The Madeleine Brand Show for June 13, 2012

Mountain pine beetles turn wildfires from bad to worse

Beetles Bring Devastation And Extreme Fire Danger To Southern California Forests

David McNew/Getty Images

Pine forests can be seen among hazy ridges as increasing humidity and heat set the stage for lightning storms which could ignite flammable beetle-infested forests July 24, 2003 near Lake Arrowhead, California. Southern California's native pines are being wiped-out by exploding populations of several species of bark beetles, a result of four years of the worst recorded drought since records began in 1849. Infected forests are expected to lose at least 75 to 95 percent of their trees creating unprecedented wildfire danger in the 'ghost forests' of dead trees.

In New Mexico, a 56-square mile fire has damaged or destroyed over 200 homes and other structures. In Colorado, the High Park Fire has claimed the life of a 62-year-old woman and has destroyed more than 100 structures.

That wildfire is only 10-percent contained and there's no rain in the weather forecast. But lack of water isn't the only thing fanning the flames. A mountain pine beetle infestation has turned trees into ready-made kindling.

Guest:

Timothy Paine, professor of entomology at U.C. Riverside.


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