The story

Huge wildfires, such as the ones that have charred more than 460,000 acres this week in Southern California, are becoming more common in the Western United States, and scientists say warming trends and other climate factors may be responsible.

A study published last year in the journal Science found that the number of large wildfires (greater than 1,000 acres) in Western forests increased dramatically in the mid-1980s.

The length of the fire season also increased, the study found. It noted that the average length of the fire season between 1987-2003 was 78 days longer than it was between 1970 and 1986.

That's a 64 percent increase, the study found.

Thomas Swetnam, one of the study's authors, said that there's a pretty strong connection between the early arrival of spring and increased wildfire activity. Read full article »

CNN's Rob Marciano contributed to this report.


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