine bark beetles and wildfires. It looks specifically at the Tripod fire in 2006 which burned 180,000 acres. Diverse points of view as to the causes are given. Dr. Susan Prichard reviews the causes of wildfires in Washington state including the relationships among warming trends early snowmelt drier conditions infestations of mountain pine and spruce beetles and more frequent wildfires.


Dr. Susan Prichard is interviewed in the video and she presents the scientific basis for concluding connections between climate and the changes in the forest ecosystem is clearly, including the roles of pine bark beetle infestation, warming and drying climate in the region and early snowmelts that together may account for increased fire damage while noting the incompleteness of the research at the time the video was made. The economic impact and local strategies to mitigate both economic and environmental damage are also presented.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Reducing human vulnerability to the impacts of climate change depends not only upon our ability to understand climate science, but also upon our ability to integrate that knowledge into human society. Decisions that involve Earth’s climate must be made with an understanding of the complex inter-connections among the physical and biological components of the Earth system as well as the consequences of such decisions on social, economic, and cultural systems.
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Individual organisms survive within specific ranges of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and sunlight. Organisms exposed to climate conditions outside their normal range must adapt or migrate, or they will perish.
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e on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate
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Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
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Growing evidence shows that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to human-caused global warming. Some changes resulting from human activities have decreased the capacity of the environment to support various species and have substantially reduced ecosystem biodiversity and ecological resilience.
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change. Animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses will migrate to new areas with favorable climate conditions. Infectious diseases and certain species will be able to invade areas that they did not previously inhabit.
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mate change will have consequences for the Earth system and human lives
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This video would be suitable for use in an ecology unit, in AP Environmental Science or Earth Environmental science courses. It might also be useful in geography, human geography and social studies classes. The quality of the film and the script could also be useful in film making classes or in a discussion about how science can be communicated effectively to a general audience.
  • An interview with logger that disputes the scientist’s views could be used to trigger interesting classroom discussion.
  • A shorter version of this video that focuses more tightly on the bark beetle infestation is available on this site as CLEAN Resource #3021.

About the Science

  • The video looks specifically at the Tripod fire in 2006 that burned 180,000 acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee forest.
  • The linkages between a warming climate, beetle infestation, low rainfall and early snowmelt are covered. Diverse points of view as to the causes are given.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The video piece features scientific experts citing what they believe are the critical links between insect outbreaks and climate change to increased wildfires in the state of Washington. Data linking timing of snowmelt to increased fire prevalence is prominently featured. The piece also considers opposing viewpoints, which I think is a major strength.

About the Pedagogy

  • A short essay on the webpage provides some additional details of the events described in the video.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • This is a very high quality video and thoughtful script.
  • Access to the video is via Vimeo. It is also available with additional materials on the Climate Central website at: http://www.camelclimatechange.org/resources/view/171216/?topic=66008.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN


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