With Earth Day coming up on Saturday, The Conversation has been exploring some of the profound changes underway as the planet warms, from threats to sea life when El Niño arrives on top of record high ocean temperatures, to the growing flood risk from extreme storms. Today, we’re looking to the mountains and the rising risk of wildfires.

The high mountains of the western U.S. have long been considered too wet to burn – firefighters could count on the flames quickly dying out. But that’s changing. In a new study, climate scientists and engineers Mohammad Reza Alizadeh of MIT and Mojtaba Sadegh of Boise State University show how fire danger is rising fast in the high mountains, with harmful effects on ecosystems and the millions of people living downstream.

Also today:

Stacy Morford

Environment + Climate Editor

Fires are increasing in high mountain areas that rarely burned in the past. John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service

Fire danger in the high mountains is intensifying: That’s bad news for humans, treacherous for the environment

Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Mojtaba Sadegh, Boise State University

Fires here can affect meltwater timing and water quality, worsen erosion that triggers mudslides, and much more, as two scientists explain.

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