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KANW is a member of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serves the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues across the Mountain West.From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, we'll explore the issues that define us and the challenges we face.

Report: West particularly hard hit by hotter fall temperatures

This map illustrates changes in fall temperatures from 1970 to 2022.
Climate Central
This map illustrates changes in fall temperatures from 1970 to 2022.

A new analysis shows that fall is getting warmer across the nation – especially in parts of our region.

Using data from more than 230 locations, Climate Central found that fall temperatures rose by an average of 2.4 degrees since 1970. And the West experienced some of the most intense increases, with vast swaths of the region seeing jumps of 3.5 degrees or more.

“This can mean later start to snow pack season, it can mean drier soils, it can mean elevated risk for wildfires,” Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist, said of the findings. Her state was among the most impacted, according to Climate Central.

The wind-driven Marshall Fire near Boulder killed two and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in December 2021. Bolinger noted that it came after a very hot and dry summer and fall.

“When you have that, that's what you get,” she said.

Other impacts noted by Climate Central include a prolonged presence of disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes, longer allergy seasons and greater energy demand from air conditioners.

“The more that we know about these events, the more that we can plan for them and hopefully minimize the impacts that we experience from them if we know that they're more likely to happen,” Bolinger said.

She added that in the wake of the Marshall Fire some Colorado communities have turned to goats and other livestock to keep grasses shorter – and hopefully prevent another tragedy.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As Boise State Public Radio's Mountain West News Bureau reporter, I try to leverage my past experience as a wildland firefighter to provide listeners with informed coverage of a number of key issues in wildland fire. I’m especially interested in efforts to improve the famously challenging and dangerous working conditions on the fireline.